Starting a fiber arts group: tips from experience

Sarah talks about her fiber group
Watch the video!

Starting a fiber arts group is a great way to bring together folks in your community that share a common interest. So often, members of our family, or even our close friends don’t understand why we knit, crochet, hook rugs, spin yarn, or sew. Getting together with others who share our passion for the creative textile arts is a reaffirming and energizing way to enjoy one’s craft. It’s also a fantastic way for anyone to get help and encouragement.

In the accompanying video, I talk about the elements that have made our group an ongoing success: organization, consistency, welcoming newcomers, and leaving space for people to participate at their own level.

members of the fiber groupSome other tips that I didn’t have time to discuss in this video:
1. Know your group. Pay attention to what members discuss or post about to understand what drives them to attend. Do they like to “show and tell”? Do they need help with projects, or enjoy being the expert and helping others? Perhaps just knowing they’re not “weird” and being around others who want to talk shop is important.
2. Give members ownership. Invite regular members to bring a friend. Remind members that they can share information to the mailing list between meetings. Encourage everyone to propose ideas for group projects such as charity knitting or fundraisers.
3. Consider carefully whether you want to formalize the group by joining a guild or other national organization. In the case of our members, this might actually be a turn-off, as we like our casual vibe and don’t want to have a lot of overhead with officers, by-laws, etc. But some folks might appreciate the extra structure and recognition that comes from joining an established organization.
4. Keep the vibe positive and supportive. Despite the oft-used name, there is no bitching at Stitch and Bitch. Giving people a forum that is encouraging and vibrant is important if you want them to come back. It’s easy for folks to lapse into sharing personal stories of woe and hardship (we’ve all had bad days and unfortunate circumstances!). But if that’s the primary tone of group discussion, it will be hard to entice new folks to join. Practice steering the conversation back to relevant topics like fiber crafts, upcoming events, even related topics like a new wine you tried, an update on your garden, or about the new restaurant in town.
5. Consider making up business cards with the group’s name, website (or contact person), and regular meeting location and time. This will help the group get established and will be an easy way to invite newcomers to join.
6. Incorporate fun activities. Getting together to work on projects and chat is fun in and of itself, but adding an extra event every once in a while can also be stimulating and engaging. Ideas include: bring a craft book or magazine to share, host a de-stash swap, craft-a-longs, charity making (sewing lap blankets, knitting hats), create a yarn-bomb.
I hope this will encourage you to find a local group to join or consider starting your own.

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