Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Quilting Bee Year - A Resume

It is amazing how time flies. It really does. Just last year around this time I was exceedingly excited about participating in a quilting bee for the first time ever. And what a whirlwind it has been =)

So with hindsight, would I do it again? Definitely! Immediately and without hesitation. I had a lot of fun, in fact, I will be a Hive 4 bee at Stash Bee in 2017.

Quilting Bee, Bee Blocks, free blocks, Puppilalla, quilting, BOM, Patchwork

So let’s look back. This year I was part of two very different quilting bees, namely ‘Stash Bee’ and ‘The Bee Hive’. Both operated rather differently from one another.

Stash Bee vs. The Bee Hive

On ‘Stash Bee’ 99 bees in 9 hives all used the same blogger blog as platform for their communications. Each bee was to post a picture of the completed block on the blog before the monthly task was counted as done. That means all requesting queens got to see all the blocks they would receive prior to those actually reaching them in the mail. Using the same blog as platform allowed for something as fanciful as hive crashing, where bees took to sewing additional bee blocks for queens of parallel hives.

The ‘The Bee Hive’ swarm, which was dubbed ‘Interquiltinentals’ early on by our swarm leader, as we had participants from three continents in the bee, used groupbox (a terribly unwieldy application I would not recommend) as communication platform. We decided to keep the completed blocks a secret until the requesting queen had received them. The queen then revealed the blocks she received to all the other bees. Definitely a lot of suspension, surprise and fun.

Quilting Bee, Bee Blocks, free blocks, Puppilalla, quilting, BOM, Patchwork

A Resume

Generally, I found that the bee format suits me. I got challenged to sew blocks I would not otherwise have tried and to accommodate colour requests that would not have occurred to me. One or two blocks a month and a bit of other sewing on the side is just about what I can manage time wise, making sure sewing stays a relaxed hobby.

What astounded me the most was how differently people interpreted blocks and colour requests. Sometimes though, I had difficulties to follow the train of thought of a fellow bee, which had led them to the conclusion that their finished bee block was complying with the block requirements of a given month, when I might have begged to differ... 
(I refute the thought that same may be said the other way round too – ha ha =) But it really is amazing to see how differently one can interpret the same set of instructions.

Of course I did sew plenty of blocks that were not down my personal alley design or colour wise, but it was a great learning exercise to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and to sew what they considered pretty. I pride myself in having managed to get tone of the requested blocks just right. To me it was very important that the requesting queen should receive blocks she felt were exactly what she had had in mind. That is not to say that the rendition of the block might not have held surprises but overall it should have felt, as if the queen bee would have pulled the same fabrics from my stash for the completion of her block.

What I had the most difficulties with were insufficiently clear or detailed tutorials, as well as sample pictures that had not been taken in daylight, which meant that you had to guess what the requesting queen was truly looking for.

What I loved the most was the element of surprise in opening letters from fellow bees and finding the beautiful blocks they made and maybe an unexpected goodie on the side. I loved the shared sense of excitement and passion in sewing for each other and also the readiness of the bees to help each other out. Such amazing blocks did emerge.

Puppilalla, Bee Block, free quilt block pattern, quilting bee

I had a great number of lovely e-mail exchanges behind the scenes and hope to remain friendly with the bees now that the bee year is officially drawing to an end.

By the way of sewing for my swarm & hive mates or by crashing other hives, and NOT counting my own bee months, I had a hand in creating 21 bee quilts, now probably in different stages of completion. How neat is that? I got to see a few snap shots of other queen’s bee blocks together but way too few. I would love to see how far all the queens have gotten in assembling their quilt tops or even only how all the blocks they received look together. That would be the icing on the bee year cake. 

Quilting Bee, Bee Blocks, free blocks, quilt top, finished top, BOM, Patchwork
1. Jenn Trumbo - 'In the Middle' 2. betyipiernaty - 'Wanta Fanta' 3. Anita - 'Houndstooth'

Oh, yes in case you are interested to see how far I have gotten with my own bee quilts, check here and here for the state of play.

So have you tried a quilting bee yet? Did you enjoy it? Any major turn-on or turn-offs? 


  1. This is a fun post Katrin good analysis. I almost didn't rejoin Stash Bee because I'm really busy with my guild duties but I did join again because like you I liked being introduced to other peoples ideas and colour schemes etc.

  2. I've enjoyed the Bees I've been in over the last few years. Yes I've had a few 'not quite as intended' blocks. In one case I asked for black or navy background and got grey. These I've used as co ordinating cushions. I've not signed up for any this year as I'm all blocked out. I struggled to decide on a block for the last Bee and I've more than enough quilt tops to finish. I'm going to have a year off and join back in the fun in a 12 month. I look forward to seeing all your blocks. xx

  3. You always get one that doesn't quite match the brief but the there's a lot of fun in making it work! I like the bee format and love it when its my turn to receive the blocks. Watching them come through the letter box like confetti is brilliant!

    1. What a picture! Bee Block Confetti!!! Woohoo

  4. Katrin, like you I participated in Bee Hive and Stash Bee this past year and was de facto swarm mama for my Bee Hive swarm as the previous one went MIA last December. All in all, it was a good experience though the scrappy blocks that required me come up with lots of different fabric/scraps drove me a little crazy. I think my favorite of your blocks above is the brightly colored orange peel block with the low volume background. I wouldn't mind a quilt made out of similar blocks :) Take care, Mary.

  5. I loved this post, Katrin. I've never taken part in a bee and have thought about it as a possibility in the future. I'm glad to hear you are doing it again next year because I can live through you and your bee hive :)

  6. Ho ho Katrin! I am in the Stash Bee Hive #5 (thanks to you!) - pretty close to #4 ;) I liked being a quilting bee this year - I met you and other lovely ladies, and I have a beautiful quilt top! :) I couldn't ask for more.


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