Friends go green, making natural cleaners at a crafting bee. We give you their party planning tips and natural cleaner recipes.
Four friends from South Carolina tell CW how they keep the tradition of the craft bee humming.
Why did you decide to revive the old-fashioned craft bee?
Allison Nadeau: We met in the Park Circle community of North Charleston, where we all live. Since we love to craft, we started working on our projects together. It was such a blast, we decided to organize community craft bees to let more women in on it.
Two summers ago we held our first Charleston Craft Bee. We taught how to make everything from dish towels to origami mobiles. Our second bee focused on handcrafted holiday gifts. Last April we gave spring-cleaning a fun twist by planning a bee around it. We made an all-purpose cleaner and a room spray using eco-friendly ingredients. Then we added spa-worthy natural cleaners and natural scrubs to pamper the hardworking women who clean.
Who’s in your typical craft bee audience?
Allison: Primarily women—young, older and in between, with varying craft experience. Their positive response gave us confidence to start spreading the word about our bees. Social networking has been a terrific tool. We’re now on Facebook and Twitter and have a website, charlestoncraftbee.com. People preregister for a bee online, so we know how many materials we need to purchase for the workshop.
How do you structure these fun DIY events?
Lauren Pavao: Recent bees have been held at the Mixson Barn, a lovely open-air pole building the community lets us use for free. Depending on how involved the crafts are, our guests can choose to do one or several. After everyone gets a nametag, they decide which project table to start with. Each of us leads a different project, and they go on simultaneously. We go through the craft instructions step by step and show examples of the finished product. Then we let the participants get to work, staying close by to answer questions, give feedback and keep the supplies stocked.
We have a station to make custom labels for the finished products, plus a snack bar. On average, the bees last two hours.
Who comes up with the themes and projects?
Allison: Each of us brings a craft project we’re passionate about teaching. If it’s quick and easy enough to present to a large group, we write up instructions and hunt down our materials, staying within a budget. We make the crafts as inexpensive as possible. The craft bees are totally our hobby, not a business. It wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if we were doing this for money.
Do you feel a connection to yesterday’s made-from-scratch lifestyle?
Lauren: Definitely. For one thing, our great-grandmas knew what went into the food, clothing and household products they used, because they put it there with their own hands. Today, many of us prefer making things, too—it gives us more control over the safety of what our family consumes and how it affects the earth.
I love the fact that homemade and handcrafted might once again become the norm in this expensive-is-best society. The women we teach take home the instructions, so they can continue crafting on their own—or, even better, teach friends and neighbors.
What role does socializing play in your bees?
Gretchen Scronce: It’s the best part! Since pioneer days, the reason for quilting, canning and craft bees hasn’t been only to get work done. They’re a perfect opportunity to socialize. We choose projects that don’t involve complicated steps to keep the atmosphere relaxed.
We’ve found women appreciate a break from their hectic lives to spend time with friends, meet new ones and learn a new skill. One group of gals has turned our bees into their ladies’ day out. Our motto is “Make crafts, make friends, have fun.”
What do you find most rewarding about your bees?
Christine Tiller: For me, it’s seeing people arrive convinced they aren’t a bit creative. A couple of hours later, they’ve discovered their inner crafters. Just about everyone leaves with the same question: “When can we do this again?”