Last week I talked about how the internet has fueled a quilting resurgence over the last several years. I actively participate in the online quilting community and have made several “virtual” quilting friends, learned a lot from online quilting classes, and participated in several swaps and bees. But what about making real life quilting friends – friends you can sew with, shop hop with, go to retreats with, trade patterns with, and raid their stash in an emergency?
Here are three tips for making quilty friends:
Join a Guild
A quilt guild is a group of local quilters who meet regularly to learn new techniques, share their projects with each other and socialize. A lot of guilds include a charitable component where they donate time and resources to making quilts for charities in their communities. They also often host retreats and quilt shows. Frequently, guilds bring in guest speakers to teach members new things or to share a trunk show (their collection of quits and the stories behind them.) Most guilds also host swaps or bees throughout the year as well as open-sew days.
Joining a guild is a great way to meet the local quilters in your area. If you are in a bigger city you may be able to choose from several guilds to find one that best matches your quilting preferences. In my town we have a hand piecing/quilting guild and a traditional guild. I do not enjoy handwork, so my local traditional guild was the best match for me. Recently, modern guilds have been popping up throughout the country and the world and are affiliated with The Modern Quilt Guild. If you are lucky enough to have one of these in your area, check it out. Or start your own.
Hang out at your Local Quilt Shop (LQS)
This may sound funny, but really it’s a great way to meet other quilters. Ask other quilters in the shop for advice on fabric selection; bring in a small finished quilt to show off the fabric you purchased in the shop; attend any open sew days the shop hosts. This can be intimidating at first, but really once you become a regular and the shop staff and other regulars see you there frequently, you will begin to feel like part of the crowd. Another thing LQSs frequently provide are classes. Classes are a fun way to meet other quilters and to learn new things at the same time. I took my first quilt class in 2003 and I have taken many, many classes since then.
Unfortunately, my town only has one LQS – Sages Creek Quilt Company. It is a small shop and the inventory doesn’t seem to rotate much. It also has a distinctly traditional vibe, which is fine, I just sometimes wish there was a little more to variety to choose from. This does not stop me from dropping by the shop regularly and it’s always nice to walk in and see familiar faces and talk about everyone’s latest projects.
Turn existing friends into quilters
Turn them to the dark side! I have been relatively successful with this approach and it is by far the best route to go. When I first moved to my town, I made several friends, but none of them were quilters. So I offered to teach a quilting class to anyone who was interested. We are now starting our fourth year and we have so much fun together. Some of the ladies had been sewing for years and some were just beginners. None of them had quilted before, but I was able to “hook” several of them. Now I have a group of about 10 friends who join me once a month to work on a project together. Our first year we did a sampler, second year was a couple of smaller projects (table runners and stockings), last year was a mystery quilt, and this year we are doing word quilts.
This approach required a commitment on my part, but it has paid off big time. In fact, I was able to get three of these new quilters to join me at Winter Quiltfest this year and it was so fun to go with friends instead of by myself. They all now consider themselves quilters and it makes me so proud! One benefit of this approach is that you get to share one more part of your life with friends you already know and like.
All three of these approaches have worked for me, but they do require putting yourself out there to some extent. If you’ve found a great way to connect with “real” quilting friends, let me know in the comments. Next week I’ll share some of my favorite mini-quilts that make great gifts.