History of The Guild

'Houses' quilt made by founder members of The Quilters' Guild

A Brief History of The Quilters' Guild

Early beginnings

The Quilters’ Guild was founded in 1979 by a group of quilting enthusiasts and has grown from a founding membership of 300 to over 6,500 individual members today.  

The Guild was registered as a charity in 1983 to assist in its fundamental work of education and became a company limited by guarantee on 1 January 1998 with the new title of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles.

Developing the Collection

In 1990 the British Heritage Quilt Project was begun.  This UK-wide project documented domestic items of patchwork and quilting dated prior to 1960, and resulted in the publication of Quilt Treasures in 1995.  1990 also saw the opening of the Guild office at Dean Clough in Halifax, with paid staff.  Prior to this, all work had been undertaken by volunteers. 

In June 2001 the Resource Centre at Dean Clough was opened to house The Guild’s growing heritage quilt collection and library.  Later that year the Collection was awarded full museum status.  The Collection focuses exclusively on quilts made in Britain and includes some notable items: find out more on the Guild Collection page.

Our Trading Company

A trading company, Festival of Quilts Ltd. (trading as QGBI Enterprises) was incorporated in 1998.

The annual Festival of Quilts, delivered in association with Creative Exhibitions, was launched at the NEC, Birmingham, in August 2003.  

This event has taken place annually since 2003 and attracts around 25,000 visitors and exhibits over1,000 quilts alongside traders’ stands and an intensive programme of workshops and talks by leading quilters.  Since 2012 the Festival of Quilts has been delivered in association with Upper Street Events Ltd..

St. Anthony's

In March 2008 The Guild moved to St Anthony’s Hall, York, and in June that year opened the Quilt Museum and Gallery, the premier museum in the UK dedicated to British patchwork and quilting.  St. Anthony's Hall, a beautiful medieval guildhall, housed the Museum and Gallery, a store for the quilt collection, the library, a shop, education room and offices for Guild administration.  In October, 2009, the Museum achieved Museums Libraries and Archives Accredited Museum (MLA) status.  The Museum and Gallery closed in October 2015, having welcomed over 97,000 visitors and shown over 60 exhibitions.

In 1999 The Guild celebrated its 20th birthday with many events around the country, culminating in the first Festival of Quilts held at the Indoor Cricket School at Lord’s in London.

During 2009 The Guild celebrated its Pearl anniversary – 30 years of patchwork and quilting – with an exhibition ‘Pearls, Pearls, Pearls’ at the Quilt Museum and Gallery.  

By the end of 2017 The Quilters' Guild had over 6,300 individual adult members plus over 400 Young Quilters and over 400 Affiliated Groups. Each of our regions provide a programme of talks and events and every year at least two or three regions organise exhibitions and retreats. The five special interest groups cater for special interests with challenges, meetings, retreats and summer schools. Members have plenty of opportunity to join in, learn something new and make new friends - just what The Quilters' Guild is all about.