Sunday, 14 December 2014

What Makes A Great Bee Block?

January Block for EP
Grey and white provided - Tutorial
Do you enjoy being part of online (and offline) quilt bees? I do. I like that it forces me to try blocks and colour palettes that I might normally be too intimidated or lazy to try. It's a great way to try something new, without committing yourself to a whole quilt!

I often struggle when it's my turn to be Queen Bee though because I can't decide what to ask my bee mates to make.

I've found that the most successful bee quilts are those that leverage something dominant and make it consistent throughout all of the blocks, whether it's the background, the feature fabrics, the colours, or the design.

I thought I'd share the criteria I use for picking blocks:
  • Everyone's 1/4" seam is a little different so I usually choose a block with a lot of background fabric so I can trim down or add to it when I get all the blocks back.
  • I love stash bust blocks. I like the scrappy look so I try to find a block that gives people a chance to use their scraps.  
  • That said, I also often provide some or all of the fabric so that the quilt will have a unified look. 
  • Provide a colour palette or some colour guidance without being too prescriptive. E.g. aqua fabrics and red fabrics, but not aqua fabrics that have orange and white accents and red fabrics with aqua and white accents. I don't want my bee mates to have to go shopping if it's a stash bust bee, so if I have something that specific in mind, I provide the fabric.
  • Choose something fairly easy for bee mates to do in about an hour or less. The more complicated it is, the more bee mates may put it off. That said, some of my favourite bee blocks that I've made for others have been very complicated and I've absolutely adored them.
  • I try to pick a block that allows bee mates to use their creativity, whether it's in the fabric selection, the block design or the piecing (e.g. improv piecing). 
  • Provide a good tutorial and/or clear instructions for the block. 
Please keep in mind that these are just my personal preferences to date. You may have other criteria and I'd love if you shared them in the comments. Aren't we always looking for new ideas?

Here are a few of my favourite blocks over the years:

Simply Woven - All fabrics provided:

Weathervane - Centre square fabric and colour palette provided: 

Arrows - Colour palette provided and low volume background requested: 

Circle of Squares - Background fabric provided, solids bee:

Scrappy Trip - A couple of fabrics provided:

Cross stitch - All fabrics provided:

Improv - All fabrics provided:

Slash and insert block - All fabric provided:

Modern Butterfly - Background and aqua fabric provided: 

Mod Mosaic - Background, colour palette and most fabrics provided:

Confetti Block - Background provided, solids bee:


Snowflake Block - Sashing provided, solids bee:

Snowflake Block

Feathers - Background provided:

March OMQG Bee 2 Block

And how do those quilts turn out? Well, I've only fully finished one quilt from bee blocks so far.

This quilt was made with blocks from my Don't Worry {Bee} Happy bee. I provided all of the fabrics for the blocks and provided a tutorial for my bee mates to improv piece the blocks.
Scrap{Bee} 2.0
Made with blocks from my Simply Solids bee (Carmine group) - Top is together, but the rest is still to bee (ha ha) finished.

How about you? What are your favourite bee blocks to make and receive?


  1. What wonderful bees you have participated in as evidenced by your showcase of blocks. My favourites were those blocks that challenged me or were stash busters with the unifying fabrics provided.

  2. Great post! I am going to be the queen for my bee (the first one I have ever been in) in March and have already started stressing on which block design to go with, thanks for the pointers to picking a good block!

  3. I remember when you finished your quilt. I was awe struck. Still am. It's just gorgeous. Love seeing those arrows pop up

  4. What a great post!!
    I really wanted to be a part of nervous about committing and learning how to post a tutorial.
    Keep up the great work!!

  5. Great post! Thanks for all the useful info. Your Scrap(Bee)2.0 is so wonderful! I love to look at it.

  6. I really love how your improv top turned out. It's beautiful.


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