Group vs. Guild

When I first moved (back) to the Pacific Northwest over 15 years ago one of the first things I did was look for a knitting group. It turned out to be a local guild (Carnation, WA). At the time I didn’t know the difference between a group and a guild. But I’ve had a recent “ah ha!” moment in the Orcas Island knitting scene and I’m looking to see if others would agree with my notions on the subject.

The Fiber Expo at the Mullins Center, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
The Fiber Expo at the Mullins Center, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

In my experience, guilds tend to meet regularly. They have fixed days/times (3rd Monday of the month). They have announcements and agendas. This could include a fiber tasting, class or lecture, picking and doing knit-a-longs or charity work, or just “good-to-knows” in the local fiber scene. And in some cases, not all, they belong to some sort of registry like TKGA. In Washington state, only one is listed (Seattle), but I know of at least 10 more—many very formal and extremely active despite their lack of association to larger body.

Items knitted by fellow guild members
Items knitted by fellow guild members
More Guild Knitted Items
More Guild Knitted Items

Groups, like the one I formed at work, are much informal. I go to my own about twice a month, but the weekly meeting stays on the calendar so people can show up even when I’m not there. But I don’t go out of my way to make sure there is a person in charge of the meeting. If no one shows, that’s okay too! When we’ve got a big group usually the talk turns to yarn, knit travels, our projects on needles and upcoming shop crawls.

Member of the Orcas Group Teaching Weaving
Member of the Orcas Group Teaching Weaving

Some guilds have both formal and informal meetings. For instance in Eastside Knitters (in Bellevue, WA) meet monthly as a guild and some of the same ladies (plus or minus a few others) gather once a week in the same building’s coffee shop for a “knit in”.

On WKIP (World Knit in Public Day) this year I was drinking a local cider and eating at my favorite pub, The Lower Tavern when a young lady asked me if I wanted to join the local knitting group on Thursday nights at Island Hoppin’ Brewery. Knitting and beer, what could be better? Although I haven’t gone yet, the owners, Nate and Becca regularly crab in the bay by our place, so one evening when they were at the beach pulling in crab pots, I asked them about it.

“Yeah. Sometimes people are knitting on the couches—but usually only in winter when there’s not much else to do.”

Definitely a group, not a guild.

What I finally did do this week (after missing several other opportunities) was go to another “knitting group” at Warm Valley Orchard hosted by Maria Nutt, one of the island shepherdesses. The talk was of animals/breeds, natural dyes, swapped fleeces with Australia, fairs where we can submit our work or man the exhibits/booths, etc.

My Warm Waffle Mitts and Hat on Display at the Expo
My Warm Waffle Mitts and Hat on Display at the Expo

While there was some trading of tips and handing around of objects (mostly hand dyed and spun wool), but for the most part—it was about the business of fiber, though most, like me, are knitting for themselves, friends and family. And next week, when Maria is away, one of the other ladies who she’s known for 20 years will be opening the studio for the gathering. I didn’t ask if they were a guild, but if they aren’t I’ll be surprised. It’s too bad I spend most Tuesday nights on the mainland, otherwise they could count on me every week!

Riding the Klahowya "Island Hopper" ferry from Friday Harbor back to orcas Island
Riding the Klahowya “Island Hopper” Ferry from Friday Harbor back to Orcas Island

Definitely part of a guild, not a group. In fact, the San Juan Island Textile Guild, of which I am now a member.

And though I can’t make most of the weekday meetings I was able to participate that next weekend in the San Juan Island Craft & Fiber Arts Expo—manning the Knitting and Crochet table to teach people if they had an interest.

So there’s my thoughts on the differences. Both are lovely and have their place and I really like ones that straddle the line best.

What’s your preference? Do you participate in both or are you mostly an online group member?

2 thoughts on “Group vs. Guild

    1. It goes in fits and spurts for me. I’ve been solitary for years. Largely because of travel. I think my reason to join a guild (finally) is because I hope one day to stop the travel and plug into the knit scene when that happens.


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