An Amish Quilting Bee is not just a social event that happened in frontier America, it is an ongoing activity that most Amish and Mennonite communities participate in throughout the winter months, even today!
In the old Websters Dictionary, one definition of a "bee" was "an assembly of ladies to sew for the poor". Today, it is mostly the Plain People who uphold this tradition of service by creating Amish quilts, and Quilting Bees can be found weekly or at the very least, monthly in most Conservative Mennonite or Amish communities, and can be held to benefit their local one-room schoolhouse, or to raise money for a worldwide Relief Benefit.
In her book, "Civil War Women", noted quilt historian Barbara Brackman gives excerpts from diaries and letters of women describing quilting parties from the mid-1800s. The quilt tops were stretched out on frames that could be suspended from the ceiling, and several letters mention that the men were in charge of the line and the chalk to mark out the quilting lines, and they were also responsible for re-threading needles and rolling up the quilt on the frame as it was completed. Six out of the eight excerpts mention either food or dancing (or both) after the quilting was done.
All skill levels of quilters are welcomed at the present-day Quilting Bee, and if you look closely at a Quilting Bee Quilt, sometimes you can spot the different styles of the different quilters who have done the quilting. Today, it is typically experienced older women who are the Amish quilters and have the time and interest to attend these Quilting Bees. The Amish quilts that are a result of an Amish or Mennonite Bee are especially wonderful, because they were created out of a gift of love and concern for the needy. This expression of service and care are evident in these special Quilting Bee Quilts.
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