A good few years ago I was introduced to a quilter, Hilda, who invited me to her home on a Tuesday evening as I wanted to go to a patchwork group and there didn’t seem to be any locally in the evenings. From that first Tuesday evening of 5 in her living room, Puriton Quilters grew and after the second week we found a venue and so here we are 11 years in with the group well established.

Backtracking and having 2 nieces who wanted to learn the art but having no room in the Puriton group I toyed with the idea of starting a group of my own a few miles away, in the town I lived and in the hall a few steps from my home. I went to Hilda and discussed my thoughts and asked if she would be my equivalent to mentor Simon Cowell and be my Simone Cowell if I was to start up a group. I think she was secretly pleased I asked and was full of information and behind me all the way.

I had her blessing and now needed to gather a group of like minded crafters and hopefully get a group up and running. I decided on the date and printed off a few A4 posters and put up in various shops in our small town to generate some interest with the invitation to just turn up on the night. Thursday evening was decided, Southwell House & Gardens the venue and at the time the room cost £3 an hour and I knew that if I charged £2.50 per session and as long as myself and two others (my nieces) attended I could pay the hire costs for the two hour duration!!

All the ladies in the Puriton group were aware of my starting a group and a few came along as support on the first evening and I asked if they would bring along something they had made so we could have a small show and tell to those who, hopefully, would come too. I even roped in my sister (who doesn’t sew) and a daughter or two just to get the thing off the ground.

From that first night the group has grown to 16 with a waiting list and Stitch & Brue (Facebook page)was born (a play on words as the River Brue runs through the town and into the sea). An ironing board was given to me, an iron was brought along from one of the ladies to keep at the group, after the first month I was able to purchase a basic kit of a large cutting board, rotary cutter and ruler. Since those early days we now have a vast selection of equipment, a small library of books and magazines and bits and bobs that the ladies are able to use and borrow.

Group Charity Quilt – money raised going to the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance

This now is my seventh year and I can honestly say I have one of the best and friendliest groups I have ever attended, 5 of the original ladies came from Puriton have stayed with me since the beginning. Hilda would pop along once in a while to sit and have a natter and work on her quilting with us. Unfortunately Hilda is no longer with us but I, and the group will be grateful for her help in the early days. We have had one quilt festival held in the church 3 years ago and we have had 3 weekends away, one each year where we have organised our own sewing retreats In Paignton and all looking forward to our next one in February 2020 and now with collaboration with the Marine Hotel open to anyone and everyone as a stitching weekend, info on this can be found here. Coach trips to the Malvern Quilt Show, and to various towns for a shopping days

A few getting int he Spirit on the Turkey & Tinsel Weekend in Paignton
Hard at it one Thursday evening.

My Way (tips) on starting a group

  • Have a second in command should you be unable to attend, they need to be a key holder, live close and able to open up the venue, take the subs and close the venue.
  • Place the seating in a large square where everyone attending can see each other and to alleviate any whispering at either end of the seating. This way all can hear each other speak and you can all join in with the chatting or just sit and listen. I leave a small gap where anyone can get easy access into the centre whether to help someone on the other side or lie larger items.
  • No seat is anyone’s personal seat, however saying that many are creatures of habit and stay in the same place each week!
  • Generate enough subs to pay for hire should you not raise enough in any particular week.
  • Keep a running record of expenditure from the subs for all to see and ensure you have receipts for purchases. I take along an ‘accounts’ update every now and then or if asked take the following week.
  • Organise a Christmas meal or an evening out, coach trip etc to use a build-up of cash.
  • Have a democratic vote on any decisions for the group, going along with the majority, although in a stalemate your vote counts as the decider, very rare but needed. On trying to decide a venue for an evening out and lots of ideas being bandied about we put all suggestions in a hat and agree that whichever one is pulled out is the one you will all go along with. This system has worked exceptionally well from the beginning.
  • After all these years we are all aware of what our likes and dislikes are and all are happy to buy something for the benefit of the group knowing it will be paid back from the subs.
  • If we have no room for any new members then when we have one of our all day sewing days we invite one or two along to join in thereby getting to know each other prior to a spot becoming available.
  • We have had the odd workshop with jewelry making, corn dollies, wreaths etc that will get paid from the subs.
  • We chose the time of 6.30 to 8.30 knowing that we won’t be out overly late during the winter months.
  • In recent years we all pay an extra 50p per week towards our Xmas night out, you need to get to 40 giving you £20, its all agreed if the meal costs more the subs will pay but if it costs less the left over cash goes into the subs. Those who miss a week tend to pay an extra 50p the following week to ensure they get to their £20 without having to pay extra at the end. This all came about due to some members not attending group as regularly as others which did become a problem. Those that have not reached the £20 pay the extra into the subs. This ‘rule’ was discussed and agreed prior to being introduced.
  • We are not sticklers in that you have to bring quilting only, some people have other things that need finishing therefore knitting, crochet, embroidery for example have all come along to be worked on.
  • One thing that I do ask is if a member feels the group is not for them that they let me know so their place can be given to someone else. We all realise that this hobby is not for everyone.
  • Anything to do with the group is discussed in the group and not elsewhere. Any highs or lows are encouraged to be discussed; all this has proved to make our group successful.

The group is not MY group; it is OUR group, I only organised the start of the group for likeminded crafters to spend time with me crafting.

Fortunately all of the above tips have resulted in a fantastic group and pleasant Thursday evening for the past 7 years.

The Christmas and Baby Corner during our festival in the local church