The Quilting Bee

Quilting Motifs | Social Aspects | Tools

The Quilting Party, painted by an unknown artist, c. 1840-1850.
The quilting bee was an extremely popular social event in the midnineteenth century. The quilting bee provided a social space for women to gather and gossip while they simultaneously expressed their artistic capabilities. The quilting bee was often times held in a grange hall or a church vestry room which allowed for a maximum number of 12 women to attend. Often times, the number of guests was limited to seven, who, with the hostess, made up two quilting frames, the equivalent of two tables of bridge. Good quilting in earlier times was a social requisite, and it behooved the amibitious woman to be an expert with her needle.
Often several quilts were finished in a single session which lasted all day. These sessions ended with a supper of roast chicken or turkey. The men usually arrived in time for the feast, after which there followed singing and dancing. Like so many established rural customs--apple-paring bees, corn-husking contests, and barn raising parties--the traditional quilting bee party carried with it all the social amenities. The event marked the successful completion of many months of laborious handiwork. The painting, The Quilting Party shows the final sewing in place of the many blocks and friendship pieces of the quilt.