Originally published in The Taos News
Quilting is an old and beloved tradition. Women would get together to make quilts using scraps of discarded clothes and these meetings fostered a community of quilters that often became longtime friends.
Though the process is now made simpler by the use of machines, quilting friendships still start early in life, as the girls that attended the quilting class at the Talpa Community Center found out.
“The Taos Community Foundation awarded us a grant to do a project related to sewing and quilting,” said Effie Romero, director of the TalpaCommunity Center. She decided to do a six-week workshop that began September 17th and ended October 22nd.
“It was really successful,” said Romero. “Every student finished a pot holder and a lap quilt that can also be used as a wall hanging.”
The students attended the Talpa Community Center on Saturdays from 9 am to 11:30 am.
Sue Vigil was the main instructor and Barbara Bartell, an artist and painter, acted as her helper. Bartell works at the Sage Gallery, teaches oil painting and does workshops all over the country. “I enjoy the creative side of life,” she said.
Daniel Romero, an 8th grader at Taos Middle School, was a volunteer. He started accompanying his mother to a quilting workshop in the summer and liked it so much that he came back this fall to help other kids learn the skills he had been taught.
“Whenever I saw a quilt before, my friends would tell me, ‘I have it because my grandma or my aunt gave it to me,’” he said. “Well, now I can tell them, ‘I have this one because I made it myself!’”
Lupita Trujillo, founder of the New Mexico folk dance group Los Niños Bailadores, was also a volunteer. She retired as a teacher, but “once a maestra, always a maestra,” she said. Her two granddaughters took the quilting class.
“Quilting is an art that is slowly going away,” said Romero. “We need to pass it onto our children and grandchildren before it becomes completely lost. Besides, in this class we also taught them the basics of sewing. Our kids need to know at least how to replace a button!”
The Talpa Community Center has a public library with six computers for public use. They offered a ceramics class, also founded by the Taos Community Foundation, but this program is over now. “Some of the students in the quilting class came from the ceramics class,” said Romero. “Ours is an ongoing educational project.”
Another ceramics class will begin in November with a grant from the Taos Fall Festival, Romero said. She herself teaches ceramics workshops at Taos / Colfax Services, Taos County ARC and People’s Services.
“Our classes are great outlets for children,” she said. “They learn new skills in a relaxed environment and have fun in the process.”
Romero has been the director of the Talpa Community Center for seven years. Originally from Arkansas, she has been in Taos since 1951. “I was raised here,” she said. “So I am practically a Taoseña.”
“Quilting is very popular,” she said. There is a quilting guild that meets at the Talpa Community Center the second Monday of every month. Its name is Taos High Country Quilt/Needle-Craft Guild.
Sue Vigil, the class instructor and a member of the Guild, moved to Taos five years ago from Colorado Springs. “When the Taos Community Foundation asked me if I wanted to teach a quilting class, I thought it was a great idea,” she said. “We (the Guild) donated the fabric and it has been a very rewarding experience for all of us.”
Though Vigil sells some of her creations at the Arts and Crafts Fair, the Martinez Hacienda and Bits and Pieces (Talpa Community Center’s store and sewing center) she doesn’t consider quilting a business, but a hobby she is very passionate about. “I really love to quilt,” she said, “and so I am happy to pass this skill onto the younger people.”
“We will definitely continue this class if we get funds,” said Romero. “It will be nice if the girls could learn more or if new ones could learn what we have taught this group for the last six weeks.”
What the quilters say
Elisa Duran is 11 years old and attends Taos Middle School. “I liked the class because I was able to experience how to make a quilt by myself and experiment with the sewing machine,” she said. “And I got to finish a beautiful quilt that I can keep!”
Ashley McMains is 10 years old and a student at Ranchos Elementary School. “It was a fun process, the whole thing,” she said. “But the best part was seeing all the quilts together. Now I feel I can make many more. My grandma used to make them and she’ll be so proud of me.” She smiled. “At first I thought that this class would be boring, but I ended up liking it a lot.”
Laura Thomas is 13 years old and attends Taos Middle School. “I was able to make a very nice quilt with the colors of fall,” she said. “This is the first time I take a quilting class and I learned that it is hard work.”
“I know it was frustrating for the girls at times,” Vigil said. “Most of them have never had any sewing experience and admitted they could not sew a straight line, but the looks on their little faces when they finished their projects was priceless.”
Before leaving the classroom, the girls displayed their quilts for everyone to see.
“I really enjoyed working with all of you, “Vigil told them. “If you ever want to take this class again, let me know. I am very proud of you, and you should be too.”
TheTalpaCommunity Centeris located off HWY 518, at4 Archuleta Rd, Ranchos De Taos, NM.
Phone (575) 751-1014.
Daniel Romero, an eighth-grader at Taos Middle School, uses one of Talpa Community Center’s sewing machines. Romero assists other young sewers as a volunteer.