1. American Quilt Study Group
If you love quilting and its history, consider joining the American Quilt Study Group. AQSG, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, hosts an annual seminar where quilt history buffs gather to hear quilt scholars’ presentations; see and buy vintage quilts, textiles, and sewing tools; and go on preconference tours. Some states or regions hold smaller events or meetings, often with an emphasis on a certain time period or type of quilt. "I belong to this group because it brings together a variety of people who love old textiles—not just quiltmakers, but collectors, historians, and conservators," says editor Jody Sanders, who belongs to the Iowa Illinois Quilt Study Group. "They come from several states, not just Iowa and Illinois, so regional differences are fun to discover. Each meeting has a study topic and guest speaker, plus lots of show-and-tell. The generosity of those sharing information about vintage and antique textiles is amazing." Go to americanquiltstudygroup.org/membership/join to to join the American Quilt Study Group and become involved.
A typical quilt-along involves a host posting on a blog or website a different tutorial each week or month that lets quilters at home complete a project by following along. Some quilt-alongs are based on an existing book (such as the The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird) or pattern that each participant purchases. The host usually offers tips and tricks about the project or techniques and can help newer quilters avoid mistakes. Many websites let participants post progress reports and photos and receive feedback from others working on the same project. Other quilt-alongs encourage participants to post photos on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Flickr. Search websites, such as quiltalong.net, for quilt-along possibilities. We host at least two quilt-alongs each year.
3. Quilt Guilds
A quilt guild is a group of people who gather to share their love of quilting. Often members are quilters of various backgrounds and skill levels, which creates the perfect environment for learning quilting tips and tricks. Some guilds are associated with a larger organization, such as the American Quilter’s Society. (Visit americanquilter.com to search for a guild by state or region.) If you’re in a guild and still don’t feel like you’re meeting people, consider going to workshops or classes offered by the guild, volunteering for a committee or office, or seeing if the guild has a small group devoted to newcomers.
4. The Modern Quilt Guild
The Modern Quilt Guild, a worldwide organization of more than 100 local guilds, originated in 2009 as an online group of modern quilters who wanted to meet to share their passion. The Community section of the MQG website is for members only and functions similarly to a physical guild. However, because it isn’t limited by geography, ideas can be shared with quilters from all 100+ guilds. Their now-yearly national conference is QuiltCon. To find your local MQG guild or join as an individual without a guild, visit themodernquiltguild.com.
5. Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc.
Whether you are a professional art quilter or just have an appreciation for art quilts, Studio Art Quilt Associates can connect you to fiber artists and art quilters around the world. Its publications, exhibit calendar, calls for contest and exhibition entries, regional groups, and yearly conferences, offer oportunities for members to interact. Artists and quilters on SAQA online forums and galleries actively give support and feedback. Membership includes access to these forums, online exhibitions, and more opportunities to view and share art quilts. For information, visit saqa.com.
6. Quilt Retreats
Whether you’re all working on different projects or the same quilt, retreats offer a way to recharge your creative spirit and get lots of sewing done, too! Quilting retreat centers have become more popular over the last several years. For one list of centers, visit quiltersresources.com. If you don’t want to organize a group of friends to book an entire retreat space, search online for a retreat you can sign up for by yourself and simply make friends there! For instance, look for a retreat hosted by a local quilt shop or a quilt designer you admire or attend an open-sew day at a retreat facility. "I am a wife and the mom of two busy boys and I have a full-time job that involves a significant commute so quilting retreats are a time for me to recharge my creative side," editor Jody Sanders says. "And I don’t have sisters, so I really enjoy having girl time with my fellow quilters." See our quilt retreat packing list here.
7. Quilt Shops
Your local quilt shop is more than just a place to buy the best fabric and tools, it's also a built-in community that may offer monthly clubs or casual show-and-tells of your latest project. Whether you bond in a classroom situation, share fun in a sit-and-sew, or chat with other shoppers at a Saturday Sampler, take advantage of the social opportunities at your local shop.
8. Charity Sewing Groups
Consider volunteering to make a difference—and make friends at the same time. Quilts for Kids has 90+ local chapters of volunteer quilters who transform fabric into quilts that comfort children in need; find a chapter at quiltsforkids.org/find-chapter. Project Linus “blanketeers” provide new, handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children; find a chapter at projectlinus.org/volunteer/. Be a part of the Million Pillowcase Challenge from American Patchwork & Quilting. In addition to collecting pillowcases, some participating quilt shops host events throughout the year. Find a shop at AllPeopleQuilt.com/millionpillowcases.
9. Block Swaps
Quilt block exchanges, or swaps, are a fun way to include friends in your quilting process. In a block exchange, each participant is given the block size and general theme (or specific block pattern or type) and is responsible for making one or more blocks for each of the other participants. Some swaps operate on a weekly schedule, meaning each quilter makes and gives/receives a block every week. Other swaps have a due date at the end for swapping all the blocks. Online swaps are a great way to meet new quilters and add variety to scrappy quilts. To find an online swap, search block swap on Facebook and ask to join a group or event. You also can search an online forum of different quilt block swaps, choosing swap groups based on what kind of quilt you’re interested in making. For more tips on successful block swaps, click here.
10. Online Classes
Offering elements of a physical class without the travel, quilting classes on the Internet are a growing way to learn new techniques. Signing up for a class through Blueprint will give you one or more video lessons, downloadable class materials, and a virtual classroom. Because class members are working on the same project, the online chat room allows participants to share tips or ask questions as they go. Various websites and companies (such as creativebug.com, academyofquilting.com, and iquilt.com) offer a similar format of online classes, with virtual collaboration and sharing.
BONUS: Social Media
The easiest place to find your quilting community is on social media -- join quilting-theme Facebook groups (we have one devoted to finishing UFOs here) or follow other quilters or hashtags on Instagram. "None of my friends are quilters so I turned to the web to find my community," says Linday Mayland, multimedia editor. "I follow designers, bloggers, and quilters on Instagram and Facebook. I love seeing pictures of what they’re working on daily and sharing my own projects." We love seeing our quilting friends on our social media accounts, so follow us and join the fun!