Today I’m sharing my top five ways to grow your own creative community — virtually guaranteeing you’ll always have support on your crafting journey. If you're like me, quilting is so much more than the final product. It's about the creative process and the friends we make along the way!
Forming a creative community is especially helpful if you ever:
- Need help figuring out quilting patterns
- Crave the chance to share fresh ideas with folks who won’t judge you
- Feel like you need accountability to stick to goals
- Want to make life-long friends
- Thrive in a collaborative setting
Community work is my jam! I’ve been part of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild for seven years (I’m even a past president) so I know how valuable it is to have a group of fellow crafters to keep you creatively fueled, accountable on your goals, and surrounded during challenging times.
As a wellness coach for makers, I’ve seen my clients thrive when they have consistent support. So join me as we look at five ways you can grow your own creative community!
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5 Ways to Grow Your Creative Community
1. Join a Quilt Guild for Instant Creative Community
Raise your hand if you were ever a Girl Scout, a member of your school’s student council, or part of a theatrical production. (If you’re a giant nerd like me, raise your hand three times… I’m such a joiner!) If you’re a joiner too, you’ll probably love being part of a quilt guild.
When you join a group that’s already strong, you benefit from their structure and consistency. A rock-solid quilt guild (or other crafting club) can give you:
- Access to resources you can’t afford on your own, like expensive tools (my guild pals frequently loan out machines for fabric and vinyl die-cutting).
- Opportunities to learn in-person with well-known teachers (versus learning online where you don’t get as much personal attention).
- A wealth of creative ideas and inspiration (quilt show & tell is my favorite part of guild meetings!).
- Friends who will cheer you on – and cheer you up when times are tough (I don’t know how I would have made it through the first years of the pandemic without my guildmates).
There are many kinds of quilt guilds. For example, the Modern Quilt Guild has 16,000 members spread out over hundreds of local chapters around the world. Studio Art Quilt Associates is another large membership organization that hosts events around the globe. And there’s a plethora of guilds who meet in community centers all around. My state, Illinois, boasts more than 50! You’re bound to find a guild that’s a good fit for you.
When you go to your first quilt guild meeting, keep in mind that every guild might not be the best fit for you. Maybe you tried out your local guild and you’re not enjoying the experience. That doesn’t mean it’s bad! It means that maybe it’s a good time to try out a different guild if you have multiple guilds in your area. Keep an open mind and remember that you may have to try out some organizations before you find the perfect fit for you!
2. Make an Accountability Buddy
If you crave more one-on-one creative community vibes, try making an accountability buddy. This is a friend with whom you shape a mutually supportive structure, usually around goals you need help accomplishing.
I encourage you to follow these steps when establishing an accountability buddy relationship:
- Share your own goals clearly, and take note of your buddy’s goals.
- Ask each other what kind of support would be helpful, like weekly phone chats, daily texting, or monthly coffee dates.
- Establish a structure that defines when you’ll meet, what you’ll try to accomplish at each meeting, and how you’ll stay in contact between meetings.
- Set a timeline (usually three months) to check in and see how the relationship is working for both parties, and refine as needed.
Sharing your creative challenges with someone can be a vulnerable experience, so establishing structure is key – especially that three-month check-in, which gives you an easy “out” if the partnership isn’t beneficial. If you both approach it with kindness, compassion, and enthusiasm, an accountability buddy can accelerate your creativity!
3. Participate In an Online Creative Community
There are loads of online creative communities like Facebook groups (Suzy Quilt Patterns is my favorite, naturally), Reddit subthreads, and quilt-related hashtags to explore on Instagram. Online groups are great if you:
- Don’t live near a group that meets in-person
- Love meeting people from different backgrounds and locales
- Are an introverted crafter
- Feel comfortable sharing your work online
Online creative communities make group-based creative support accessible to nearly everyone. I’ve learned a ton from folks I’ve met online, and some of my best friends are people I’ve never met in-person! But participation in online creative communities comes with some caveats:
- Be mindful of comparison-itis: You’ll likely see loads of pretty pictures of finished projects without hearing the maker’s stories about lessons learned, which can make you feel like everyone but you is succeeding. Remember that comparing yourself to others is a recipe for low self-esteem.
- Prepare yourself for some negativity: Online anonymity means some folks think they can say or do whatever they want with impunity. Remember that you can always step away from a conversation that’s not lifting you up.
- Watch out for a lack of moderation: Groups that lack strong moderators can become unstructured messes. Remember that if there isn’t a group moderator ensuring everyone follows the rules, it might not be the group for you.
Even with those caveats, online creative communities can be hugely rewarding. (Especially well-moderated groups like Suzy Quilt Patterns.)
4. Take a Class to Meet More Creative Folks
If you have the chance to take an in-person class, consider it an opportunity to also make a friend! What better way to meet folks who share your creative aspirations? If you connect with someone during class, grab their contact info so you can stay in touch. Consider making a date to follow-up on your progress.
You can find in-person quilting and sewing classes at places like:
- Your local quilt shop
- Local small museums
- Public libraries
- Community centers
- Community colleges
Google sewing classes in your area or call up local organizations that have classes and ask if they have plans for any sewing or quilting classes in the future — that helps them know there is interest!
Finding an in-person quilting or sewing class is a great option if you don’t have a guild in your area. Maybe you’ll meet enough people who are interested in forming a guild that you can start your own (read more about that below)!
Most craft teachers are deeply connected to the local creative community. For example, my pal Sarah Evans teaches quilting classes at a local art school… and she’s also a past president of my guild; belongs to a couple other quilt guilds; teaches online and at local quilt shops; and is a long-armer-for-hire. Sarah knows everybody. She’s a great example of the kind of person you can meet by taking classes.
5. Form Your Own Creative Community
Last but definitely not least, consider starting your own creative community. The biggest benefit of this approach is that it’s your group, your rules! But running your own group also means you’re responsible for nurturing the community. If you’ve never run a group before, research best practices before you dive in.
If you’re game to try, you could:
- Start your own quilt guild under the banner of a larger organization. For example, you could start your own chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild.
- Create an informal monthly gathering of crafters around your dining room table.
- Gather some friends to form a charity project group, like a chapter of Project Linus.
- Launch a Facebook group about your craft and invite friends to recommend folks. You could focus on a specific technique (english paper piecing), locale (your city or neighborhood) or even niche interest (quilts about dogs).
Running a creative community takes work, but it’s also rewarding. And you don’t have to go it alone! Consider finding a partner or a group of friends to collaborate with.
How Will You Grow Your Creative Community?
Now that you know my top five ways to find supportive, creative friends, which will you try first? Hop in the comments and share your plans. And if you’ve been part of a nurturing creative community, we would love to hear your success stories! You just might inspire others to try something new – and that’s what this community is all about.
4 thoughts on “5 Ways to Grow Your Creative Community”
We’ve started a group at Church and it is now more than just quilting for others (homebound parishioners, pregnancy care centers, veterans, Fire & Police departments) -the recipient list keeps growing. Now, knitters & other makers join us. There are many skill levels, so the sharing is ongoing. It has become a fellowship of friends!
Each quilter chooses her own design from our large stash of donated fabric, but we choose a theme. Now we are preparing baby quilts. Our “gifted hands” have brought joy to the makers and the giftees!
this is just incredible! I love that it’s growing and growing, and I love that you’re bringing in other kinds of crafters, too. I’m sure everyone has things they can teach each other. How lovely! Thanks for sharing this with us so we can get an idea of how her own groups could be…
Thank you for these very helpful community building ideas and your wise tips around the ways to avoid relationships and groups going ‘wrong’.
you are so welcome! I’m glad that this was helpful. How do you think you will expand your own sense of community in the future?