Quilting bee: a gathering in the name of quilting

What is a quilting bee? Gathering in the name of quilting

Quilting bee is a social gathering where quilters work on quilts together, share ideas and create friendships by sharing about their lives.

1. Where did the Quilting Bee come from?

Emerged in the early 18th century. It’s a social gathering of quilters to share quilt, techniques and whatever else you want to talk about. Often the bee was a combination of a gathering of friends to catch up, and a way to finish quilts together. The original of the term quilting bee is attributed to colonial America where people depended on communal work to accomplish certain tasks such as barn raising, harvesting, and also the finishing of quilts. 

Often, quilters did the last part of sewing the layers together, the quilting, in a group. In this way, they sometimes managed to finish several quilts in one day during a quilting bee! It was really seen as a party with good food and communal meals together with husbands, friends and lovers. 

Sometimes those quilting bees were organized for special occasions, such as a trousseau for weddings or a fair. Sometimes it was a regular occasion to combine friendship with industriousness.

2. Where does the name quilting bee come from? 

The exact origin of the word is hard to determine, as is the case with many old things. It is either one, or a combination, of these two things:

  • The name bee stems from a bee hive where bees work together for a single purpose
  • Bee is a folk-derivative from the word been or bean, meaning something good or helpful

Both words indicate the communal, helping-each-other spirit of a quilting bee. This spirit is still present in the quilting bees today. 

3. Quilting bees in this day and age


Today, with the rise of internet and digital communication means, quilting bees exist in 2 forms: offline & online. Usually they emerged based on thematic interests of the quilter.

3.1 Offline quilting bees

I am part of a modern quilting bee. Modern quilting is the closest description of the kind of quilts I make. We’ve met for a few years now, and  I feel at home with the group, and we’ve become friends. One of the members also makes the photos for Kick Ass Quilts.

As in most modern quilting bees, we work on our own projects, and we also teach each other new techniques. During the meeting we first have a Show & Tell where we show the quilt we’re working on for feedback, inspiration, or admiration. After that, one of us will explain a new quilt technique to try out. It’s great fun to chat and learn from each other! 

These days, quilters rarely work on a single quilt during a quilting. However, it still happens, especially when there is a special occasion or theme going on! Also, some groups make the same pattern together. It all depends on the wishes and needs of the quilters involved. It’s foremost a group of like-minded people to share the love of quilting with.

3.2 Online quilting bee

Quilting bees are often formed online. Through Facebook, email and Instagram, people connect with a similar desire to make quilting friends or to learn more about a specific quilting style. Internet puts quilters with a similar disposition in contact. 

Sometimes those bees remain online, and sometimes they move to offline places. It all depends on the geographical distribution of the members. Many quilters still prefer offline meeting to online meetings. It is important in a global and digital world to also have connection with / in the place you are living. 

4. Conclusion: Meaning of Quilting bee for Kick Ass Quilts

A quilting bee has always been a place where quilters help each other. In the olden days by finishing a quilt together, and in modern days by learning techniques and give each other feedback and inspiration. And mostly a quilting bee is a place for friendship and support. While working on the quilts. You can share about your life and support each other. 

Kick ass Quilts also offers a quilting bee. This bee will be mainly online because we are a global community. In the closed community of quilt college, you can connect and share with like-minded quilters. In the freely accessible library you can find inspiration from sustainable quilts made by others and also send in your quilts. 

Do you have a quilt you’d like me to use in an upcoming article? I love to use examples from the Kick Ass Quilts community when I teach quilting! Send me a message on FB or Instagram, or email me at rianne@kickassquilt.org. Make sure you mention the name to attribute with the quilt. 

Similar terms: quilting retreat, quilt holiday,     quilt party, quilt guild


  • Are you part of a quilting bee? If so, how did you find the group?
  • Would you love to become part of a quilting bee? If so, what kind of group?


  1. Quilts Their Story and How to Make Them by Marie D. Webster
  2. https://www.favequilts.com/Beginner-Basics/What-is-a-Quilting-Bee
  3. https://wordhistories.net/2018/08/10/bee-communal-work
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