LQSs & Quilt Guilds, Part 1

Nothing inspires a quilter like fondling fabric, seeing what others are creating, and socializing with talented quilters! Today, I ventured into my LQS (local quilt shop, for those not familiar with that acronym), Quilting by the Bay (NAYY - other than being a VERY satisfied customer) located in humid-but-wonderful Panama City, Fl. I picked up a lovely bundle of Moda FQs from the "Allspice Tapestry" collection, designed by Joanna Figueroa and already have the quilt planned (and completed - in my imagination, that is!).

The fabrics were awesome (obviously - though sneaking them in the house was another matter entirely!) but the BEST aspect was meeting the shop's owner, Sandy, and speaking to Bonnie, a SABQG guild member (who's lucky enough to work there!!). If you ever have the chance to attend a guild meeting (much less join one) I highly recommend it. The benefits are boundless! I'll be attending my first SABQG meeting the week after next (which, I'm sure I'll ramble on endlessly about) ... and I'm so excited (especially after meeting Bonnie)!! I've been counting the days ...

For those that don't know the amazing benefits of joining a quilt guild, let me describe what most guilds offer:

Receive discounts in LQSs.
Often, shop owners know that quilt guilds are excellent client bases and will do what they can to encourage guild members to frequent their shops. This may include discounts, gift certificates, meeting space, or BoMs (Blocks of the Months). And considering that our beloved art isn't cheap (despite that being the reason for it's conception), any discount is a welcome discount! It gives us just one more excuse to buy more fabric!

Go on a retreat.
Most guilds organize local retreats. A retreat, for those not in the know, is usually a very low-cost weekend trip to another town or city (usually fairly close by) where all you do is quilt & socialize. Usually, the affair is catered, so your biggest worry is how much fabric to bring and packing your sewing machine! It fosters friendship, creativity and learning from your fellow quilters. If you have a technique that's been eluding you, this is your chance, short of taking a class, to find out new methods or tips on getting the job done.

Looking for a Book?
Try the Guild Library. Most guilds have what's called a "guild library" - this is a collection of books that have either been donated or purchased with guild funds (oftentimes from the revenue collected from the guild's quilt shows) that are available for check-out to members. In most cases, you can keep them out for two weeks (and in some cases, "re-check" them out if needed). It not only saves you money, but is also a better assortment than carried by most public libraries.

Keep in the know even if you miss a meeting.
Most guilds offer a newsletter, either downloaded from the internet or mailed to your home. It'll contain news about upcoming events, "Sunshine & Shadows" which is a quick update on fellow guild-members trials & joys, a book review or two, product reviews, a pattern or two, and even members' favorite recipes. Consider it a small, personalized magazine, worth it's weight in gold.

Participate in a quilt show!
Most guilds put on their own quilt shows. While your local guild may not be big enough (or rich enough) to put on a show to rival Paducah or Houston, it'll be a fun experience with plenty of local (and distant) vendors, food, classes, exhibitions, etc. And, for the record, it's a lot less intimidating to enter your local quilt guild's show than it is Paducah's or Houston's! You'll not only have the opportunity to hang out with people you already know from your guild and LQS, you'll also have the opportunity to share your interests with others from out-of-state (Oh, believe me, there are those that will drive for 4 hours to get to even the smallest quilt show!), or new to the area. This is your time to meet new people, see new techniques, and of course, BUY FABRIC! :)

Attend a class!
Most guilds offer teaching "programs." Meaning, Sue Smith, a fellow guild member, will share a technique that she's perfected, or even teach a basic, quick seminar on piecing, quilting, or choosing fabric. Or your guild might offer a special class on a weekend. Again, it's your chance to learn something new, make friends, share experiences and tips - and just have FUN!

Want to do a BoM?
Most guilds offer BoMs (Block of the Months). You'll receive a block pattern (or applique pattern - depending on the current program or focus) that you can complete at your own leisure, at your own pace. Since most guilds have what are called "opportunity quilts" (quilts that members make to sell and/or raffle off and generate revenue for the guild's operations), you may also receive fabric to make a block for the opportunity quilt! Helping out with the opportunity or raffle quilt is optional - but it's a good use of your time. It not only helps the guild run smoothly in terms of finances, but also might help buy that book you've been eyeing online for the guild library. Everyone benefits when members volunteer!

Community Service Projects.
No, I don't mean pulling a Naomi Campbell ... I mean doing a project (or projects) that benefit your community. Some guilds will create "Ugly quilts" - quilts made from donated fabric for the homeless. Or, as I was lucky enough to do, "Infant Bereavement Quilts" - quilts made for parents who've lost a baby. You have the opportunity to touch lives in your community. To make others aware that they're not alone. To give comfort in times of loss or need. And isn't that sort of love and compassion what quilting is all about?

*For more information on these projects, please visit Uglyquilts.org and/or Bridging People (for Infant Bereavement Quilts - patterns and tips on how to get involved!) Or, alternatively, use your favorite search engine for more information.

Round robin?
Round robins are quilts that others help with. Sue Smith might want a quilt for her bed, and she'll ask if anyone will help her ... then Jane Doe might take the quilt home one night and add a block (usually with a theme), then pass it off to Polly Patchwork, who'll add another block and pass it on to Rita Rotary Cutter, and so on. Until, at the end, Sue has a lovely new quilt gracing her bed! Many opportunity quilts are also put together and finished this way.
*And don't worry - everyone will know who has the quilt - your quilt won't just up and disappear!*

As a cautionary to any new round robin participant, NEVER, EVER put a quilt in a garbage bag. Yes, I know, a garbage bag is large enough to fit a quilt and can protect it from moisture, Quilt Inspectors, spills and dust, but learn from another person's mistake! :
Several years ago, in my "old" guild, a member working on the opportunity quilt put it in a green garbage bag for safe-keeping (she was Spring cleaning and didn't want to allow dust to soil it) and left the bag in her sewing room (where she thought it would be safe since her family didn't venture in there). Well, her DH decided to be a nice guy and empty her trash while she was out ... Yep! You guessed it. He took the bag to the side of the road where the garbage men collected it! 6 months of work by 12 different guild members ended up in a landfill! Needless to say, the quilt was lost and had to be restarted.

Where do I find a local guild?
If you'd like to look for a guild in your area, try this Quilt Guilds database (please note that this list is by no means exhaustive. These listings depend on a member of the guild posting them!) ... and remember to contact the Go-to person in the listing. Since most listings are provided by the guild's publicity chair, and publicity chairs come and go, the information may not be up-to-date (they may meet on a different day, different place, etc). But this site is an excellent place to start.

Wait a sec! I didn't see my town listed!
If you don't find a guild listing there, ask at your local quilt shop or fabric store. Even the chain fabric stores, like JoAnn's or Hancock's will have info on local guilds and clubs. And the bonus? You can walk away with some fabric! After all, if you're already going to be there asking about guilds anyway .... why not get some fabric for your next project?? :)

Nope! I'm still out of luck! Now what?
If for some chance, your city or town doesn't have a local guild, consider starting one! Most guilds belong to larger guilds ... f'r'instance, my old guild, Southern Maryland Quilter's Guild belonged to the National Quilting Association (and by default, I was a member of that guild, too! Two memberships for the price of one!). That being the case, a larger guild will be more than happy to assist you in starting a local chapter. They'll give you tips on recruiting members, finding a suitable meeting place (most guilds meet at local churches), and will provide marketing materials to help you set up your local chapter!

Hopefully, I've outlined a few good reasons for joining a quilt guild (or starting one, if need be). The benefits, as I said, are boundless. Not only do you get the tangible benefits, you als0 get to meet people who share your love of this timeless & beautiful art. You'll make friends with which to share fabric obsessions and conquests, patterns, techniques, tips, trials, and joys.