Starting your own Modern Quilt Guild chapter in the UK

One of our regular contributors, Jo Avery, is the founder of the Edinburgh chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. She’s put together a post for us explaining how she went about it for any of you modern quilters who would be interested in getting involved in your area.

The Modern Quilt Guild developed out of the thriving online community of modern quilters and their desire to start meeting in person. The founding guild was formed in Los Angeles in October of 2009. Through blogs and the Internet, word spread quickly of the fun they were having and soon guilds started popping up everywhere. There are now over 100 guilds worldwide including a handful in the UK including London, Leeds, Yorkshire, East Midlands, the North East of England, Edinburgh and Jersey.


Quilt by Sheena Stone of Edinburgh Modern Quilt Guild

When I started the Edinburgh MQG two years ago, the trickiest thing initially was how to find enough local and like minded quilters to form a group. Three years ago I held an exhibition of Scottish Modern Quilts at my Edinburgh store which was also part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This included a ‘people’s choice’ poll for the best quilt which involved paper voting slips. It seemed the perfect opportunity to find some more enthusiastic quilters who might be interested in starting a group, so I included a check box on the slip for more info. 60 people ticked the box! It took me a few months to organise a first meeting and only 6 or 7 people turned up, but we managed to decide a few things like how often we would meet and where, and whether we would affiliate ourselves with the international MQG or go it alone. We organised our first official meeting and 14 people turned up! We were off! Over the next few months we settled down to a group of 18 and set about bonding with each other.


Quilt by Helen Addison of Edinburgh Modern Quilt Guild

Of course I was lucky enough to have a shop to organise meetings and exhibitions, but this doesn’t mean you need this sort of facility to proceed. I asked Sue Bone, who has recently set up a MGQ chapter in Jersey to tell me how she got started:

“My friend Jane Osborne had been nagging me for some time to set up a MQG. So in July 2015 I capitulated and enlisted Jane and another friend Kim Monins as committee members. From the outset our mantra has been “minimum administration, maximum enjoyment”. All activity is announced through our private Facebook account. We found a suggested constitution on the Quilter’s Guild website, tweaked it, and added our logo designed by Kim’s husband. I then approached my local Parish Hall and a monthly Saturday was given to us for an all day session. The Constable, Sadie Rennnard, even spoke on the local BBC Radio about how excited she was that we were using the Parish Hall.

We then felt ready to launch the Jersey Modern Quilt Guild. We had our first meeting in October 2015 and spread the word through Facebook and other Guilds we attend, at the first meeting we signed up nine lovely ladies. Word spread and at the January meeting we had 22 ladies, show and tell, a make and take and we announced our first workshop with a visiting tutor. We have capped numbers at 25 as the venue has 18 tables and we expect a few ladies to be absent each month and have already achieved our maximum capacity with others keen to join.”


Eidos Quilt, QuiltCon Giveaway Quilt 2016. Designed by Agatha June, pieced by Elizabeth Dackson and quilted by Gina Pina

Some groups decide not to affiliate with the MQG to start with or at all.  If you decided not to affiliate then you should call your group by a different name, for instance instead of the Edinburgh Modern Quilt Guild you could be Modern Quilters of Edinburgh, and you will not be able to use to MQG logo.

There are certainly a few more benefits from being an official MQG group in the USA than in the rest of the world as they enjoy discounts on insurance and at a number of fabric stores. But this is reflected in a 35% discount on dues for international members. Depending on the size of your group dues can be as little as £4-5 per member annually, which is much cheaper then the MQG individual membership of $25.

2015 QuiltCon

QuiltCon 2015

So what do you get for your MQG membership? Well for a start you get a free monthly quilt pattern from some of the best modern quilt designers around. You get a monthly webinar on topics such as ‘how to get published’ and ‘how to teach a quilt class’, and a huge amount of other online resources. You can take part in their fabric challenges and inter-guild swaps. You get to enter your quilts for the QuiltCon exhibition, plus discounted tickets and earlybird registration to the annual event and it’s fantastic workshop and lecture programme. And most importantly you get to interact with other MQG groups around the world!

Last year our Edinburgh MQG took part in our first group swap with the Melbourne MQG, swapping mini quilts between individual members. The mini quilts arrived in one big box and we opened all our quilt packages at an exciting Christmas Party in December! You can read all about it in a series of posts on our blog. We hope to follow this up with more swaps with other groups soon.

2015 QuiltCon4

You can decide as a group exactly how you would like your meetings to proceed and how often they should be. The London MQG was the first in the UK starting 4 years ago now. They meet every month on a Sunday afternoon. They even had their own exhibition gallery at the Festival of Quilts in 2014 (see photos below).

The East Midlands and the Leeds group meet on Saturdays once a month with the East Midlands group moving venues around a large geographical area.


LMQG stand at FOQ. Photo credit: Judith Dahmen

Our group meets on the second Tuesday of the month in the evening. We discuss business, sew together, have tea and cake (we have a cake rota so everyone takes a turn to bake!), and finish off with Show and Tell. We also organise a group Bee. Every month we make blocks for one member and these are shared at the next meeting, where the block requirements for the next month are also presented.

EMQG meeting 4

EMQG Meeting

We now have 21 members and a new larger venue at a local school. We’ve recently organised our first weekend sewing retreat and have our first international quilter, Sarah Fielke, coming to give us workshops this summer. We’ve also organised a few lecture evenings from visiting sew-lebrities like Luke Haynes and Karen Lewis. These events have helped fill our group coffers so that we can pay for more workshops! We’ve also made three charity quilts including the one below that was featured, along with it’s pattern, in issue 21 of Love Patchwork and Quilting last year! But the best thing we’ve made is friends. There is nothing better then sitting, chatting and sharing your work with other quilters over tea and cake.


EMQG charity quilt pieced by Jo Avery and quilted by Tatyana Duffie

There is a lot of info about starting your own local guild on the MQG website (or find out if a local group already exists). Don’t worry too much about constitutions and bank accounts. None of these things are essential to starting or running a group (though you may find them useful as you get going). Ignore everything about tax, this only applies to USA groups. You will need to appoint a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. As you grow you may want to add other admin posts for things like communications (one of our members takes care of our blog posts, another organises our calendar of events). When we started I paid the MQG membership with my credit card (Paypal is also available) and was reimbursed from the cash dues we collected. Our Treasurer kept the cash safely at home until we opened a group bank account a few months ago. It is also free to join the MQG as a ‘Starter Guild’ with 2 – 9 members!

So do you fancy starting your own MQG local group? Your first step should be finding some like minded quilters to join you. Social Media like Instagram would certainly be worth a try for this. I’m sure other UK MQG groups would be happy to re-post any requests for interest and help unite modern quilters. Or you could try asking your LQS to put a poster in their window.


Quilt by Jo Avery

Your next step would be finding a venue to meet in. Initially this could be a pub, cafe or library. Community centres, church halls or schools are all good places to try for a more permanent home. Or why not ask at that local quilt shop? Perhaps they have a studio space they could lend you for a small fee in exchange for the customers you’d be bringing in?


If you would like any further info you can go direct to the MQG and download their info packet for International Guilds or please feel free to email me at hello@mybearpaw with any questions.

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