The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
In Praise of Guilds
I’m not proud of it, but I must confess: I am a bad guild member.
The truth is, my lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to being a member of things, unless there’s a club for people who keep putting off the laundry or a guild for people who spend way too much time looking at cute puppies on the internet.
Before my lecture began, I snapped this picture of the Flying Geese Quilters’
Guild in Irvine, CA. What a night!
In all seriousness, though: I travel a lot. And it always happens that my Chicago-area guild has their once-a-month meeting on a day I’m out of town. It would be irresponsible for me to take on a board position (if I could convince them to give me one in the first place) and it’s not fair to say yes to charity projects or round robins if I’m not 100% sure I can complete such things—and I probably can’t, with my wacky schedule.
It’s kind of a paradox then, that I actually do spend a lot of time in guilds, just not as a member of the one in the city where I live. My travels across the country to teach workshops and lecture to guilds means that I see these groups at work all the time. And I’m happy to report that from New York to California, guilds continue to play a crucial role in the quilt world and are great places to meet amazing quilters who will make you a casserole if you’re going through a hard time and will make you feel better about having entire closets full of fabric.
My new friend Sherri from the Dallas Quilt Guild. Three cheers for Program Chairs!The quilt guild as we know it is a relatively new concept. Most of the longest continually-running traditional guilds—
as opposed to those guilds identifying
as “MQG” or Modern guilds—were founded around the time of the revival. Like The Guild of Quilters of Contra Costa County in Concord, California, which formed in 1973. More guilds came in the 1980s; still more in the 1990s. (A bit of Googling turned up an exception: The Country Neighbors Quilt Guild in Brockport, New York report they’ve been meeting continuously since 1936!)
What brought all of these groups together is a belief that we can add value, get more done, and have more fun if we create community. Let’s look at the proof.
A quilter alone is hardly able to invite her favorite quilt teacher over to her house for a private lesson; a critical mass of quilters who can all chip in for the experience can invite her for a workshop—and the teacher won’t be weirded out by the invitation.
Alone, a quilter can only make so many Quilts of Valor, even if she’s wildly prolific (and I know several quilters who are). But a guild can plan a Quilts of Valor “sew-in” day and exponentially raise the quilt output. When one person is cutting, someone else is doing
the sewing, another is pressing, and someone else is joining rows, wow! The assembly
line model works for making many quilts quickly; when you’re making charity quilts, that’s what you want.
As for the “have more fun” part, I assure you: The guilds I’ve visited have a good time. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of inside jokes. I see quilters in classes who have a buddy they met in the guild and the two go together like peas n’ carrots, sharing fabric and the news of the week. It’s fun to show your finished block to the class (well, most of the time), and it’s fun to show your finished quilt at the meeting’s show and tell portion.
Members of the Modern Quilt Guild come together for a lineup of nationally-recognized lecturers.
I know there are quilt guild politics. I know cliques can form and that can be hard. Where there are people, there will inevitably be drama. But on balance, I say the guild is good—
and I hope the day comes when I can do more in mine.
How about you?