In this busy, busy world, finding time to pursue our precious sewing and stitchery arts can be tough. And often the thought of joining a group or guild feels like just another distraction. But joining a group can actually be the most life-sustaining thing we do to support and pursue our creative interests. Belonging is amazingly important and foundational to inspiration!
Groups and guilds are devoted to encouraging their members and offering help with questions, techniques and specific projects. Yearly dues are nominal, meetings are generally held monthly and include opportunities for demos of new tools and tricks as well as lively conversation with other members. Optional yearly or bi-yearly retreats and special events are a valuable bonus benefit of membership. What could be better than several long days and nights dedicated to sewing with those who understand your passion?
Over the years, I have belonged to many different groups. My membership and attendance at meetings has been incredibly vital to my creative life. I rush home from meetings, head straight to my sewing spa and immerse myself in plans and projects inspired by fellow members. And I’m not alone! Chatting online with members of the Seattle Chapter of the American Sewing Guild reinforced the joyous benefits of group membership.
- “I love being with my tribe! No shortage of fabulous sewing sisters in my life, thanks to ASG!!” – Maris
- “It’s a tribal thing, complete with fitting buddies who have my back–literally.” – Carolyn
- “I love the excitement that comes from meeting up with people that are so willing to share and learn from one another. I also love seeing what others are making and getting inspiration from them. Oh, and seeing the tricks and tools they use!” – Molly
Finding Your Tribe
Across the US, Canada, Australia and other countries, specialized groups and guilds are available near almost every town. An online search for sewing, quilting, needlework, stitchery, knitting or crochet guild will bring up contact information and possibly web sites that you can explore. But if there’s nothing in your nearby area, why not start your own group? Those of us who quilt or sew usually know at least one or two others who share our “stitchy” obsessions and that’s a great start right there!
Quilting guilds have long been instrumental in nurturing our desire for “no idle hands.” Although most of us do not sew or quilt out of necessity, the art of quilting holds a unique appeal in our technological society. Quilting guild members gather for quilting bees, retreats, special speakers, joint charitable projects and small group opportunities. Members are enthusiastic about their groups and the benefits they receive from belonging as I learned from more online chatting.
- “I have been a member of a large guild and a couple of smaller groups. I love it for the inspiration, a place to show quilts, a place to give charity quilts and retreats. The smaller groups especially foster deep friendships. “ – Carol
- “I quilt once a week at a local church with a GREAT ecumenical group of women making charity quilts which are distributed worldwide! Every few months we lay the quilts on the church pews for Sunday Service before they are taken to a distribution center!” – Linda
- “We have a very active group of around 80 to 100 ladies. We have a quilt show every two years. Many of the ladies meet in their houses for quilting bees. Our ladies share their talents, help new ones get started, and are fun to be with.” – Gail
The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is the perfect place to find a group or guild to join! Fabric, notions, and pattern vendors often know about groups from their local area or may have a guild meeting right in their store. Sewing machine dealers often have groups that meet in their stores, too! These groups are often focused on particular techniques or your chosen machine. At this year’s show, you’ll find booths manned by the American Sewing Guild, the Embroiderers Guild of America, charitable Sew Powerful and more. Stop by their booths, ask questions and see what fits you and your interests. You may go home with lots of friends, a new membership and a powerful sense of belonging!
Grouping Up Online
Online groups abound and are a good supplement or substitute for in-person meetings. Facebook is full of creative group pages that charge no fee and offer inspiration, support and fun challenges. The best place to start is the Sewing & Stitchery Expo’s page. Here, you can connect with attendees from all over the world to share advice, projects, and ask questions. This online community serves as a wonderful resource for not only finding but creating new connections! New Expo fabric vendor, Sew So English also offers a wonderful Facebook group full of inspiring pictures of smiling sewists wearing SSE fabrics and offering sewing tips. Check your favorite fabric company or store and you may find that tribe meeting online, too!
While many groups and guilds include a charitable component in their yearly activities, there are also online groups centered around helping their communities. For instance, Quilts of Valor and Quilts of Honor groups offer support to the US military. Project Linus benefits traumatized children and most local Children’s Hospitals have sewing or knitting guilds creating blankets and hats. Again, an online search will yield many choices and ways for you to find your charity-oriented tribe!
Passion, Friendship and Inspiration Unlimited
Do you belong to a group or guild? If you’re a regular attendee of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, then you can loudly answer YES. There’s a delicious connection that takes place at this show. Everyone is smiling, everyone is your friend, resources are gathered and tips and techniques are shared. It’s the most exciting and largest “Gathering of the Tribe” in the whole USA. If you just stumbled on this post and haven’t yet attended Expo – do it and do it this year!
I’ve outlined many of the common reasons for joining a group and how to find one that meets your interests and needs. The force of “The Importance of Belonging” is strong, but maybe you’re still not convinced? Reading about groups, how they’re organized and what their missions are is interesting, but it’s the marvelous communal energy that makes joining a must. So, I’ll close with more words from gratefully dedicated group and guild members who wouldn’t trade their experiences – even for fabric. And, I think that will probably tip you over the edge of the bolt or skein and into a group or guild!
- “Makes my heart sing when I hang out with these folks!” – Michelle
- “I love being with people that speak the same language. People who understand the peace that comes from the hum of a sewing machine.” – Shelley
- “I love it all: the peeps, the fabric exchanges, fitting help, technique tips, education events, the inspiration from all of the super creative people…..and the retreats!!!” – Debby
About the Author: Annette Millard recently started her own blog, The Sewful Life, which utilizes her sewing and teaching experience to provide helpful tips and tricks, tutorials, and project ideas. Visit the blog at sewfullife.com and be sure to say “hi” at Expo in one of her classes! View the class catalog to learn about the classes Annette will be teaching in 2019.