Quilting bees, those time-honored gatherings where quilters practiced and shared their crafts, have never quite gone away. They were, unfortunately, more and more difficult to attend though, due to day to day commitments. Thanks to thriving online communities, quilters are continuing to find ways to connect with each other in today’s busy world.
For centuries, neighborhood women in the United States used the bees not only to make quilts, but also to socialize and catch up on the news of the day. Unfortunately, the popularity of these quaint gatherings peaked in the 19th century and interest in the craft slowly faded.
In the past 20 years, however, quilting bees — and the craft in general — have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. It is estimated that one in seven U.S. households now boasts a quilter. Many attribute quilting’s revival to the nation’s bicentennial, when interest in American folk arts and crafts surged.
As with nearly every other segment of society, today’s quilting bees have embraced technology. According to a recent “Quilting in America” survey, 84 percent of serious quilters own a computer and half have broadband access to the Web. The Internet is now populated with hundreds of online discussion groups where people help each other with quilting challenges, post pictures of their latest projects and share life’s ups and downs. These conversations take place 24 hours a day and span the globe. You can find another quilter to help you to get that pattern you’re looking for, to learn how to embrace the craft or how to piece a difficult pattern.
In addition, sewing and quilting machines are being designed to take full advantage of technology, making the home computer as indispensable to the craft as the quilting frame. In 1999, the Janome Sewing Machine Co. introduced the first sewing machine that could be updated via software through a built-in USB port. In addition to the sewing machine and the online quilting bee, fabric stores such as Hancock Fabrics and the fabric store are offering online Clearance and Closeout Fabrics that you can purchase, quite often for a better price than you will find in a physical fabric store. All in all these methods are working for the busier woman of today.
While busy schedules have made it more difficult for quilters to regularly work in groups on a single quilt, the new technology and a smaller work are making it easier for women around the world to learn to quilt, to stitch and to embroider, or nearly anything else they’d like to do.