Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Year of Blocks: A We Bee Learning Bee Retrospective

I have just finished my final two blocks for the We Bee Learning Bee.  This was the first online quilting bee I joined, and I learned a lot through the process. But, before I get into that, let's take a look at my October and November blocks!

I lost my sewing mojo in October and knew early on that my block would not be done on time. Luckily, Josie was very gracious and said to take my time and make the block when I was ready. She gave us three star block options and I went for the simplest one, a Sawtooth Star.  She asked for a red and blue on a neutral background.

Nita asked for a Converging Corners block with a fussy cut centre in greens, with a little yellow or orange if we needed variety. My centre square ended up being rather large, so I was only able to get in two rounds of corners, but I really like the end result. I'd like to make an entire quilt using this block. It would be fun for an i-spy quilt.

As I said, I learned a lot from participating in this bee, but it wasn't the type of learning that I anticipated. I can't really say that my quilting skills improved or that I learned new techniques, although I did try blocks that I wouldn't have chosen myself. The things I learned were actually about my personal preferences and hangups, and they aren't all pretty.
  1. I am totally anal when it comes to quilting. I need my seams to line up as perfectly as possible.  I have a hard time saying "it's good enough." This perfectionism does not make me well suited to participating in bees.  See, many people ARE able to say "it's good enough" and that's great! I applaud them.  But, I might not end up using all of the blocks I receive and that makes me feel badly, because I know the ladies who made them worked hard on them and I don't want people to feel hurt. 
  2. I am a perfectionist (see point #1). Bees that are open to anyone result in a wide variety of skill levels. This was a beginner bee, and I WAS a beginner. But, since I'm a perfectionist, I think I'd be better off participating in private bees where I know the participants, their style and their work.
  3. I am a fabric snob. I purchase, use and prefer designer fabrics. I haven't shopped at Fabricland (the Canadian version of JoAnns) since I first began sewing. In bees you don't have control over what other people use.
  4. Colour choice is critical for me. I've learned that one person's aqua is another person's light blue is another person's sea green. I've also learned that even when you think you are being very specific, you can't control how people interpret your request. For example, you might request a white background and someone may use a white on white print instead. Technically, the background is white, but the block probably isn't useable if you were hoping for all of the background fabrics to blend together. For my month, I selected primary colours on a black background in an effort to ensure uniformity!
Now lest you think that I am a horrible, judgmental person who thinks terrible things of the ladies I swapped with, please believe me when I say that I really enjoyed this bee! The women involved were kind and supportive. Best of all, the participants were chatty! I love being part of Flickr groups where people post comments on each other's photos.

I haven't started constructing my quilt using the blocks I received because I need to add at least another four, if not eight, blocks and I'm not keen on trimming all those HSTs. But Levi is quickly approaching the end of his crib days which means his bed quilt will need finishing.

While I don't intend to join a year long bee again in 2013, I will join another round of the 3x6 bee at some point next year. I have collected 12 chartreuse and plum blocks (but only 10 are useable) and would like a few more to make a larger quilt top.

What about you? Have you had good experiences with online bees? I'd love to hear the good, bad and ugly in the comments!


  1. What a great learning experience. I've had the same experience w/ bee's. I broke myself of my perfectionism by joining 7 bee's at once! It's like immersion therapy.

    I totally love sewing w/ an elite group, just to keep stretching myself.

    You have a great set of blocks sweetie!

  2. I agree with you Lisa. I love meeting new people in the bees and I have been pretty lucky with my swaps so far, but I am like you....I am a perfectionist in my sewing and I hate it when I get badly made blocks or one that just doesn't "fit". I try really hard to pick colours that I hope my hive members will like as I don't want them to be disappointed. However, I know there will be some blocks I will never use as they are badly made and just not the colours I envisaged for my quilt.

    On the positive though, I have met some amazing people and have been so inspired by the talent in blogland! I have tried new techniques as a result of being in bees. I had never paper pieced until this year and I LOVE it! I have tried new color combos that I shyed away from. I literally had no orange fabrics at all and all of a sudden aqua and orange became the new fashion and at least one person in every bee wanted this combo and I had to go buy a bunch of orange fabrics!!

    I think the positives far outweigh the negatives, but I am more careful about what bees I join now too.

    PS I hope my block wasn't one of the 2 relegated to the bin :))

  3. For me, a drawback is having a deadline. Bees most definitely need it and it's one I take seriously. But I have so little sewing machine time. Deadlines, no matter how generous, feel like deadlines and make the experience feel more like an obligation. I've really enjoyed our bee but like you, not sure that I'll be signing up for a second round.

  4. Bees ought to be ranked not just by how expert people are but by how fastidious they are. Just because someone's new at quilting doesn't mean they're careless, and just because someone's been at it a while doesn't mean they're not.