It was a little over a decade ago that I first heard the term quilt guild. My husband was on a 15-month deployment in Iraq, I was trying to figure out motherhood on my own and I was a million miles from any family. I had made a number of quilts at this point, but I was stretched thin and worn out. I came across an opportunity to have a photo quilt made for my daughter using my husband's photos and happily submitted photos to be printed and made into a quilt.
A local guild was donating their time to make these precious quilts for children, like my daughter, who did not quite understand why their Dad (or Mom) were gone for so long. My daughter was 8 weeks old when he left, so photos played an important role for us in keeping Dad in her life as a familiar face. To have a photo quilt that she could snuggle, that I did not have to add to my lengthy to-do list to make, was such a blessing.
Consequently, my first impression of a guild was that it was a club of older women who made quilts for charity. That was the definition I continued to have for over a decade, and I did not even consider the idea of joining a guild. After all, I was not retired and I had my hands full with young children.
Last summer we moved to the Ft. Hood, Texas area, and we have had the rare opportunity to be near some family. My husband's parents had moved to a town about 40 minutes away six months before us, and my sister-in-law moved to Austin shortly after them. With willing hands to occasionally mind my kids, I was excited at the possibility to have some "me time" to create or have a break! Then an invitation came along to attend the local guild from a woman at church...who was in her late twenties!
That is when I had my "aha" moment. Maybe guilds were not just old ladies making charity quilts. I took some time to research local guilds and came to find that education was just as prominent in guilds as charity. Monthly speakers, quilting bees, workshops and other opportunities would be great resources as I continued to grow as a quilter.
So fast forward almost a year and I am now a part of two guilds, considering a third guild, and an independent member of the Modern Quilt Guild.
Here are the top benefits I have experienced from being a part of a quilt guild:
1. Community. This is the top benefit in my opinion. We are an active duty Army family, and with frequent moving it can take a long time to find friends who share the same passion for quilting. A guild is a great way to meet other quilters in your area. Even if you have lived in the same area for decades, you may not cross paths with some of these ladies outside a guild or quilting bee. You do not need to be best friends with every member, but there is a fantastic feeling of commonality as you sit in a room, even when you only know a few faces!
2. Education. This was one thing I did not realize I could gain from being a part of a guild until I actually researched quilt guilds. Programs and lectures by experienced and accomplished quilters? Yes, please! Not every topic is something I may run home and try, but I learn something from every lecture. Maybe it's a tip, a technique, a tool or gadget I would like to try, fabric combinations I had not considered or an idea I can bounce off of and make my own. Often I am just inspired and motivated by seeing the quilts of another quilter!
3. Mentorship. Whether you are a newer quilter, or looking to explore a new technique another member has expertise in, guilds are a place where you can meet mentors. Quilting bees are the best place to find this mentorship, as bees are often themed by technique or quilting style and are a smaller group setting. Other bees are organized by location so you can attend one more convenient to you, where you can bring any project along.
4. Charity. Many well established quilt guilds are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations where giving back to the community through charity and education are essential for the organization's non-profit status. I previously thought I was too busy for charity quilting with young children at home, but I have found that there are so many ways to help big or small! If making a quilt from start to finish is too much for your plate at this time, you could offer to sew on charity labels, donate unneeded fabric, longarm quilting a quilt top, etc. Each quilt I make reminds me of the one my oldest daughter received when she was one, and I know I am touching lives.
5. Workshops. Known as classes at most sewing stores, workshops are educational opportunities with a take away! Everyone loves a take away. Workshops can be scheduled in conjunction with a program or speaker, or be scheduled as a stand alone event, but it is a great opportunity to try something new or to hang out with other quilters and create. Most workshops have a fee to cover the room, teacher, patterns and materials, but some may be taught by a guild member at a reduced rate or for free.
6. Quilt Shows. Although every quilt guild may not organize an annual or biennial quilt show, many have benefits for guild members such as a reduced or free quilt submission fee. Volunteer to work a shift at the show and get to see all of the lovely quilts and shop the vendors for free! Membership to online guilds or quilt organizations also get you into many of their shows or programs for a reduced or waived cost, such as the Modern Quilt Guild and Quilts Inc. who put the annual International Quilt Festival together.
Are you part of a quilt guild? What other benefits do they have for you?