Local Quilt Guilds – changed by lockdown?

I wonder if you belonged to a quilt guild/group before Covid struck? I belonged to Roundabout Quilters, Basingstoke. We had fewer than fifty members, meeting twice a month – one evening to share a sewing social, the other to listen to a speaker (usually someone from outside the group). Attendance and membership were in a bit of a decline, enthusiasm for holding the biennial quilt show was getting harder to muster and then meetings suddenly stopped as social restrictions and lockdowns came into force. A year later and, having consulted the membership via email, the Committee came to the difficult conclusion that Roundabout Quilters should be permanently wound down, it’s financial assets being donated to a local charity.

Sandown 2019 Group Quilt (1) by Allison Reid
Roundabout Quilters group quilt hanging at the National Quilt Championships, Sandown exhibition in 2019. Later in the year the quilt was the main raffle prize in the Roundabout Quilters local exhibition.

Another, larger, quilt group in the area is in consultation with it’s members about how to proceed once social distancing restrictions in the UK come to an end.

How has Covid affected your local quilt group? I wonder if your group managed to make the move to meeting on-line for socials and talks during lockdown? Is it emerging stronger? Will it go back to it’s pre-pandemic format or have some of the changes made during lockdowns become the new normal? What do you see happening to quilt guilds in your area over the next 6 to 12 months?

Since non-essential retailers re-opened in April I’ve enjoyed working a few hours a week in my local quilt shop. It’s been good to have that little return to normality; social interaction with other people interested in similar things is healthy isn’t it? From conversations I’ve had with customers (some known to me through local guilds or workshops) I can see the pattern of guild membership and attendance is shifting in our area. Anecdotal evidence of course, but here is what I’ve gleaned:

  • There are still a lot of people wanting to learn patchwork quilting – there’s certainly no shortage of enquiries for a beginners course at the shop.
  • People seem much more keen to be doing workshops (on-line or in person) than to be going out in the evenings to a meeting about patchwork quilting.
  • Many friendship groups formed within guilds have remained strong. In-person small gatherings to chat and sew are thriving and privately organised sewing retreats are happening.
  • Lot’s of learning is going on on-line and there is interest in attending workshops to develop skills – I have seen that many quilt shops already have a busy programme of classes underway.

Do any of these observations resonate with you? Guilds have certainly been a great way to bring like-minded people together, developing friendships that then foster sewing socials and retreats beyond the bounds of the guild. I wonder about the consequences for our quilting community if traditional guilds offering a formal programme of lecture-type evenings are indeed in decline?

  • Where will people who are new to patchwork quilting discover more about the craft, be integrated into friendship groups or create their own circle of sewing friends?
  • What will become of those who regularly give talks at guilds?
  • Will new guilds emerge with a different way of doing things – less focussed on formal meetings with guest speakers, more orientated to sewing socials or workshop style gatherings?
  • If guilds are in decline will local quilt exhibitions become a thing of the past?
  • What effect could this decline have on local quilt shops which gain income by regularly having ‘pitches’ at guild meetings and exhibitions?

As we stumble our way out of lockdowns and social restrictions are you experiencing a shift in what is expected of or required from a local quilt guild? Please do share your thoughts and perspective on ‘What’s Happening to Quilt Guilds in 2021?’ Thank you!

Allison