Talking to Learn: Forming Quilt Study Groups

Quilt Study Groups are small groups of quilt and textile enthusiasts who gather on a fairly regular basis to share knowledge. Different groups have different guidelines but generally, each member of the group brings an item related to quilt history for discussion by the group.

These groups are an opportunity for the both the novice and the experienced quilt historian to be able to closely examine and discuss individual quilts, their history, materials and techniques. By examining and discussing each others quilt related treasures, members learn from each others knowledge of a specific topic such as why a specific mordant might be used in a certain time period, or how women's clothing influenced a quilting styles.

Some quilt study groups will discuss restoration techniques and accepted conservation practice as they relate to a specific quilt or textile. Quilt study groups also share information on quilt related shows, conferences and other events are going on in the quilt world including recently published books.

Some groups set a theme for each meeting. They may assign homework and ask each participating member to do a presentation at the following meeting. This presentation might be on some aspect of quilt history such as the use of a particular sewing tool, fabric, dye or other historical information impacting antique quilts. It might also be research on upcoming quilt related events or a book review. Some groups set up field trips to local museums or volunteer their services to museums to help research and catalog their quilts.

Quilt study groups can be formed formally with an elected board or informally, meeting in the back room of a library or quilt shop and rotating the duties among members.

To find an existing group or establish a new one, check with your local quilting guild, shop or library. Some groups have chosen to list themselves and their findings here at http://quiltstudy.com, but it is not a requirement.

Virtual Study Groups

Virtual study groups serve much the same purpose as an actual study group. Several study groups already exist such as the Quilt History List, The H-List and the Vintage Textiles List and Textile Conservators (Texcons). Some organizations such as The Alliance for American Quilts or Michigan State University sponsored Quilt Index offer online information on quilt history.

• The Quilt History list was created to provide a forum for people around the world who are interested in antique quilts and related textiles to discuss the historical aspects of quilting. The list open to everyone with an interest in the documentation and study of quilts, quilters, and quilting history. For more information, see http://quilthistory.com 

• The British Quilt History List can be found at http://www.britishquilthistory.co.uk/ 

• H-Quilts is a moderated internet discussion forum whose purpose is to provide an exchange of information for individuals around the world engaged in quilting research and documentation. For more information, see http://www.h-net.org/~quilt/ 

• The Vintage Fabrics list (which also discusses feedsacks) can be found at http://lyris.quiltropolis.com/scripts/lyris.pl?enter=vintagefabrics 

• Information on Texcons can be found at http://si-listserv.si.edu/cgi-bin/wa?REPORT&z=3&s=0 

• The Quilt Index is an online research and reference tool designed to provide unprecedented access to contextual information and images of quilts held in private and public collections. For more information, see http://www.quiltindex.org/ 

• Yahoo has several groups which discuss vintage textiles and related items such as sewing notions and patterns. For more information, do a search at http://groups.yahoo.com/ 

• The International Quilt Study Center at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the only one of its kind in existence. For more information, visit http://www.quiltstudy.org 

• The Alliance for American Quilts is dedicated to informing, educating and connecting people everywhere with America's quilt heritage. For more information, visit http://www.centerforthequilt.org/index.php

Forming your own virtual study group

If you only have a small group, the BCC (blind carbon copy) function of your regular E-mail program will work just fine. Just send a note to yourself with a BCC to a pre-established list of members. If you have a larger group, consider using the Mailman list mailer many web hosts offer as part of their basic package. Mailman is free software you can download at http://www.gnu.org/software/mailman/  and is pretty good for lists of a modest size.

Free groups list service support themselves with advertising. These are okay if you read the membership agreement carefully and can caution your members on how to avoid most of the spam.

Commercial services charge a small amount to maintain your list depending on the number of members. They are more user friendly than the free services.

Questions or Comments? Feel free to contact Kris at krisdriessen@yahoo.com