Monday, 7 October 2013

Bee Blocks – DOs and DON'Ts

 Bees are a great way to ‘hang out’ (as much as you can online!) with other quilters, make some quilty friends, and try new blocks. Oh yeah – and end up with enough blocks for a quilt at the end!  But sometimes it can be hard to choose a suitable block when it’s your turn as Queen Bee. Hopefully this post might help a little! I’ve also scattered some previous Bee blocks I’ve done amongst the text. We all like pictures after all! I might add none of the pictures relate to the headings – all bee blocks included were fun to make and were not harmed in the writing of this post.

Let me start with a disclaimer – I’m not a Bee expert. I’ve made bad Bee block choices in the past as Queen Bee, and I’ve also had to make some shocker blocks as a bee member. So definitely not an expert. I’m just sharing from my experience and from conversations I’ve had with quilty friends as well as lessons I’ve learnt the hard way! If you have any tips I've missed, please add them in the comments!

Bee Blocks DOs and DON'Ts

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts that I think are important for Bees. (PS I spent awhile deliberating on whether to add apostrophes or not to “DOs and DON’Ts) – but it just seems wrong to add apostrophes to plurals! Sorry if it’s wrong and makes your grammar-self grind teeth!).

DO choose fun blocks to make.
Now I know that ‘fun’ is very relative. For me, a paper pieced block is fun, whereas an appliqued block is not. So you need to know your fellow Bee members and what suits them. You can always ask a week or so before your month is up whether they are completely adverse to using a certain technique in the block for the month. Oh and I think it’s always advisable to avoid y-seams. Does anyone like y-seams?!

Asterisk block for August Care Circle

DO choose free patterns!
When you start looking at bought patterns for bee blocks, you’re starting to wade into copyright waters. You can’t purchase one copy of a pattern and share it with all your Bee mates. If you really want a purchased pattern, you could a) contact the designer and see if they’ll work out a discount deal for you, b) buy copies for all your bee mates or c) see if your bee mates are interested in purchasing the pattern themselves. But generally – it’s much easier if you choose a free pattern.

DO provide a tutorial if you can
That doesn’t mean having to write one yourself unless you want to, but it really helps Bee members if there is a tutorial on the block you want to make. There are certainly plenty of tutorials on the interwebs – hunt one down ;)

Sprout blocks

DO test your blocks first!
Do a trial run so you know if there are going to be trouble spots with your choice. Or if your block is going to take 3 hours. You might not be the most popular bee member if you choose a complicated block that takes forever and requires much seam ripping and teeth gnashing.

DO be somewhat specific on guidelines
I think most of us quilters tend to like rules and guidelines and specifics. I end up paralysed by indecision if the guidelines are very vague. Giving colour choices, or layout suggestions is helpful! I don’t mean so specific as in “Use only the purple colourway of  Mendocino in the blocks” – more like “Lime green please, not dark green”. You can even include a little inspiration mosaic to help people choose their fabrics.

October Bee block for Lara

DON’T choose really complex blocks.
Seriously. Just don’t. Unless you’re in a super-advanced-awesome-sauce-quilter-bee and everyone is at the same level, I don’t think your fellow bee members will thank you. Bees are supposed to be fun, not chores. Again – test your blocks first to see if they are okay or dreadful choices!
A general guideline that I think works well is choose simpler blocks – your Bee members will thank you!

Star block for Kate

When making blocks for other Queen Bees

DO ask questions
If you’re not sure on something, ask for clarification. Chances are someone else is wondering the very same thing.

DO communicate
If you’re having problems keeping up with the bee, or certain blocks for the month, let the Bee Host know. There’s nothing worse than having a Bee member go AWOL or simply not send blocks they didn’t want to make. That happened to me in a Bee – I made the mistake of choosing what I thought was a simple paper pieced block. I still haven’t received all the blocks and that was from over a year ago. Very disappointing when I made the effort on everyone else’s.

July Bee block for Lara

DON’T half-arse it
When it’s your turn to make blocks for others, do try to make them look like they’re supposed to. It’s a bit upsetting as a Queen Bee to get blocks that have threads hanging out everywhere, completely mismatching points (we understand a few, but when it’s obvious you haven’t even bothered trying…), or not in the colours requested, or the unfinished block size is nowhere near what it should be… It’s not just that the Queen Bee has received a dodgy block, oftentimes those blocks are completely unusable in the final quilt. Waste of time for everyone involved!  Let someone know if you’re really stuck – maybe you can make a deal with another Bee member and they might make two of the troublesome block, and you make two of another easier one and give them a month off!

Paper pieced Fish for Merran

And most importantly of all DO HAVE FUN! Bees are supposed to be fun after all! Winking smile
If you’re looking for inspiration for bee blocks, you’re welcome to join my group board on Pinterest. It’s creatively titled “Possible Bee Blocks”. Also look through other Bee groups on Flickr – plenty of inspiration there!

So my friends, I have no idea if any of this has been helpful or has made you completely terrified of being part of a Bee! I do hope it’s the former and not the latter!  And if you have any tips that I haven’t listed, please share them in the comments!

Let’s all be fab bee members together! Winking smile


  1. I've never been in a bee but I'll certainly remember your great tips if I ever join one!

  2. Well you are just a wealth of useful tips! Thanks for sharing all your insights on this Kristy! The block i have to do this month is ridiculous and one of our other bee mates has chosen it for her month as well, so i'll have to make the sodden thing twice! My month isn't until January and i haven't picked my block yet, but you can bet i'll be hitting up your Pinterest board!

  3. great tips Kristy and so many pretty blocks!!

  4. PS - your new header still makes me smile everytime I stop by!

  5. From experience I would be specific when you want 'white' fabric as a background. I have received some less than pure white which is rather disappointing! Otherwise your hints are very pertinent!

  6. Sage advice Kristy. I would add to your tips that it is doubly important to keep communicating when you are Queen Bee otherwise things can rapidly fall apart. If the Queen Bee can't be bothered to comment or keep to deadlines it can be pretty dispiriting for the humble worker bees!

  7. Amen! What an insightful post.

  8. What a great post! I haven't been in a bee yet, but I think not doing a good job would be mortifying. Who does that?
    I think you're right on the apostrophe btw - it's not possessive, after all :-)

  9. Thank you, a great post (but I did need this help about 2 weeks ago ;-)) I'm queen bee this month, my issue was a nice one to have I suppose in that the bee is sponsored by Moda so I had to come up with a block in which I could split the FQ bundle and send to each member! By the photo's appearing in the flickr group I think I made the right decision!

  10. Great post!! Another tip would be to use white or off white thread when sewing white fabrics together - NOT red. Yes, I have had a bee person use red thread to sew my white fabric together and it CAN be seen. Not good.

  11. Great post! I really like the one block with the little squares and star ~ it's so cute.
    I was asked to join a bee recently but when she told color scheme for everyone I decided not to do it, so disappointed. Red, black and white ~ not my colors at all. Hope to join another bee, but don't know many people who do them.

  12. Great tips! I've never been in a bee, but would love to give it a whirl someday. Where's the best place to find potential bees?

  13. I would add - don't forget a "finished" size does not include seam allowance. :)

  14. Great tips! And I love your pinterest board! Great ideas! Yeah, I'm in a bee right now and have decided not to do it again. Some people ask for ridiculous blocks with just too many pieces or they still have stuff from the 90s and are using it in your blocks. In what is supposed to be a modern bee! Argh!

  15. That's a great list there! Right on target. I hate when I get some crazy pieced block, but it does make me break out the box a bit so I guess its not all that bad:)

  16. It's so much fun being in a bee! My positives greatly outweigh any negatives. Maybe a clarification if international postage is OK with everyone - if someone sends express it can be a little pricey! I love the group I'm in, and they are all very prompt which is a real asset, and keeps me motivated too!

  17. I am going to be joining a Bee and found this extremely helpful! Thank you!

  18. Yes yes yes - I'd have to agree with these!

  19. Another great post Kristy - and very warranted too! I hope that your inclusion of two blocks I have requested as Queen Bee is because they are lovely blocks, and not because they were examples of 'don'ts'! Heehee :)

  20. Nice post. I've always wondered how quilting bees worked. I was under the impression the queen bee supplied the fabric too. I love that July block with the little star. Do you have instructions for that? It doesn't look too hard. I'm kind of new to quilting but not afraid of jumping into something difficult, and I love paper piecing, although I know this July block is not that.

  21. Very nice post...great advice!

  22. Great post - you've covered everything! I also appreciate my blocks being sent in a zip lock bag; no matter the weather they always arrive snug and safe.

  23. very solid advice! I've been in several bees and had both good and bad experiences. I think the worst bee experience i had was when every member of the group slowly dropped out one-by-one. by the end, even the host was AWOL and I only ended up receiving blocks for my month from one person.

  24. Hi Kristy. I am starting a bee and this has been so much help. Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. before I've even read the post, I had to come down to the bottom and thank you for not adding those apostrophes. Apostrophes are NOT for plurals, they're for contractions (don't) and possession (Wendy's). I thank you!

  26. I second the motion that if you are wondering if a fabric is alright to use, just ask! I have one or two blocks that I consider unusable as the colors are not what I wanted and clash. It's a shame since they're beautifully made.

  27. Thanks, that's really helpful.

    PS apostrophies are for contracted words (that's really helpful = that is really helpful) or ownership. If you think of Benta's blog as replacing the blog belonging to Benta then that's kind of contraction too, so your grammar choice was spot on!

    (one apparent exception - the dog lost its ball - its doesn't quite get used as the ball belonging to the dog,(which you would think is it's ) it is instead part of the his/her family: ownership without apostrophies)

  28. This is a great post, thank you! What exactly is a quilting bee and how would one join a bee? I tried googling but couldn't find an explanation on how they work. Thanks!

  29. Great post Kristy - I just found the link over at the modern quilt guild !

  30. Great post Kristy - I just found the link over at the modern quilt guild !


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