When I purchased my APQS quilting machine over 20 years ago, I rented a booth at our local annual quilt show to advertise my longarm quilting services. While several quilters stopped by to admire the machine-quilted samples, many more walked by and uttered “that’s not really quilting…that’s cheating!”
Fast forward to today, and now machine quilting is the most common way quilts are finished. In fact, according to the most recent Quilting in America study published in 2014, 51 percent of the respondents replied that they don’t hand quilt at all, while 72 percent most often use a home sewing machine to quilt their projects and another 19 percent use a longarm or a midarm machine!
Even though attitudes toward the quilting process have changed, learning from others and sharing our quilting successes and even failures together is still a rewarding and integral part of the quilting community. In the 1800s, quilting bees gave isolated pioneer women a much needed and treasured opportunity for social interaction. Loneliness could be displaced for a little while through friends gathering in a kitchen or parlor to work on a quilt.
Even though we aren’t living in log cabins and mud huts on the open trail any longer, we are still just as isolated in many respects. The convenience of the Internet now brings the “world” to our doorstep with a few keyboard clicks. Enter the word “quilting” in a search engine and in less than a second you can see 122 million results! Yet a whopping 91 percent of quilters still work alone on their quilts, with only 54 percent stating they are members of a quilting guild or group.
Our pioneer ancestors would tell us that even with the world at our fingertips, we’re missing out on what’s right next door! Nothing beats the warm feeling, satisfaction and contentment that comes from sharing something you love with others who love the same thing.
Traditional guilds, modern quilt guilds and even longarm guilds give every quilter a chance to connect with others who share a passion for quilting.
In the longarm world, guilds are still relatively new. In the early days of longarm quilting, techniques and tricks were tightly held secrets … it was difficult if not impossible to find someone willing to share what she had learned with another longarm quilter for fear that the “competition” would be too great. But thanks to early “longarm” pioneers who were willing to share their knowledge with others through classes and workshops through the years, the longarm quilting world has exploded with both professional and hobby quilters the world over who are more than willing to share the tricks of the trade.
How do I find a longarm quilt guild?
- Ask at your local quilt shop. Finding a longarm guild may take a little more research, but your local shop is the best place to start.
- Search the Internet. Type “longarm guild” along with your state in the search bar:
- No luck? Sometimes the algorithms for search engines don’t get you exactly what you want. Instead try searching for “longarm quilt guild” or even “quilting guilds in (your state).”
- Search surrounding areas to encompass a bigger geographical reach. For example, the Minnesota Quilters, Inc. website carries an extensive list of guilds locally and regionally, including longarm and modern guilds.
- Quiltinghub.com is another international source for locating established quilt guilds.
Still no luck? How about starting your own longarm guild! You can keep the group very informal, or you can take a more organized approach and create an official guild that may include incorporation, writing by-laws, establishing a mission statement, creating a board of directors and more.
Websites such as quiltguilds.com and organizations like the Modern Quilt Guild have helpful pages that outline the basics of creating a guild. To find other longarm quilters in your area who may want to join a guild, ask your local quilt shop owner for names. Many traditional guilds include listings of longarm quilters who are in business. Finally, just start introducing yourself to other quilters and ask. Word of mouth is a powerful force in the quilting world…use it to find others who share your quilting passion and start a conversation!