Quilt Guilds: What’s the Bang for the Buck, What are Your Responsibilities, and How to Form One if Needed (Take Two)

Last week I discussed what quilt guilds were and what they weren’t   We talked a little bit about how they operate and how guilds differ from other quilting groups.  This week, I still want to highlight quilt guilds, but this time I want to tell you how you can benefit from joining a guild.  After all when you join a guild, dues are paid.  It’s important to know what you’ll get out of those dues.  And in the spirit of transparency, these points are subjective – they’re certainly things I’ve received from the guilds I belong to, and I have no reason to doubt other guilds aren’t at least similar.

You establish friendships with people who have the same passion as you do. 

If you join a quilt guild, you will not only be amongst folks who love quilting as much as you do, you will also find quilters at all different levels – beginning, intermediate, advanced, and a special group I call “The Grand Dames of Quilting” – those quilters who have quilted long enough they can look at a quilt and not only tell you how to make it, but also have expert skill in every area needed to make the quilt. 

Also in complete transparency, I can tell you my fellow guild members are some of my closest friends.   As you talk about your shared passion of quilts and quilting, you get to know each other on other levels, too.  And these friendships – across all levels and types of quilters – are priceless.

Belonging to a guild makes you a better quilter.

Remember how I discussed in my first blog that the show and tells are phenomenal?  Yes, they are inspiring and breath taking and encouraging (I’ve never heard a quilter criticize another quilter’s quilt at show and tell — it’s all remarkably supporting), but viewing those quilts somehow makes you want to become a better quilter. 

Likewise the educational programs push you in directions you may have never thought about undertaking as a quilter.  Not once did I ever think I would make an art quilt, but after a couple of guild programs on that genre, I tried one.  I found out I not only love looking at art quilts, but I have a great time making them.  They are so creative, and you can use just about any technique.  If my guild had not offered educational programs on art quilts, I may not ever had attempted one. 

There’s access to swaps, raffles, and free tables.

In my opinion, one of the best things about guild meetings is the free table.  Each month, members can bring sewing related items they no longer use, want, or need: fabric, patterns, thread, books, magazines, etc.  These are put on the free table and guild members (and their guests) can shop the table and take anything they want for free.  Those items left over at the end of the meeting are donated to Good Will or another charity. 

This is great!  It keeps items out of the landfill and allows folks to clean out unwanted items.  And what you may no longer need may be the exact item someone else does!

Swaps are a little different and generally involve fat quarters, fabric squares, blocks, or 2 ½-inch strips.  The best way I can define this for you is to give an example.  Let’s say the guild announces it will have a fat quarter swap.  Those members who want to participate sign up.  For the sake of example, let’s say 10 guild members sign up, including you.  At the next guild meeting you bring 10 identical fat quarters. Every other member also brings 10 fat quarters. These can be pulled from your stash or purchased.  Each of the other nine participates receive one of your fat quarters and you keep one for yourself.  At the end of the meeting, you leave with nine fat quarters (one from each of the other folks), as well as the one of your own you kept for yourself.  My favorite swaps are quilt block swaps.  A quilt block (such as a nine-patch) in a designated size would be announced.  Each member would make enough blocks for their swap.  It’s amazing the variations you can get, and it’s so much fun figuring out how to use them.

Raffles are a great way to have a chance at winning some quilt related items at a very low cost.  Someone in the guild will put together a basket with quilting supplies, or perhaps offer a nice gift certificate to a local quilt shop.  You can purchase tickets (usually at $1 per ticket) for a chance to win the item.  If you’re ticket’s drawn, it’s yours!  If not, you’re out very little cash.  Usually all monetary proceeds from the raffle go into the guild’s general fund to support programs. 

You have opportunities to participate in challenges and contests.

Once in a while, the guild president or executive board will issue a challenge.  Sometimes this challenge can be as simple as incorporating the guild logo into a quilt.  Other times, it’s a bit more difficult.  For example, the High Point Quilt Guild just had an ugly fabric challenge.  A fabric store gave our guild several yards of…well…not-so-attractive fabric.  Unsure of what exactly to do with this…gift… the executive board issued an Ugly Fabric Challenge.  The yardage was divided into fat quarters and given to those members who wanted to participate.  The fabric had to be incorporated into a quilt or quilted item.  However, to make this challenge more challenging, there were rules:

  1. It must be a “traditional” quilt – it should have a top, middle and back.
  2. At least 30 percent of the quilt must use the fabric given out for the challenge. 
  3. The challenge fabric cannot be used as the binding or backing.
  4. The quilt can be no larger than 42-inches by 42-inches and no smaller than 24-inches x 24-inches. The measurements can fall anywhere in these parameters (in other words, it could measure something like 30-inches x 24-inches). 

Challenges are great and they force you out of your quilting comfort zone.  They are fun and make you a better quilter.  And this was the winning quilt constructed by my good friend, Karen. The ugly fabric was the material used to make the purple flowers (imagine yards of this…Oy-vey).

Sometimes guild will hold contests.  These work like challenges.  The president or board gives a theme for quilts and a deadline.  Quilts are turned in, judged (usually by the guild members casting votes) and prizes are given.

There’s lots of inspiration and quilt education.

I’ve mentioned before the show and tells at guild meetings are so inspirational.  This really helps keep your creative juices flowing.  Guild meetings are also educational.  Sometimes there are speakers who will discuss their area of expertise – color theory, accurate piecing, applique – the list of topics is endless, and with Zoom now firmly in place with most guilds and teachers, guilds can book speakers from literally all over the world. 

A guild membership may also net you a percentage off at your local LQS.

Many LQS’s offer a percentage off to shoppers who show a valid guild membership card.  Usually this is 10 percent.  Local quilt shops do this to build good will with local guilds.

If there’s a quilt retreat involved, it’s worth the membership.

In my previous blog about guilds, I mentioned how wonderful these events are.  Seriously.  Trust me.  If you find a local guild who offers a yearly quilt retreat, take advantage of it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Realize guild meetings have changed.

Zoom has changed the way guilds meet.  Some guilds have gone to Zoom only meetings, and then break out into smaller groups to meet in person for sit and sews.  Some guilds have their major monthly meeting on Zoom and then hold their business meeting in person.  Some guilds have a hybrid meeting – you can meet in person, but it’s also broadcast via Zoom.  And some guilds are like my local guild – during daylight savings time we meet in person, but when the time changes we revert to Zoom.  This is helpful to our older members who don’t like to drive at night.

And while Zoom is great for guild meetings, it’s also great for quilters who would like to join a guild but either don’t have a local one or the guild they would like to join is too far away to drive to.  Now instead of guild membership being comprised of only locals, folks from all over the world have the potential to join your guild. 

No spouses, no kids.

I do realize there are exceptions to this.  My High Point Guild has a lovely couple who quilt together.  But for the most part, a guild meeting is a couple of hours where you’re with people who share your passion, and the spouse and kids are at home.  This option, for a lot of people, is a great reason to join a guild

So, you ponder what I have written and decide to join a guild.  You’ve paid your dues, and you’ve received your membership card.  Now what?  As a founding president and past president of a guild, I can tell you membership has its rewards, but it also has some responsibilities:

  • Remember dues are paid annually. 
  • Be there for guild meetings – either online or in person.  Don’t just attend when the speaker is interesting.  There is a lot of work on the part of the executive board to produce interesting meetings which are also a lot of fun.  Support your guild and your executive board by showing up.
  • Volunteer to serve on committees.  This is a great way to show support for the entire guild and a great way for you to learn how things operate –which you should.  You’ve paid dues to join, it’s only prudent you understand how and why the guild operates the way it does.  Believe me when I tell you the guild officers are always looking for folks to serve on committees.  They will welcome you with open arms.
  • Hold an office.  Not right away, of course, but plan at some point in the future to hold an office.  One of the biggest gripes I heard when I was president of the High Point Guild was this: “The same group of people are always in charge!”  Know what?  It was the same group of people who always volunteered.  After you attended meetings for a while and worked on a committee, run for office.  It doesn’t have to be the presidency.  There are other elected offices.   
  • Plan to participate.  I realize folks can’t be at every guild event.  Life happens.  Sometimes there are vacations and sickness and other events beyond your control.  However, as much as you are able, plug into workshops, charity sews, retreats, etc.  You’ll learn a lot about guild members you don’t know, as well as show your support.
  • If you’re in a position of leadership, plug new people in.  The longer new guild members just sit in a chair at a meeting, the harder it will be to get them active.  Ask them to serve on a committee or help with some event.  This will make them feel wanted (as they should be, because they are) and this encourages them to keep coming back to meetings and participating.
  • BE FRIENDLY.  I cannot emphasize this enough. It’s easy to “group off” at guild meetings.  You see your friends and you want to get caught up.  This is natural and it should happen.  But greet other members and especially speak to new people.  This is so important.  I can personally relate to this.  Back in the early nineties I was a new quilter.  The school secretary where my kids attended found out.  It happened this woman was an avid quilter and belonged to (at that time) the only guild in Guilford County.  She invited me to attend.  I did so eagerly, thinking I would have a chance to meet other quilters and learn new things.  Know what happened?  No one – not one person – at that meeting spoke to me.

I never went back.  It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I rarely even attend this guild’s quilt shows. 

  • Be encouraging.  When show and tell is presented, compliment the quilter.  Thank the speaker.  Support the executive board and president.
  • If you have an idea, have a follow through.  It’s great to have ideas, and believe me, your guild’s board wants to hear them.  However, what will make your idea become reality is to have a rough plan on how to make it work.  It will help the other guild members “see” what your plan is and how it will be successful.  The guild certainly won’t expect you to handle everything yourself, but it will help them see the resources the guild will need to make it happen.  Plus, it will get members excited about your idea.

Okay, so what if there’s no local quilt guild near you and you would really like to have one?

Form one!

It’s not too difficult and you don’t need a large group of quilters to start.  I had a hand in starting the High Point Quilt Guild, so I would like to walk you through the steps we took to form our guild.

Our guild began from a group of quilters who met at a Tuesday night sit and sew.  We had enough interest to form a guild within this group, but before we called our first organizational meeting, this group did some leg work.

We started by contacting some existing guilds and asked them for a copy of their bylaws, amendments, and newsletters.  Once they understood what we were undertaking, the older guilds were happy to share their knowledge and experience.  Most guilds have a webpage, and often these items are on it.  We also talked to other guild members about how much they charged for dues, how they handled their finances, what kind of charity work they undertook, and how they found speakers. 

While some of us were taking care of this, another group was looking for a meeting place and placing notices in local quilt shops, fabric stores, community centers, hobby shops, and churches.  We also established a social media presence.  Once we had most of this nailed down, we called a community meeting to establish the guild.  I was hopeful we would have a dozen or so folks attend.

The room was packed.

Because the initial group was well-prepared by this point, we adopted bylaws and elected officers that same night.  From there, we began meeting monthly.  After the first few months, we established our charity program and before long we had our first quilt show.  This was over ten years ago.  Our guild has changed – our current membership doesn’t look much like the initial membership – but our commitment to our charity quilt program and educational outreach remains strong.  We learned to bend with circumstances (like introducing Zoom when Covid hit).  We’re committed to each other and work hard to make our guild a success. 

So if you’re thinking about forming a guild, this may be the plan you want to follow.  However, there are also some additional questions and ideas your group will need to ponder.

  1.  Will guild file to be a 510C3?
  2. Will the guild be opened to everyone, or will we limit membership? 
  3. Will the guild operate under a primary purpose (such as charity quilts) or will it have several areas of purpose?
  4. Where will your meetings be held?  It works best if you can find a central location
  5. How many times a month will you meet?  Once a month and have the business meeting part of the guild incorporated into the regular meeting or have the business meeting separately?  Will you hold one meeting during the day and another at night? 
  6. What time will meetings be held?
  7. What types of programs will interest members?  It’s a good idea to know if your members are primarily beginners or intermediate at this point.  Block-of-the-month, secret sister, challenge blocks, row-by-rows, round robins are all programs most skill levels enjoy. 
  8. It’s a good idea to have some outside speakers come in, but also know and utilize the talent in your group.
  9. Plan to adapt the bylaws and amendments in a speedy manner, as well as elect officers early on.  If the membership votes to become a 510C3, begin the filing process.  You must register with the state you form in first before you can begin filing with the IRS.  Once you’ve registered with your state, you have over a year to file with the IRS (which gives you time to fund raise for the fee the government charges). 
  10. Decide on what the annual dues will be and what they will cover.  Will dues cover speakers and administrative only, or will the charity quilt program also have a line item in the budget?  Will workshops and retreats be paid for by additional fees charged to members or will the guild absorb some of this expense? 
  11. There are other guild officers besides the president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.  Other positions which should be considered are program director, librarian, newsletter editor, historian, charity quilt coordinator, community education outreach director, and membership.  Not all of these have to be elected positions.  Your guild may decide to set some of these positions up as committees and the elected board can ask people to serve on them.  I do like the way our guild has set up the president/vice president offices.  The vice president automatically succeeds the president, which gives our guild some continuity. 
  12. Always remember Zoom has opened up a lot of doors for guilds.  Make it work for you, too.

If you’re not a member of a guild, I hope these two blogs have given you some ideas about how guilds operate and why they’re really good organizations to belong to.  Quilt guilds work hard to be a bright spot in their community and in the lives of area quilters.  If there’s a guild near you, I encourage you to check them out and join.  And once you join, plan to contribute.  And if there’s no guild near you, but you want to form one, I hope I’ve given you enough direction to begin the process. 

Until next week, Make Your Quilt Yours!

Love and Stitches,


2 replies on “Quilt Guilds: What’s the Bang for the Buck, What are Your Responsibilities, and How to Form One if Needed (Take Two)”

Sherri, I’m so glad to have found this post and your previous one about quilt guilds. I’m newly elected President of the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild for 2023-2024. Our guild started meeting in the late 1970s and was granted 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit educational corporation in 1984, which fits right in with the historical background you shared in your earlier post. Interestingly, I just read through the Articles of Incorporation that our guild filed with the IRS back in 1984 and the charity quilting that has become a strong focus of our guild in recent years is not mentioned in our “purposes” section at all — instead, our guild’s founders envisioned a group focused on “encouraging excellence of craftsmanship, fostering a sense of beauty in color and design, providing opportunities for exchange of ideas and information among the members of the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild, promoting interest in quilting as an art within the community, and cooperating with guilds in other crafts.” Several long time members of the guild were shocked to hear that, as the common wisdom had been that the charity quilting we did was essential to maintaining our nonprofit status. We’re gonna keep on making charity quilts anyway… ;-). Thanks for sharing what you love about the High Point Guild. We’re doing a lot of the same things in Charlotte that you’re doing in High Point, but there are a few things you mentioned that I plan to suggest for our guild — like those wonderful retreats!! Thanks for taking the time to lay out in such a thoughtful and thorough fashion what makes for a successful quilt guild.

I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful quilt retreats are. You come away refreshed and inspired (as well as fat and happy). The High Point Guild puts our mission statement on all our newsletters, etc., so it’s always front and center in everyone’s vision. We have also found that periodical reviews of our bylaws and amendments are very beneficial. We generally do this every three years or so. COVID really changed policy and procedure up, so we had to amend a few things to “go with the times.” I have the honor of serving as president again next year.

We had four helpful guidelines when we began planning our retreats way back in 2012. First, it had to be within a couple of hours drive time. We have members who still work and if they left after lunch we didn’t want them to have to spend hours driving to the retreat site. Second, it had to be handicapped accessible so no one had to haul their sewing machines up and down stairs. Third, it had to be affordable for the majority of our members. Fourth, meals had to be included. None of us wanted to cook. For us, Haw River State Park (former Epsicopal Church Retreat, I think?) fit everyone of these requirements.

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