Collaboration from 100 Days of Modern Quilting

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This week we’ll be spotlighting quilts that are the result of our quilters’ participation in virtual quilting bees.  Traditional quilting bees, where quilters come together to piece or quilt a quilt, many times for a special occasion, are a long standing tradition in the quilting community.

Profit Margins by Jacquie Gering and the members of the Block Party Bee


Modern quilters have refashioned this tradition by coming together virtually and connecting through the internet and the postal service.  Virtual quilting bees have brought quilters together across states and nations.  Quilters have inspired each other, shared tips, learned skills, made quilts and best of all, forged friendships.

Some bees have themes, some are focused on charity, and many are simply a group of quilters who have a desire to connect and quilt together.

A virtual quilting bee is an opportunity to mix an inspiration with a group of diverse quilters…

to create a collaborative quilt like this one.

All About Jon by Jacquie Gering and the Sew Connected Bee


If you’re inspired to  start a bee of your own, the Quilting Bee Blocks group on Flickr has information on how to get started.

We’re kicking off the week with a special man who is the “dad” of collaboration in the modern quilting community.

Featured Quilt 1

Today’s featured quilt is by John Adams, known affectionately as “Quilt Dad”, and the folks in the Sew Connected Bee.  The Week of Collaboration wouldn’t be complete without John.  He is the ambassador of collaboration in the modern quilting community.


Sew Connected quilt by John Adams and the Sew Connected Bee


John’s Thoughts on Collaboration
Allow me to cut right to the chase: the whole reason I started my blog, the whole reason I am on Flickr, and the whole reason I am quilting and sewing at all is because I was drawn to the idea of collaborating — and creating works of art collaboratively — with quilters and crafters around the world.
Let’s rewind a bit.  Four years ago, I first became interested in fabric, sewing, and quilting, but I was spending a lot more time in front of my computer than in front of my sewing machine.  I had discovered the world of sewing sites and blogs, and in many ways I was teaching myself how to quilt based on the tips and tutorials of others.  The blogs I had found were inspirational, for sure, but a whole new world opened up to me the day I stumbled across a new and — at that time, unique — Flickr group called The Virtual Quilting Bee.
Today, virtual quilting bees are very common within the modern quilting community.  At last count, according to the master list in the Quilting Bee Blocks group, there are over 180 virtual quilting bees organized in Flickr alone!  To my knowledge, The Virtual Quilting Bee was the first.  As I learned exactly what a virtual quilting bee was and how it worked, I became enamored with watching (from afar) this group of 12 very talented women develop not only 12 charming and unique quilts sewn together from bits and pieces that each created, but also a friendship that spanned the miles between them.
Quilting alone at home is great and all, but I knew that this was something I wanted to get into.  The idea of creating something with other members of our virtual community — and actually producing a physical artifact that represents that collaboration and the many individuals that had a hand in creating it — was the very idea that jump-started my engagement with other quilters in every part of the world.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I was barely a quilter, much less a blogger at that point.  I knew that if I waited around to be invited to join a virtual quilting bee, I might be waiting for a while.  So in September of 2008 I took a leap of faith and reached out to many of the crafters and bloggers whose work I admired and invited them to join my own virtual quilting bee, which we named Sew Connected.  I honestly didn’t even know if anyone would be interested in joining me in this adventure, and I still remember the small thrill that I received as each of my invitations was accepted.  Together with this amazing group of people — Jacquie, Amy E., Meg, Stefanie, Dee, Amanda Jean, Amy D., Audrey, Buffy, Sarah, Rita, Tracy, Lyssa, and Jessica — I embarked on a 15-month journey that remains one of the highlights of my quilting “career”.
And that whole part about creating friendships at the same time that we’re creating quilts?  I can attest to the fact that it’s very true of virtual quilting bees.  In fact, many of the SewConnected sewists remain some of my closest quilting buddies.
Tell us about your quilt.
The quilt that I’m sharing today is the quilt that my friends in the SewConnected group helped me create.  I sent each of them a selection of fabrics that, to me, seemed to be a very happy assortment of prints in bright, primary colors.  It contained many prints from some of my favorite fabric designers and lines, including Denyse Schmidt (Katie Jump Rope and Flea Market Fancy — which, at the time, I had no idea how “special” it was, as I was casually picking up fat quarters of it from a small local shop that had every bolt in stock!), Sandi Henderson, Tula Pink, Sandy Klop, and more.  I asked my bee-mates to make log cabin-inspired blocks in a variety of sizes, which I later pieced together into the vibrant patchwork quilt you see today.  My group members over-delivered against my wildest expectations, helping me to create a truly unique — and very special — work of art.  I am blessed to be able to have a keepsake that represents the camaraderie we shared, as well as the skill, talent, and hard work of every person who contributed to its creation.
Since then, I’ve been hooked on any and every collaborative project that comes my way.  The SewConnected family grew to include two more bees — SewConnected 2 and SewConnected 3.  I’ve participated in over 10 more virtual quilting bees since then, along with a round robin, a row robin, and countless swaps.  I’ve just embarked on my newest collaborative adventure — The Traveling Quilts, which I like to think of as a mash-up of a virtual quilting bee and a round robin.  I’ve got an amazing group of quilters traveling along with me, and I invite you to come watch what we are able to create together.
My blog readers are constantly asking me how I can participate in so many different bees and swaps, but the truth is that I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m definitely one of those quilters who is in it for the community and the people.  My fellow quilters are what keep me happy, inspired, and excited to keep working, growing, and developing as an artist.  If not for the chance to collaborate with others, I truly believe I would have stopped sewing a long time ago.
John can be found both on flickr and on his blog, Quilt Dad.
Featured Quilt 2

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of a virtual quilting bee, it works like this:  there is usually a hostess or leader who runs the bee.  The leader forms the bee by inviting other quilters to join.  The leader or the group decides how the bee is to work, whether it has a theme, deadlines, and who goes first. Typically a bee has about 12 members and runs for a year.  Each member is designated a month and during that month sends out fabric to the other members and maybe some instructions or inspiration.  The members in turn make a block for him/her during that month and send the completed block(s) back.  The member then has blocks to turn into a quilt.  Most bees start blogs or flickr groups to keep track of the bee, to share their blocks and finished quilts and to communicate with each other.  If you’d like to read more about virtual quilting bees, be sure to check out the Block Party book by Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks.

Today’s featured quilt is an improvised sampler from Nettie of A Quilt is Nice and the Cottage Quilting Bee.

Cottage quilt by Nettie Peterson and the Cottage Quilting Bee

Tell us about your quilt:

My Cottage quilt was a collaboration with all my friends in the Cottage Quilting Bee.  I joined this bee back when I was brand new to quilting bees.  It was one of my first.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted when it was my month to select fabric and pattern.  At the time I was really into wonky-ness, so I pulled fabric together (oranges, browns and aquas) and came up with nothing…so I asked my bee-mates to do whatever they wanted.  I expected to get a lot of random pieced blocks or wonky log cabins, but I got so much more.  Each block is so different, and it was then that I realized how different we as quilters are.  As I put the blocks together, I loved that some blocks were complex and some were really simple.  They all complimented each other and came together in a really fantastic sampler quilt that was so much more unique than I thought it would be.

Cottage quilt close-up

Tell us about your experience with quilting bees:

I jumped in head first with the bees.  It was about 3 years ago (or so) when they really caught on and I joined 3 at one time!  I loved it, but have since slowed down with bees. I found I needed to be spending that time on other things.  I also found I wasn’t putting as much thought and effort into those blocks as I felt the owner deserved, so I am currently on a virtual quilting bee hiatus.  Being away from these bees has opened my eyes to what they provided.  They are where the conversation is!  I feel like I got to know so many of my online “friends” through these bees.  I got to see their personalities (as much as you can on the computer) come through as I saw their styles and choices.  Also the comments and threads were so fun to read.  If you want to be challenged join a bee.  Someone is bound to ask you to do something you swore you’d never try…hexagons, circles, etc…

Cottage quilt back

Tell us about you as a quilter:

I don’t really know how to describe myself as a quilter.  I really feel like everything is “my style”. I tend to think I am a modern quilter, but lately I am really drawn to the patterns of traditional quilts, especially when paired with modern fabrics.  Speaking of fabric, I love it!  I think it’s what keeps me quilting, so I can invest in more fabric.  I like simple and I like complex (although I am not a very precise piecer).  Sometimes I think I have decided on what my style is, but then see something totally different that I love and have to try.  Some days I want to be challenged with my quilting and piecing, and other days I just want to do a simple patchwork made entirely of squares.  I am inspired by so many things, but mostly from the beautiful quilts I see online lately!  I want to try just about everything out there!

You can find Nettie on flickr and on her blog, A Quilt is Nice.

Featured Quilt 3


The next quilt up this week is a beautiful quilt from Muriel and the Honeybees of Bee Europa.

Quilt by Muriel van der Ploeg and the Honeybees of Bee Europa


Tell us about your quilt.

I made this quilt using blocks that were made by the members of the Honeybees of Bee Europa in 2010.  I ask them to make wonky quarter log cabin blocks and in our Flickr group I provided a link to a tutorial.  When I picked the fabric for this quilt I started with the burgundy Amy Butler fabric with flower rosettes.  I chose other fabrics to match the colors in the inspiration. I sent each of my fellow bee members strips of fabric and fabric for the block centers.  They were then free to make the blocks however they wanted.  I received two 12 1/2″ blocks from each member.

Fabric packs for bee members.


I put the blocks together to form huge full log cabin blocks and added sashing.  I made the back for the quilt with leftover strips and yardage that I saved.  The quilt is a favorite in our house; when we watch television, my children fight over who gets to sit under this one.

Tell us about your thoughts on virtual quilting bees and your bee experience.

The bee that helped me make this quilt was my first bee.  It was the first round of this European group and it is still going strong.  We are starting on our third round soon.  After this bee I have joined many others, all through Flickr:  the 3×6, and 4×5 mini bees, Sew Buzzy, and the Cocorico Patchwork Bee where we are getting very creative and are making our own patterns inspired by wonderful themes such as vintage kitchen or Pippi Longstocking.  I am also a member of the Do Good Stitches charity bee.

Muriel's quilt in progress with a little help from a friend.

I think virtual quilting bees are a fun and easy way to get connected with other quilters.  In my non-internet life I don’t know anyone who quilts, so these bees are a community where I can share my work with people who can appreciate all the aspects of it.  Also, bees provide the opportunity to make one or two blocks in a certain technique without having to make a whole quilt.  They are a great learning experience.

The back of Muriel's quilt.


Tell us about you as a quilter:

Everything that I know about quilting I have learned through the Internet, through virtual quilting bees, quilt-a-longs and online tutorials.  I love soaking up the knowledge there is to be found and then continuing in my own way.  Not having a quilting tradition in my family or community means that I don’t feel much pressure to follow rules.  I love selecting fabric for projects and playing with colors.  I love combining florals with geometric prints and I am very interested in folklore patterns.  My latest interests are foundation paper piecing, sewing curves, and exploring what makes things cute!

You can find Muriel on Flickr and on her blog, Doucepoints.

Featured Quilt 4

Remember, if you want to be in a bee, you don’t need to wait to be asked.  Ask your friends online or through your guild.  Find a partner and organize your own version of a virtual or in person quilting bee!  There is lots of help to get you started here.

Today’s featured quilt is this beautiful version of a wonky star quilt by Jessica and the members of the Pieced Together Bee.

Wonky Star quilt by Jessica Kovach and the Pieced Together Bee


Tell us about your quilt:

Well, this quilt has been finished up for quite a while now, so I’m trying to think back to when I was pulling together fabric and thinking of what style of block that I wanted made for me.  I remember thinking that I wanted something with a “modern” edge to it and I wanted a block that would be simple enough for anyone to make.  I’m not sure it that was true with what the other participants thought.

I see now that it’s really intimidating to have so little direction because you really want to come up with a block that the host is going to love.  I asked for 12 1/2″ blocks and for the ash colored fabric to be used as the background.  I was so impressed with what everyone sent back to me!  I love the mix of more simple blocks and the ones that have a little more detail to them.  I think that’s what really makes the quilt interesting…it was fun to see all the different interpretations of a wonky star block.


Tell us your thoughts on virtual quilting bees and about your bee experience.

When I was first in quilting bees it was a great way for me to challenge myself to try different things/techniques that someone would request.  It was a wonderful way to “meet” others online and join in the emerging popularity of online quilting and blogging.  After being in several bees at one time, I realized that I could only really handle being in one bee at a time.  That way I could have time to sew things that I want to work on and still participate in a group and enjoy that aspect of quilting, too.  Most of the time, my experience in bees has been great.  I’ve always tried to give people something simple to make for my month…I just want them to have fun working with blocks for me and enjoy using fabrics they may not have chosen for themselves.

Tell us about you as a quilter:

I’ve thought a lot about the things I’ve made in the past and what some of my favorite projects are.  It’s funny because my favorite things tend to be some of the first quilts I made several years ago when I was first bitten by the quilting bug.  The quilts were simple and fabrics had a vintage feel to them.  That seems to be what I’ve been drawn back to over the past few months.  This year is going to be all about simplifying things for me and really enjoying what I sew.

Thanks to Jessica for sharing her quilt and her bee experience with us.  You can find Jessica and her work on her blog, Twin Fibers.

Featured Quilt 5

This week would also not be complete without a word or two from Erin.  Erin started the Quilting Bee Blocks flickr group and she has helped folks from all across the world either start, organize or connect with a bee.  Her group is a great resource for everything bee related.

We’re happy to feature her quilt made in collaboration with the members of the Bee Tweet bee.

Tell us a bit about your quilt:

I knew I wanted my Bee Tweet bee members to help me make a scrappy quilt.  I had them use Aneela’s crazy quilt block tutorial to make me  giant, crazy, scrappy blocks using a bunch of my favorite fabrics as well as their own scraps if they chose to use them. (We’ll share her tutorial in this week’s tutorial round up!) I wanted a quilt that had little bits and pieces of lots of my favorite fabrics and the best way to get them all to go together was to just go wild and make it as colorful and crazy as possible.  This quilt definitely isn’t for everyone, but I love it and all the friendships it represents.

Tell us about your experience with virtual quilting bees:

I love the online sewing community and virtual quilting bees!  I started the Flickr group, Quilting Bee Blocks, for that very reason.  I wanted to have a central place where people could look for inspiration for bee blocks or to find other people that are wanting to join up with them in a bee.  But I confess, I’m a terrible bee member.  I am a perfectionist and sometimes the pressure to do my best work for my bee members is paralyzing! One of the most fun experiences I’ve had was meeting 9 out of the 11 members of Bee Tweet last October in person at Sewing Summit!

Tell us about yourself as a quilter:

I consider myself an intermediate quilter..  I have tons of ideas and sketches down in books, but not always the time and patience to execute them exactly how I want to.  I love fabric, though, and I think I’ll collect it forever, even though I can’t make quilts fast enough to keep up with the fabric purchasing!

Thanks Erin for all you have done to support growing the quilting bee community.  You can find Erin on Flickr and on her blog, Two More Seconds.

Featured Quilt 6

Today’s featured quilt is Lucia’s “Trudy’s-Arse-Kicking-Quilt.”  While this isn’t the result of a virtual quilting bee, it is a stellar example of collaboration within the modern quilting community. We found it in the Quilting Bee Quilts Flickr group and when we heard the story, we couldn’t help but want to share it with you.  It’s a long story, but take some time to read it.  You may be inspired!

Trudy's Arse Kicking Quilt by Lucia Wilke and many friends


Tell us about your quilt.

I have never in my life felt ‘called’ to do something, until the making of this quilt.  In late summer 2010, we found out a friend from high school, Errick, was diagnosed with stage 4 colo-rectal cancer.  He and his family were all I could think about after hearing the news.  I knew I needed to do something for them. After reading how Errick appreciated the warm hospital blankets, I knew a quilt was the answer.  I quickly realized that I needed help making the quilt because I have very little masculine fabric.  (I am a mom to three little girls, ages 4, 2 ½, and 6 months at the time.)  Once the idea of a collaborative quilt was formed, I knew it was the way to go because I wanted to show Errick how many people cared for him by the number of hands that went into making the quilt.

I put out a call for help on my blog and on flickr to anyone willing to help. I showed an example block and gave the collaborators instructions on block style, colors, size, the style of fabrics and a deadline. With some help from Flickr quilting friends and my guild, the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild, the word spread and the response was truly overwhelming.  Within days, quilt blocks started showing up in my mailbox.

I knew I wanted to get the quilt to Errick as soon as possible so I did not give the collaborators a lot of turnaround time (less than a week, I think). Despite that, I ended up with 214 cross blocks made by 61 quilters from across the US, Canada and UK. Trudy’s Arse Kicking Quilt ended up being a large twin size quilt and I squeezed 117 cross blocks into it.

The quilt was a collaboration on many levels: making the blocks, donations for giveaway prizes to the block makers, donations of fabric and batting; a donation of the quilt label by Tula Pink; and a donation of the quilting by a longarm quilter near me.

A page from the book that accompanied the quilt

In my mind, the making of this quilt was just as important of the finished piece. I put together a book to go along with the quilt care package going to Errick and his family. The book told the story of how the quilt came to be, highlighted some special blocks and listed the cities where everyone was from who sent in blocks.

Small quilt made from the trimmings.


This story doesn’t end with Trudy’s Arse Kicking Quilt. With the rest of the block trimmings from TAKQ, I made a mini quilt, Trudy Trimmings.  I just couldn’t throw away the block trimmings; they somehow felt sacred to me, so I had to make something with them. I thought Errick’s young son could one day use this mini to tuck in his bears.

And then there were the extra cross blocks (nearly 100). I turned half of the extras plus some orange blocks I made into a small quilt, Trudy Too for Errick’s son. The other half of the blocks have yet to be put together and turned into a quilt (to be named Trudy Tres). I have already figured out block placement for Trudy Tresand would like to finish it this year.

Trudy Too made from leftover blocks


Errick and his family truly appreciated the quilt and extras. He is continuing to fight the cancer (now in his lungs, adrenal gland and liver) and just this week celebrated his 34th birthday.

Tell us your thoughts on virtual quilting bees and about your bee experience.

I have participated in two virtual quilting bees (the last one ending more than a year ago). While I appreciated my time in them, I do not think I will be joining another any time soon. I am at a time in my life when I have very limited free time: my husband travels more than 50 percent of the time (and works long hours when home), we have three little girls (now almost 6, 4 and 2) and no family in-state.

I participated in a swap and two bees and realized that I did not have a lot of time left for sewing for me. In a later chapter in my life, I would consider joining a bee again, probably through my guild. That said, I have contributed/am contributing to some collaborative quilts when the opportunity presents itself. At this time, I much prefer helping with a collaborative quilt for a specific person or need, instead of participating in a virtual quilting bee.

Tell us a bit about you as a quilter. 

I discovered the world of modern quilting in the spring of 2009 and was instantly hooked. Funny thing… I never thought I would make quilting a hobby after making a rag quilt for my daughter in 2006. Everything about the hobby seemed so tedious. I have a different point of view now, obviously.

I most enjoy designing and figuring out my own quilt patterns. I almost always sketch my quilts out before I begin (either by hand or digitally with Illustrator). I am lost without my sketches.

Lucia is a member of the Dallas Modern Quilt Guild and you can find her and her quilts on her blog, Lulubloom.