Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Exploring Collaboration - Bees and Block Swaps

 I've really been enjoying exploring different aspects of collaboration with fellow modern quilter, Karen Bolan. You might remember reading about Welcoming Lamp, the project we collaborated on several months ago. Our conversations have continued since then and we are working on a series of blogposts to open up conversation in the quilting community about collaborating.Karen and I will offer articles on this topic twice a month and encourage you to join in by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

For our first posts, we are sharing our thoughts about the different types of collaboration. You can read my thoughts on quilting bees and block swaps here, then hop on over to Karen's blog to read more. 


Maybe some of you have participated in quilt bees. This is one of my favorite ways to collaborate. Basically, a group of quilters commits to working together for an extended period of time. Each month, one member of the group is the queen and gives the other members a prompt, block pattern, color palette or other specifications about what they desire for finished blocks. Bee members have that month to complete the requested blocks for the queen. Then the next person becomes queen and the cycle begins again.

Bees can be traditional, based on block patterns that everyone has access to (either original designs by the queen, free tutorials available online or a pattern all members have purchased), or less traditional, based on thematic prompts or improv methods of quilting. I've participated in both types and enjoy them for different reasons. Also, bees can be made up of all local quilting buddies or quilters who live at a distance, requiring blocks to be mailed.

My most recent traditional bee quilt was made in pinks and oranges using the japanese x and + block.

made by members of the McKinney Modern Quilt Guild

Just for fun, I enlarged the block to add one giant block to my quilt. It was fun to see the fabrics each bee member used in their blocks and how they all played together in the end.

Recently I've been enjoying improv bees. First I was a member of the Solid Seven Bee and more recently, the newly formed Quilts Unscripted Bee. I haven't had a turn to be queen in the Quilts Unscripted Bee yet (soon!) but I have several quilts completed by the Solid Seven. One of my favorites is my This is 60 quilt with blocks they made to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. I gave the bee members a bright, happy color palette and asked that they include at least one triangle in each block.

made by members of the Solid Seven Bee

When the blocks arrived they were all different sizes. Puzzling together improv blocks is my favorite part of the process! 

Block Swaps

Another kind of collaboration I love is block swaps. Again, block swaps can be held among local quilty friends or with quilters all around the world. During the Covid lockdown, I organized a house block swap among my local quilty pals. 

of course I added my little red car to the mix!

Each quilter dropped their finished blocks off at my house. When I had received everyone's blocks, I mixed them all up and gave each quilter back as many blocks as they had given me. There were so many wonderful takes on the house block... from patterned houses to totally improv ones. 

A couple of years ago, I organized an internet block swap of bird blocks based on the free tutorial here. Quilters mailed me their blocks (you should have seen the hundreds of bird blocks that flew into my house!). Again, I scrambled the blocks and mailed new ones back to each participant. My finished quilt is one of my favorite quilts ever.

Have you ever participated in a bee or block swap? In an upcoming post I'll share some tips and tricks for organizing and participating in your own collabs.


Maria said...

I've not joined in bees or block swap. You have make some fabulous quilt by participating in these swaps....

Debbie said...

Yes! I've participated in numerous bees and swaps both and credit them with really getting me involved in the online quilting community. I sponsored a swap one too, for Polaroid blocks and it's no simple task to be the host, but great fun. As for bees, I've belonged to both block and improv bees, as well as to at least one charity bee, where everything we made was donated.