Some of the rest of you must have grown up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder right? Man I loved those books, growing up, I always imagined myself in that time sitting on the porch sewing with my mom before we had to make the bread and butter for dinner. I guess that is why I picked Felicity from the American Girl line up (and yes I still have her, all tucked away with her red riding hood and yes I can't wait to have a little girl with an American Girl doll too).
From what I know, and I could be wrong, the quilting bee came about during this era, and it was an important means of socializing for pioneer women. Women would get together and work on a quilt all day or during some evenings (especially during the winter) and sew together. Quilting bees were essentially a place for women to gather and socialize. Quilts could be for upcoming marriages, babies or even charity. On a side note, I would love a wand quilted and pieced quilt from that era, can you imagine how cool that would be.
The modern version of the quilting bee is helped along by the internet. Virtual quilting bees and block swaps are all over the internet these days. There are tons of flickr groups with block swaps and many quilting bloggers are part of one or more. Essentially the idea behind a block swap/virtual bee is that 12 people sign up and each person is given a month. During the month you are assigned, you are able to give direction to the other 11 members of the swap with regards to what type of blocks you might want at the end of that month. So your assigned month you will get at least 11 blocks (usually more, because most people will make you 2 or 3 or 4) back. These blocks will be made with your specifications and or fabric, but created by other quilters. Hopefully the blocks you get back are made into a quilt, which was in part created by other quilters.
There are not hard and fast rules for these virtual quilting bees. Some bees are created around a certain fabric designer, a certain type of block, or even a color palette. Many swaps have no defined theme and the theme of each month is left up to that months assigned person. Virtual swaps also go way beyond quilting and many bloggers have stitchy swaps (with embroidery) or swaps centered around creating certain items (softies/pillows/etc.).
It is amazing to me how connected we can be through the internet. Internet friends may in time end up as close to you as friends made in real life. I love the idea that being part of a virtual quilting bee/block swap will leave me with enough blocks to make a quilt, of which the pieces were made from other quilters who I may or may not know. It is amazing to me how virtual communities have been built around themes I love, like quilting and sewing.
Some (12) of the women from LAMQG are currently part of a block swap (there is at least one other block swap with LAMQG ladies). Before I showed my pictures and talked about the swap I am in I wanted to talk about swaps and bees in general, thus all the wordiness above. This swap officially started in Feb 2010, and will run until Jan 2011. I am so excited to be a part of this swap and I just finished my first squares for Lauren, who gave us the task of making 11 inch squares, one with log cabin and one with circles. She gave us wonderful aqua and yellow fabrics and everything else was left to us. I love love love how my squares turned out, and the photos on our flickr group make me so excited to see the finished product. I already can't wait for next months assignment. My month is May and my wheels are already spinning with ideas for fabrics I want to use and potential squares I want created. Anyway I hope you enjoy the squares I made and I will be certain to post the squares I created for all the months ahead.