A little history on the Quilts Unscripted Bee and my personal history with quilt bees...
I’m a joiner. I love people and enjoy creating community. (I also love bold color.) Cheers from QuiltCon!
Way back on 2014 when I was a new quilt blogger and starting to connect with others in the online quilting community, I started participating in quilt bees (and quilt swaps, but that's a conversation for another day).
First, I joined do. Good Stitches, a charity bee. I was a piecer. The organization of do. Good Stitches is via a Flickr group, with directions shared in the group or in email. Each month a quilter would select a block for everyone in the bee to make. My first blocks were large HSTs with strip piecing. These quilts were finished by the quilter and donated to an organization.
In January of 2015, I joined Stash Bee. The idea of Stash Bee was that we were all sewing from our stash. The groups are arranged via the blogspot blog where each month's "Queen" shares their block tutorial (or link to a free online tutorial) on the blog for the other bee participants to access. Bee members then each share their finished blocks on the blog as well.
In January 2015 I also joined The Bee Hive. The Bee Hive was a quilt block tutorial series hosted by Alyce of Blossom Heart Quilts. She organized numerous bee groups. Each month the "Queen" chose one of the existing block tutorials from the series (half were designed by Alyce and half were designed by guest designers) for the bee to make.
In both Stash Bee and The Bee Hive, over the course of a year, we would each make blocks for each other once. There were 12 members per group. This blog post shows the first month I posted blocks for all three bees. Overall, the bees I have participated in over the years have required 1-3 blocks per month. In each of these groups I stretched myself as a quilter in style and color. I am still in touch with a few of the quilters who I sewed with in these bees, though in general I didn't form close relationships. I concluded my time in those bees at the end of 2016. (There is one project from that era still on my WIP list.)
Fast forward, in late 2019 I was talking with my therapist and one of the things that came out of our conversation was that I wanted to have more fun. I decided a quilt bee could be fun and reached out to express interest in Solid Seven. I'd been watching their work and I was acquainted with a few of the members. I was invited to join them in October of 2019. The organization for this group was a little different than my previous bees, because it didn't have a blog component. We shared prompts via email and there was an IG chat group for clarification/questions, show and tell, and general discussion. The Solid Seven came to an end in February 2021.
Meanwhile, for years I had admired the work of Bee Sewcial. I’d been following along for years before one of their quilts, Smile by Leanne Chahley, was awarded the Best of Show ribbon at QuiltCon in 2019. I’d started to dabble in improv piecing in 2016. Bee Sewcial’s work was always inspiring. I wanted to be in a group like that. I wanted to contribute to people’s amazing improv group quilts.
So in 2021 I found myself without a bee. Ellyn Zinsmeister (who I'd met in Solid Seven) and I decided we would bring together a group of quilters for an as yet unnamed improv bee. The two of us had numerous meetings on the topic and started with a clear definition of expectations for the group and started reaching out to folks who might be interested. At the time our goal was 10-12 people for an improv (with mostly solids) bee. These weren’t all people that one of us knew well, we messaged a couple folks with a simple “We are spinning up a new improv bee. Would you potentially be interested in joining our group?” We got eight yeses to join us and our bee started with its first prompt from Sarah Ruiz in June of 2021*. We added an 11th member a few months later and decided the group would be considered full at 11, giving us the month of December off from sewing for the bee. At the conclusion of our first year, two members stepped down and we added two new members to keep up at a group of 11.
Here's some of us at lunch at QuiltCon 2023. It has been a joy getting to know everyone through our group chat where we discuss the bee, quilting in general, creativity, and life. They are an amazing group of humans. I consider myself lucky to have them in my life and inspired by the work they are all creating. It was so nice to have the chance to connect as a group in person in Atlanta. (And we missed the members who were unable to join us!)
I hadn't attended an in-person QuiltCon since 2019 and I'm so glad for the opportunity to have connected with folks in general, and especially to see so many from the bee. I'm honored to have contributed to three quilts in the group category through our bee. It was a thrill to be at the awards ceremony when Elizabeth and Ellyn’s quilts received first and second place ribbons in the Group or Bee category for their bee quilts from our first year.
Sashes by Elizabeth - first place
Darkest Before Dawn by Ellyn - second place
TIME: A Quilts Unscripted Quilt by Carole
I heard many compliments about our three quilts in the show and how inspired people felt. Some folks reached out to share an interest in joining our group. It was lovely to chat with people and I appreciate their interest. (Our bee remains full at 11 people going into year three.)
My hope is that others will be inspired to build community in the way of quilt bees within and beyond the MQG. I’d be happy to be a resource for anyone looking to start a quilt bee (as I’m sure Ellyn would as well). Please reach out with any questions. My basic advice is to be thoughtful about how you can be inclusive as you form a group, have a leader, communicate clearly about expectations, and embrace the connection aspect of having a group -- don't just make quilts together, get to know each other. Have fun. Stretch yourselves creatively!
*Sarah’s finished quilt, Unscripted, won a first place ribbon in the Group or Bee category at QuiltCon 2022.
The current members of the Quilts Unscripted Bee (2022-2024) are:
- Allie McCathren @exhaustedoctopus
- Carole Lyles Shaw @carole_lylesshaw
- Charles Cameron @feltlikesweets
- Chris Davies @scarf.mama
- E. A. Cox @eacox24
- Elizabeth Ray @elizabethkray
- Ellyn Zinsmeister @ellynz
- Emily Lang @emilylangquilts
- Isabelle Selak @southbaybella
- Sarah Goer @sarahgoerquilts
- Sarah Ruiz @saroy
2021-2022 members who contributed to the quilts shown in this post: