To become a guild member you must complete a registration form and pay a registration fee. Once membership is acquired dues become payable annually. In the guild, formal meetings are held regularly and presided over by a president.
Guilds usually have an educational component. During this education your knitting skills are judged and you must perform to a set level of competency. Upon successful completion of this education you gain the status of Master Knitter. Participation in these educational programs is voluntary.
Guilds exist mainly in urban areas. Rural knitters may become affiliate members. Active participation in a guild for most rural knitters is sadly impossible.
A brief history
In the seventeenth century, knitting guilds were the mainly male domain of professional knitters. To join, you had to embark in seven years of study the collimation of which was a demonstrated prowess in the craft. Work was subject to strict regulations as a form of quality control. As a member of the guild, you belonged to a family who would care for you when you were in need and discipline you when you stepped out of line.
Knitting circle is a term coined to describe any knitting group that is not a guild. Membership is free or not necessary. Socializing, not educating, is the focus. The environment in which participants meet is created and maintained by the facilitator. Any knitter anywhere can form a knitting circle. Simply find a place to meet and ask your knitting friends to join you there.
What are the origins of the meeting circle?
King Arthur and his knights of the round table are legendary. The round table was chosen to ensure that all knights were equal--all voices heard.
Historians speculate that the round table was adopted from the biblical last supper. During the last supper Jesus and his apostles feasted from a round table. Yet, the meeting circle is even older than this biblical reference. It dates back to the nature spiritualists.
Nature spiritualists revered females as the giver of life. Mother Goddess was the creator of all. They didn't dominate but sought to live in harmony with Mother Goddess' creations. From the harvesting of plants, they learned of the never-ending circle of life. They formed a sacred circle to celebrate Mother Goddess and to pass on knowledge of her.