Have you ever heard of a quilting bee?
Well, if you aren’t familiar with this term, it was a major social event in the lives of eighteenth and nineteenth century women. It was a time for a group of ladies to gather and…you guessed it! They work on quilts! They would gather at a local church or other convenient gathering area, gossip, socialize, and finish their pieces. This event would last all day, during which times several quilts could be finished by a group of accomplished women. This was also rather celebratory, for bringing a quilt to a bee for finishing represented probably months of work at home. They served as a showcase of a lady’s talent.
Sometimes women would even use this as an opportunity to discuss social and political issues. Women, of course, were not really permitted to take place in this kind of public discourse, but in the safety of a quilting bee anything could come up. By the mid-nineteenth century some quilting bees and sewing circles would even sell or raffle their crafts to raise money to support things such as abolitionist groups.
Today the quilting bee is still popular amongst quilters. Many quilt shops offer days where quilters will gather for an entire day and work, but typically on their own projects. The Whaley House will be hosting a more traditional form of a quilting bee and it certainly isn’t only for accomplished quilters. Techniques will be taught in a manner that will allow even beginners to join in on the fun and take part in this historic craft. The first session will take place on February 21 at 10:00 am. The style used will be English paper piecing and, in the end, we hope to have quilt of our own to raffle. The wonderful folks at Flint Handmade are working with us on this event and we couldn’t be more excited. Stay tuned to both organization Facebook pages and websites for more information to come!