Wini Labrecque and Maryann Keller with the Fiber Arts Guild hand quilt a donated quilt. The hand quilting includes decorative designs made using a stencil.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos



What should one do with a classic, unfinished quilt?  Members of the Fiber Arts Guild of Socorro County have answered that question by taking it upon themselves the task of taking it and finishing it up.

The quilt in question was started by Evelyn Dean, who had pieced together the top, and early last year it was donated to the Guild by Joel Dean. The design is a classic one.

The design is called a Dresden plate, one of the most popular quilts made during the 1920s and 30s. The design brings to mind flower petals.

“This has been a pretty amazing process,” said Guild member Maryann Keller. “Once a week probably five or six of us work on the quilt every Wednesday. It’s going to be pretty amazing once it gets done.”

She said a lot of the preliminary work was done at Epiphany Episcopal Church.

“We got together over at the church,” Keller said. “It was laid out on banquet tables. They added the wool batting and then the backing to it. We flipped it over and did the long stitch basting on it.”

It was then rolled up on racks and it is now on a quilting stand.

“Because of the style it is – the Dresden Plate – and the amount of hand stitching that went into the original piecing of it, it really needs to be hand quilted rather than machine quilted as most quilts are done today,” Guild President Wini Labrecque said. “Hand quilting honors the design.”

The quilt is approximately 70 x 80 inches.

“It’s a little bigger than a queen-size,” she said. “The quilt came to us a plain quilt top. We’re stitching the three layers now by hand.”

LaBrecque said the requisite hand stitching is labor-intensive and detail-oriented.

Quilter using eight stitches per inch.

“There needs to be eight stitches to the inch. That’s a lot of stitching,” she said. “The goal is consistent straight line stitching. The thread is specifically designed for hand quilting. It’s strong.”

The public got a sneak peek at it at Magdalena’s Frontier Days while some of the members worked on it in the Ilfeld Warehouse building. A select group meets every Wednesday morning to continue stitching.

“There are about a half-dozen women who are helping do that,” she said. “Not all of them have hand-quilted before so there’s a little bit of learning experience for some, myself included.

But it’s been great to get together as a group and do this.”

Labrecque estimates the quilt will be finished in as soon as six months but may end up taking a year. She said it may be raffled off, “with the money going back to the Guild for other programs or community projects that we do.”

At any given time, guild members are busy creating quilts or blankets on their own that they donate back to the community.

“We’ve given a number of quilts to the hospice center where they’re given to patients in hospice care, and that quilt stays with the family after the patient passes,” LaBrecque said. “The money that we gather would go toward the purchase of more materials to make these donation quilts.”

She said the group sometimes donates a quilt to another group that is in need of funding for a project.

“We donate quilts to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) which is the go-between for a judge and the family of children in foster care,” she said. “Gift bags are presented to the children at their first meeting, and includes the blanket, a book, a toy and a few small toiletries.”

In the past, the group has also donated quilts to Good Sam’s and blankets to police and fire departments.

The Fiber Arts Guild of Socorro County is a non-profit group that operates in Socorro County for the benefit of any and all people who are interested in or who practice the fiber arts, celebrating crafting and handiwork of all types.

“Our members sew, quilt, knit, crochet, spin, weave, and bead, to name just a few,” she said. We meet monthly to share our work and teach other members new techniques.”

The “art” of fiber art focuses on the materials and on the manual labor involved as part of its significance. In many cases, fiber artworks are works of art that communicate some sort of message, emotion, or meaning and go beyond just the literal meaning of the materials.