Staying Connected During COVID-19 with the Valley MQG

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The Valley Modern Quilt Guild, a guild representing the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles, California, holds their board meeting on the second Tuesday of the month. We meet at our sponsoring quilt shop, Quilt Emporium. When we met on March 13, 2020, we discussed postponing our meetings as Los Angeles faced a temporary lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. At that time, we figured we would only have to skip one meeting or reschedule one workshop. As weeks turned into months, we realized we needed to do something to keep our guild going. A few of us were texting or zooming with our friends, but our guild had essentially shut down.

 

The board held a meeting via Zoom and we reviewed our options. We decided to hold a short Zoom meeting to just check in with our members. Nothing formal, no speaker or agenda, just a check-in. The Modern Quilt Guild had offered guilds the use of their Zoom account and we scheduled our first meeting. Our first Zoom meeting was well attended but we didn't get the in-person numbers we were used to. We spent most of the meeting handling tech issues or helping people get adjusted to using Zoom. Learning how to mute oneself while their dog barked in the background took up most of the meeting. But we prevailed and we all enjoyed seeing each other. We encouraged each member to hold up a quilt they were working on or describe a current project. At the next Zoom board meeting, we decided we would try holding our monthly meetings via Zoom.

 

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The Valley MQG meeting via Zoom

 

 

Our guild had already experimented with using webinars to bring in speakers from out of state. We had previously held a webinar with Karlee Porter. Our guild normally meets in a high school so we had used one of the classroom's large screen TVs to all watch Karlee together as she gave her presentation. Karlee was able to see us and we were able to ask questions. Everyone enjoyed it and it was a good way for our guild to be able to have speakers that were far away. We had two webinars lined up before the pandemic hit. We reached out to those speakers and asked them to present to our guild via Zoom. Our first speaker was Andrea Tsang Jackson of 3rd Story Workshop. We then had Heidi Parks. Both presentations went well!

 

During this process, we made sure to reach out to members who were having tech issues to offer assistance. Members were encouraged to text officers during the meeting if they were having trouble. We also used the chat feature to provide instructions. Before each meeting, we went over how to mute oneself, how to change your screen so you could make the speaker the largest box, and other Zoom-related issues to make the viewing experience more enjoyable. Zoom allows the host to mute participants so we always had the option of helping those who could not mute themselves (which we had to utilize often).

 

We monitored how other guilds were handling the pandemic and decided to include some of the features they were doing. We added a show and tell feature to our meetings. Members were invited to send in photos ahead of time. A slide show was made and when we presented one's photo they unmuted themselves and talked about their quilt. Our normal in-person meetings had always included a raffle. Being unable to do that over the web due to federal restrictions, we decided to turn it into a door prize. We had people guess a number or we asked for the closest birthday to the meeting date. The door prize was then delivered to the person's home by leaving it outside to maintain social distance. We also continued our charity projects. Our community outreach coordinator arranged for people to pick up and drop off items at her home in a socially distanced manner.  

 

To provide members a chance to sew with friends we started a monthly sew-in. On the third Sunday of the month, members can log in via Zoom and sew with friends. There is no format or program, it is just a chance to chat with friends, see what others are doing, get advice, or just hang out.  

 


A guild member’s free-motion quilting practice which was shared on Instagram

 

As our Zoom meetings were progressing, we decided we wanted to increase our social media presence to offer members another way to stay connected. We created a hashtag for our guild #valleymqg. At one of our Zoom meetings, we asked everyone to change their name to their Instagram handle (after first explaining what that was and how to do it!). We then showed people the hashtag they could use to tag what they were working on and share it with the guild.

 

Since many of our members are in a high-risk category and can't go out to quilt stores, we brought the quilt shop to them. We hosted a virtual tour of our sponsor shop, Quilt Emporium.  Our program coordinator went to the store during our meeting and we hosted a live feed of the store. The owner walked around the store and showed us every nook and cranny of the shop. We got to see new fabric lines, hear about the best notions, and find out about virtual events the store was hosting. There was even a drawing for gift cards to the shop. This was such a success we did it again with another one of our local shops, Quilty Pleasures.

 

Christina Camelli teaching free-motion quilting to the Valley MQG via Zoom

 

 

We finally decided we were ready to try a workshop. We scheduled our first workshop in December with Christina Camelli. We set it for three hours since we were not sure how it would work and did not want to commit to an entire day. The workshop sold out! On the day of the workshop, everyone came prepared with their supplies and we had an amazing experience. Christina was a fantastic teacher and had a great Zoom set up so we all felt like we could see and clearly learn what she was presenting. She gave ample time to each of us. People really enjoyed it because they did not have to lug all their supplies. If they needed something, they were at home and could easily get it. After the success of this workshop, we had another one planned for January with Daisy Aschehoug of Warmfolk.

 

To make sure we were not missing any members that were not computer savvy we asked members that were Zooming in to reach out to guild friends they hadn't seen in a while. We offered tech assistance to those that needed it. We updated our website to make sure we were including all details about meetings and workshops. Since our board started meeting via Zoom we have had more participation than ever before. We also encourage non-members to join our lectures and workshops.  

 

While we miss seeing each other in person, meeting via Zoom has enabled us to stay connected and keep our guild thriving.