The Risk and Beauty of Online Quilting Bees

I have found that the majority of quilters love to sew with others and share their work. Although based on your location you might not have a guild that fits your style, a quilt shop with an open sew, or a community to reach out to. Welcome to the internet world where the ‘social’ aspect of quilting makes is easy to find your people!  When I first started quilting years ago, I ‘instantly’ fell in love with Instagram.  So quickly I was able to find quilters that liked the same fabrics, the same styles, and I could follow as many as I liked.  Then I found online swaps and bees!  First I joined a few swaps, thinking doing a one-off swap would be a good starting point. It was and it was nice. I was happy with what I received in return, even though it wasn’t *really* what I hoped for.
Then in 2014 I joined an online quilting bee and here is where I found my true people! A group of quilters all working from the same book and sending each other blocks for a matter of 12  months.  Instantly I had 11 new online quilting friends.  We created a hashtag, picked blocks and color schemes, and had a wonderful time.  I still follow many of those quilters today.

But an online quilting bee might not always turn out with the luck I had on my first. There are a few risks in joining a quilting bee.

Risk #1 – Quality Control

When you join a quilting bee there is probably a set of standards or guidelines set up.  You might be working from a specific pattern or specific collection of fabric – which is what enticed you to join the bee. Then the fun begins with making and sending blocks until it’s your month’s turn.  You chose a block and a group of colors for everyone to use and you eagerly check your mailbox that month, waiting for the blocks to arrive.  Your blocks start coming in and it’s so exciting! But you take a closer look – is that block the right size? Is it square?  Is it even the right fabrics?  What if the quilter made it in the right colors, but didn’t use quilt shop quality fabric?
Unfortunately these things happen. Honestly, you have no ability to control what people send you.  Hopefully the blocks are the way you want, but they might not be. You have to decide how to use the blocks you receive.  If it’s not a perfect block, can you square it to fit? Maybe you piece it into the back of the quilt or use it as the quilt label.  Maybe you create the top as is and then donate the quilt to someone who will love it.  Or donate a bunch of blocks to someone else’s UFO project.  Ask yourself, will the person that sent you the block ever actually know if you don’t use it?  What is important is to acknowledge and thank the quilter for sending their block even if it’s not perfect.  This block could be more advanced to them and they did their best effort.  They held to their commitment to make and send you a block, using their time and fabric to do so.  If it’s not the quality you expected, take it with a grain of salt.

Risk #2- Missing Blocks

If you have been in a quilting bee before that didn’t go well, you may have a fear of being placed in a group of quilters that everyone starts off with tons of energy and excitement, but dwindles as it goes on.  What if you choose a later month and people don’t want to participate anymore? What if you are in a group of 12 quilters, and you only receive 10 blocks? How are you going to make a quilt?  These may seem like trivial questions, but they have been asked.  We hope every group in a quilting bee gets along swimmingly and all exchange blocks for the duration of the project.

Sometimes life happens, and you might not get all your blocks. For the quilter who didn’t send a block, you may not know what is happening in their life.  The easy thing is to ask them! Ask if they are still working or need more time.  Is the block more challenging than they thought it would be? Did they run out of that color fabric? We now know life happens, and it can happen hard.  Are they located near any fires and need to leave for safety? Are they unexpectedly out of a job and need to count every penny, which includes postage? Obviously they don’t need to be that honest, but if you are in a group that is counting on you, we hope the quilter will at least respond and tell us “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this month.” You may jump to the worst conclusion, but give the quilter the benefit of the doubt and ask. If you get no response, well it looks like you just need to make yourself another block.  Good thing you already did one for yourself and you know how!

Risk #3 – It’s My First Bee

Maybe you are scared to join a quilting bee because you never have.  What if they don’t like my skills? Will it be too time consuming? What if I don’t like it?  But you know what, we bet you do like it.  This can be awesome.  You’re going to make a group of new quilty friends that all love the same thing you love.  They joined the bee because they like the pattern, the book, or the fabric.  They joined to make new friends.  You might live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of quilt shops or classes, or guilds that are not in your style.  Sometimes classes and guild meetings may be when you work and you just wish you had something you can be a part of on your own time.  Here lies the perfection of online quilting bees.
When you send out your first block, you might be a little nervous.  But with each block you will gain confidence and a new friend.  When the time comes for your month, you will see everyone’s gift coming in to you.  Getting the mail will be exciting, not knowing whose block arrived.  As soon as you have the full set you will be tempted to put them all together, even if it’s only a design wall for now.  Whenever you do finish the project, you will always remember the group of quilters it came from.  You will remember the blocks you sent, the challenges you may have had, and overall the fun of the bee.  You might forget their names over time so if you’re smart, write them down now (speaking from experience – lol).  But you won’t forget the feeling of receiving the blocks, the feeling of finishing a project made from a group of special quilters.  Be it one month from the bee, or three years when you finally finish it, you will remember this quilt and its origins.  This is what  quilting bees are truly for.  You found a new community of quilters, a group of friends, and a quilt that will forever have a special meaning to you.

This quilt is from the first quilting bee I ever joined, and loved.  Search the hashtag #moderninstabee2014 for great inspiration.

Block is Triple Star from Modern Bee: 13 Quilts to Make with Friends, by Lindsay Connor. I love this book and go back to it all the time.  It has great quilts to make by yourself, too!  😉

January Block Party Link Up!

We are three to four months in to our Block Party InstaBee!  We have 6 hives buzzing, creating amazing blocks from our book the FreeSpirit Block Party!

To see how everyone is progressing, we are having a link up party!  Using the form below, add the photo of your favorite block you have made so far!  It can be your January block, your first block, or any inbetween.  Link up before January 31st, 11pm.  From all of the entries, we will use a random number generator for our first giveaway.  Paula of SewModernChicky has donated a $25 Gift Certificate to her online store!  Thank you Paula! Visit her shop and start planning your fabric loves now.


Inlinkz Link Party

FreeSpirit Block Party Schoolhouse!

November has flown by and our hashtag #FSBlockPartybee is going strong!  I wanted to share the FreeSpirit Block Party book schoolhouse before the month was out and I am just in time with it!  This is the first time I have organized an online bee, and I want to keep it going!

For those lucky enough to attend Quilt Market in Houston, the Friday of Market is called Schoolhouse.  All day you get run to different classrooms and learn about the latest and greatest from designers, fabric companies, influencers, tools, business, and more.  FreeSpirit Fabrics and C&T Publishing held a schoolhouse for their brand new book and our favorite, FreeSpirit Block Party!


It was nice to meet Nancy Jewell in person, one of the co-compilers of the book.  She whole heartily believes in what the book stands for and it was so nice to hear honest passion!  Collecting these blocks from different designers, creating quilts that show off all this amazing talent, and with it all going to such a good cause.  Now FreeSpirit Fabric school houses are always great and full of people, so was very happy to see how packed the room was for this book!

Here are the quilts she shared:

Cozy, the 55″ square that features four blocks.


Tribal, 50″ x 48″ featuring six blocks.

Neghibors, 54″ x 80″ featuring nine blocks.

Subdivision, 64″ x 68″ featuring fifteen blocks.

Over Here, 67″ x 67″ featuring nine blocks.


I am in love with Over Here and Cozy designs.  And isn’t it cute that the sampler pattern names all relate to people, houses, living together? A block party, per say? It’s one of those things I ‘realized’ late at night looking at the patterns.  Completely intentional I’m sure! LOL.

For those that may be making one of the samplers I realized something they all have in common. The quilts show off all these amazing FreeSpirit Fabric designers fabrics and geometry but to be able to show that so well, all the quilts use solid colored fabric for the backgrounds.  These solids compliment the blocks and let the blocks shine.  A perfect way to create a sampler quilt, the backgruond should assist your quilt – not detract!


C&T Publishing was present at the schoolhouse and did a Facebook Live of the event!  You can hear all about it directly from Nancy.  You will even hear me! Nancy was super kind to let me speak a few minutes about our bee! Hopefully many shop owners left inspired to order the book and starting block party’s of their own!  You can watch it here:

FreeSpirit Block Party Autographed book auction!

I’m sitting in my hotel room here in Houston filled with inspiration from everything I saw at Quilt Market! Our industry is amazing and so inspiring! So many stunning quilts, meeting wonderful designers and artists, and finding new projects, tools, and connections.  Quilters are giving people. We buy fabric, cut it up, and make something to give with our hearts.  Let’s continue to give back, this time to Project Night Night.

Project Night Night is an organization in San Francisco that helps homeless children have sweeter dreams.  Their organization donates a package to children of a book, blanket, and stuffed toy.  When I learned FreeSpirit Fabrics was donating portions of their proceeds to this organization, I knew this book needed to be shown to our quilty world to help their organization.  Then I thought bigger.  What if I was able to get our favorite designers autographs and auction off the book for Project Night Night?  That was a goal of mine while attending Houston Quilt Market.

Let’s help this wonderful organization by giving back and in turn, receive a fantastic book of block designs by our favorite designers.  I collected 7 autographs here at Quilt  Market and will be auctioning off the book this weekend, November 9th-11th, 2018.  The auction will be live on my Instagram and hope all our quilty friends will share! The more quilters involved, the more Project Night Night will receive.

The FreeSpirit Block Party Book is signed by  Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, Liza Lucy, Anna Maria Horner, Laura Heine, Tula Pink, Kathy Doughty, and book co-compiler Nancy Jewell of FreeSpirit Fabrics.

The auction will go live Friday night and close Sunday at 5pm EST. I will cover shipping of the book to the highest bidder. Please share with your quilty friends so this organization has a chance to receive the best donation possible. Remember this is for charity!

If you want to donate directly to Project Night Night, please do so here.


UPDATE: We raised $50 for Project Night Night! Thanks everyone!!

FreeSpirit Block Party book will be debuted at Quilt Market!

Our FreeSpirit Block Party InstaBee is up and running!

We have 6 hives buzzing, across the world! Quilters from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, and Australia are participating.  Follow the #FSBlockPartyBee hashtag to see some amazing blocks being created and shared.  Did you miss the news about our FreeSpirit Block Party InstaBee?  Learn more HERE.


Most quilters will have heard of International Quilt Festival that occurs in Houston each year.  It is an amazing quilt show and one of the best in the country.  But do you know the week prior to Quilt Festival, is Quilt Market?  Quilt Market is when the quilt industry meets and shares everything about our favorite world.  Fabric companies, ruler makers (as in quilting rulers – not royalty, although we think some of them are!), designers, quilters, shop owners, and more come to Houston to learn what is happening in the industry.

The first day of Quilt Market is School House.  It is the premiere day, where companies debut new collections, tools, designers, patterns, and more.  School House opens with a major manufacturer presentations and then every 30 minutes there are up to 10 different mini presentations

you can attend and learn something new.  Including, our FreeSpirit Block Party book debut!  For those that follow Scott Fortunoff, he listed the school house sessions for all the Jaftex companies which now wonderfully includes FreeSpirit.  And our book is on the docket! Very exciting.  There is also a time block that is unannounced.  FreeSpirit is up to something! I wonder what it can be . .

Ok, so here is my big idea:

I had this in the car line, when I was flipping through my copy.  I had to do some planning and configuring to make sure I could pull this off before I announced it.  I am going to Houston Quilt Market and am going to have as many FreeSpirit designers that created a block for the book sign it! I have a list of 6 designers that will be present at market. Tula Pink, Anna Maria Horner, and more.  FreeSpirit was even so kind to send me a second copy to do this.

So you may be thinking: “So cool! I wish I could have a book with all my favorite designer’s autographs.”  Well guess what, you just might.  Notice above the word “second book.” Part of my big idea was Step 1: Get designer autographs in the book.  Step 2: Auction the book off on Instagram and give the funds to Project Night Night.  Pretty sweet right? You have a chance to win a copy of this book autographed and the proceeds are donated to a great charity!  Win Win!

Now our auction for the autographs will be open to anyone on Instagram.  I will have some of my new FreeSpirit Instagram friends share this as well so it reaches as many people as we can and in turn earn as much money for Project Night Night as it can.  I will post the book for auction when I return from Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Auction will go live on Friday, November 9th and it will close on Sunday, November 11th at 7pm EST.

I’ll be taking photos at Market with the designers as they sign the book. And yes, I will be having them sign my copy – why wouldn’t I??

So, what do you think of my big idea? Who do you want me to see first?

FreeSpirit Block Party InstaBee!

Hi everyone! I just received this amazing book this week: FreeSpirit Block Party.


This book is incredible! 40 Quilt blocks from your 20 favorite FreeSpirit Fabric Designers.  The blocks are at all sewing skill levels! I see straight beginner blocks, detailed patchwork, paper piecing, curves – incredible! Diamonds, squares, triangles, circles – every quilt block shape is included in these designs. You know what else I love about this book? I never realized how many FreeSpirit designers I love and follow! Kaffe Fassett, Anna Maria Horner, Kathy Doughtry, Tula Pink – just to name a few.

And of course, the designers used their own fabrics which makes the book just so pretty to look at.  I have a new favorite each time I look at this book, but currently am crushing on Mod Cabin by Amy Reber.  This is a paper piecing block design, which I don’t do a lot of. But for this design – I would!

Now there is a really wonderful aspect to this book that I need to mention.  100% of the proceeds of FreeSpirit Block Party go to Project Night Night.  This organization supplies care packages to homeless children. How wonderful is that?  No need to think that you have too many quilt books.  Here you can buy a new quilt book and know the proceeds are going to help children. A win-win for sure!

So here’s the thing – I love making blocks, I love making quilts. But sometimes it takes a long time, right? Do I really have time to make a new quilt with 12 blocks in it? I don’t know.  But what if I was in a Bee that helped me make my 12 blocks? The quilt would be done so fast!  And here are 40 blocks to choose from. These two ideas go hand-in-hand.  So I am proposing a FreeSpirit Block Party InstaBee!

Ok, you might be wondering “What is an InstaBee?”

I was part of the #ModernInstaBee in 2014 and loved it.  I ‘met’ some of my first Instagram quilty friends through it. It felt great learning how to make a block and sending it off to someone I know who loved the pattern and the colors.  And then when my month came up, so quickly I had 12 great blocks to make my daughter a quilt! Now finishing that quilt was another story, but hey – the blocks were all created in a month. Another cool connection – the author of Modern Bee-Quilts to Make with Friends, Lindsay Conner, is one of the compilers for this book!  It’s like it is meant to be a quilting ‘bee’.

You will be linked up in a ‘hive’ with a group of quilters. Your ‘bee hive’ will pick an order for who gets what month. Let’s pretend my Bee starts in October and I received the October month.  I would contact my Bee and tell them which block I want everyone to make and with what color scheme to use.  Each member can be as specific as they like but please note not everyone has the same fabric selection as others. You might be hoarding Tula Pink whereas your friend has a stash of Laura Heine. My hive then makes my selected block during the month and mails it to me by the end of the month. Poof – 12 blocks completed in one month! Then November comes along, and it’s November’s turn to make a block and send off to that person. And so on, until all  bee member blocks are created. You don’t have to be on Instagram to participate, but it will be the easiest to follow everyone on it!

So what do you think?

Do you want to be part of my FreeSpirit Block Party InstaBee?  I hope so!  You really never know how big these things can get. I’m hoping for 12, but wouldn’t 100 members be amazing?

Remember, FreeSpirit is donating the proceeds they receive from the book sales to Project Night Night.

The book is amazing, and so will be the InstaBee! Please Sign Up Here!

Here is a link to the book. If you have a local quilt shop who has the book, please support them! If not, please support me, lol. If you order through me I get a small affiliate rate. The little change I will receive from the affiliate link will help organize the bee for the coming year.  I hope you participate!

Need some more information to make your choice? FreeSpirit has you covered! Learn a little bit more about the book and the quilts with this video by FreeSpirit Director of Marketing Nancy Jewell. She is one of the book compilers.

One last thing. I do not work for FreeSpirit Fabrics (but wouldn’t that be awesome!) nor is this sponsored by them. This is just a fun idea I had to build community between quilters. Please follow me on Instagram @Handmade3D.   For the block party use the hashtag #FSBlockPartyBee  and please share with your friends!