Sunday, April 15, 2018

To Bee or Not to Bee?

It's been 4 years since I last participated in my quilt guild's yearly bee. When our president Neva asked for interested parties last fall, I was finally ready to sign that paper again.

Here's how our bees work: There is a maximum of 12 spots for each year (one person for each month, Jan. - Dec., and if we get 11, we skip July, our non-meeting month). Each month, one quilter is the "queen bee" who decides on the pattern/tutorial/theme and can choose to pass out fabric, too. Each person in the bee makes a block, and then brings them to the next month's meeting to share with the whole guild. Then, the queen bee makes a quilt from all the blocks! Our bee is so popular that a second bee ran last year, the "New Bee" (newbie, get it?) for quilters who wanted to make simple blocks only.

Flying geese bee blocks from the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild, 2014 - my longest running WIP (UFO?)

Here are the reasons I love quilt bees of any kind (I've also done Round Robins, which are my favorites): you get to contribute to a quilt for someone (bonus points if it's for a friend). You can try different techniques and explore your piecing likes and dislikes. The opportunity arises to use precious fabrics or scraps from the stashes of other quilters. Most of the time, bee blocks are a quick make, and can be a fun, inspiring project. Blocks usually turn out unique to each maker; working together creates beautiful work.

Here are the downsides. Relying on other people can be tricky. I have been involved in a very hairy, still-unresolved-after-YEARS (literally years) quilt bee situation. People drop off the map, don't get in touch, etc. It's frustrating and hurtful to all parties involved. Quilts are personal, emotional, and financial investments.

The first blocks of my traveling curve-themed round robin quilt, which is now being quilted. More on that hopefully this year!

On the less dramatic note, blocks *can* be time consuming. It might be another difficult deadline to complete, depending what's already on your plate (this is the main reason I refrained from signing up the last few years). You might receive instructions to create a quilt block that you are really uncomfortable with. In my other guild bee experience, a queen bee asked for reverse applique, and no matter how much I tried, I could not make the block look the way it was supposed to. I felt bad because it was supposed to be a part of her quilt - I still handed it in at the meeting, but it always haunted me.

For a guild bee, there's generally less risk involved. These are people you see every month or so, whether or not you know them well. You can ask for help in person if you need it, and there are no mailing costs (unless you can't make the meeting). And best of all, this time around, it's given me an opportunity to make a quick block/palate cleanser before I work on my own more thought-and-time-consuming work. So, into the bee I go. My month is July, and I'm starting to cobble together a plan for my beemates! I'll certainly blog about it further when the time comes.

So, have you joined a quilt bee? If not, would you like to? What do you like/dislike about the experience?

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  1. I would love to join a bee or a swap, but I am in Nj but not so close to a guild. Once a month I might travel for this though. I wouldn't join unless I could completely participate. I don't like letting people down and seeing the creations each month would keep me pumped!

  2. Oh, do I have so many feelings about bees after having great experiences, horrible experiences, and managing the Stash Bee for two years! I'm very happy to be taking a break from a monthly bee and am happier currently doing round robin type bees in smaller groups with people I "know" online. :D

  3. Great description of the pluses and minuses of Bee Blocks and collaborating with others, Jess. I have been more focused on more self-sewing block of the month type things for the past few years (The Honey Pot Bee last year and the Aurifil BOM this year).

  4. Very good post, you described the pros and cons of bees and the challenges they create. I am not in a traditional bee right now, but 5 quilters form my guild have formed a composition group. Each month, one quilter posts an inspiration picture and we each make a block from the inspiration. We are in month 3 and it is been a huge learning process for me.


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