Quilting Bees Are Back And Now Meet Online
Quilting bees, those time-honored gatherings where quilters practice and share their craft, have never quite gone away. 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.
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. 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. Today, its Memory Craft 10001 quilting machine, a favorite among advanced quilters, has three ways to connect to a computer and comes with flash memory cards. While busy schedules have made it more difficult for quilters to regularly work in groups on a single quilt, the new machines have made solo quilting much easier. The MC10001 includes special quilting features like a "walking foot" that allows even stitching across multiple layers of fabric, a "Start/Stop" button that lets quilters stitch for hours without getting tired feet, and a knee lift that allows them to raise the presser foot without taking their hands off of their work. Because embroidery and quilt designs can be sent as computer files, quilters are able to collaborate on their creations electronically. Connected to a computer running Janome design software, the MC10001 can create in stitches virtually anything you can imagine or download from the Internet.