Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Quilting Bee

In the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries every community had it's quilt bees and most followed a similar pattern. Women spent long winter months piecing tops and over the summer months called on their friends and neighbors to help quilt them. No one wanted to miss a quilting as this was a major social occasion and chance for gossip, if you weren't there yours could be among the names bandied about over the frame! (or frames, often more than one quilt was worked on at a bee in the summer, when the quilting was outdoors). Children were called upon to keep the needles threaded and less skilled quilters and young ladies were often relegated to KP duty, it paid to polish your quilting stitch! Perhaps the most festive Quilting Bees were held to quilt a brides quilt. Traditionally this quilt would be the thirteenth quilt a young girl had made, and displayed her finest work. The time between engagement and wedding was a flurry of quiltings as none of the thirteen quilts were quilted before the engagement. The most expensive part of a quilt was the backing and batting and this investment was not made until it was certain the quilts would be needed to set up housekeeping. The quilt bee was a party as much if not more than a working occasion and a lady made every effort to put on her best for her friends and neighbors. At the end of the day the men joined the ladies for a festive supper and perhaps a barn dance. These events were particularly cherished by the women of the great plains and western states as it was a rare opportunity for them to see other women, they spent most of their days with their own families and chores and might only see others every few months and not at all in the winter. It might be a four or five hour or more journey to the nearest neighbor, a truly perilous trip in winter. Some women were very fussy as to who was invited to a quilting, wanting only the most skilled to work on her quilts. Occasionally the stitches of a less skilled quilter were removed after the bee and redone by the quilts owner. Pride was taken in ones stitches! Quilt Bees still take place today though they are more likely to take the form of a church or charity organization which quilts to raise funds for well deserving causes than as the social occasion which also resulted in the completion of a necessary but tedious task. (Article drawn from “Quilt History” by Christina {no last name found})

Much was lost when the tradition of the quilting bee died out in the early 20th century. Ready-made textiles became the rage and quilts came to be viewed as a “country item," not a quality textile. Not only did we loose a uniquely American wedding tradition that had been passed from generation to generation, and the tradition of teaching the next generation how to sew, we lost one of the great social outlets for women. Beginning in the early decades of the 20th century, women started to go to work in factories, as domestics, or as secretaries outside the home, and time to get together became more limited. Over the decades, we women lost the close social contact that the quilting bee had provided. Today there are very few outlets for groups of women to get together, just be social and form casual friendships born of kindred activities.

The first month I opened 1 Stop Bead Shop, I instituted Club Bead – 1 Stop Bead Shop’s Girls’ Night Out. I didn’t have quilting bees in mind at the time, but just saw it as a great chance for fellow beaders to get together once a month, do their craft, chat & share ideas. Our first Club Bead was very small – just me and 3 other women – Dena, Lori & Jennifer – but it grew each month as beaders started to look forward to their beading time together and invited their friends. Many friendships have grown and blossomed into friendships that go far beyond the walls of 1 Stop Bead Shop.

If you enjoy beading and like the idea of hanging out with others who are as passionate about it as you are, why don’t you consider joining us for our version of the Quilting Bee – 1 Stop Bead Shop’s Club Bead - this Friday, 11-11-11 from 7:00-10:00? It’s a great way to make new friends and get great feedback & ideas. Just $15 pays for an entire year through Dec 2012! See you Friday!

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