Socorro Fiber Arts guild — more than meets the eye

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The Socorro Fiber Arts Guild is more than a collective of like-minded fiber artists — the group reaches out to the community with its charitable efforts and educational programs.

Photo courtesy University of New Mexico Hospital: Los Lunas doctor Teresa Smith de Cherif wears an African batik scrub. In 1991, she started the African Scrubs Project, which supports a collaborative of African seamstresses who make the colorful medical outfits.

Community charity quilt projects
Every year, guild members sew quilts that are donated to charities.

“We’ve finished another community project,” guild president Norma Lorang said. “We had a goal of 20 quilts, but our members made 43 lap-sized quilts.”

The quilts were donated to Good Sam’s, the fire department, local law enforcement departments, Socorro General Hospital’s hospice, home health and early intervention programs and the local New Mexico Children, Youth and Families division.

“When you have calls for domestic violence or fires, sometimes they like to keep them (the quilts) in their vehicles to give comfort to victims,” Lorang said. “If you have nothing, to get something is a good feeling. They’re all passed on to the community.”

“We’ve always done a community charity quilt,” she said. “People in the guild suggest a group in Socorro to receive it, and that group gets the quilt. They can raffle it off to raise money or keep it on display, whatever they choose to do.”

Past quilt recipients include the Disabled American Veterans, the city fire department,the Girl Scouts and the local food bank. Depending on the way the raffle is marketed, charities can earn up to $1,000 from a quilt, Lorang said. This year, group members made a single quilt using batik fabric scraps from Dr. Teresa Smith de Cherif’s African Scrubs Project. The guild will present the quilt to Dr. Cherif at the Arts and Crafts Fair at Garcia Opera House on Saturday. Smith de Cherif plans to sell the quilt via an online auction; the proceeds will go to medical clinics in Africa serving HIV/AIDS patients. People can access the auction at Smith de Cherif’s Facebook page or by emailing her at tsdecherif@aol.com.

Guild member Sally Lopeman was inspired to have the guild make an African batik quilt when she encountered Smith de Cherif’s booth at the Festival of the Cranes art show three years ago. The Los Lunas-based medical doctor was selling hospital scrubs made with fabrics dyed in Africa. Lopeman was charmed by the color and quality of the fabric, and she knew there would be a way to get pieces for a quilt.

“I know when these ladies cut fabric there are always scraps,” Lopeman said. Smith de Cherif was happy to supply her with scraps, and the Socorro guild was pleased to collaborate with the doctor and African women.

“Sally was so enthusiastic the whole group got enthusiastic,” Lorang said.” The fabrics are dyed in Ghana, and the scrubs are constructed by a women’s cooperative in South Africa. The funds they raise benefit an orphanage for children with HIV in South Africa,”

Smith de Cherif delivered the scraps to Lopeman at last year’s Festival of the Cranes. Guild members then pieced together 12-inch by 12-inch squares, a very time-consuming process, Lorang said. The resulting quilt won Best of Show and a first place in the 2013 Socorro County Fair.

Guild classes and workshops
The 38-member guild meets at the Epiphany Episcopal Church on Bullock the second Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. with a workshop following most meetings. The guild attracts fiber artists ranging from knitters and crocheters to quilters. The public is invited to the meetings.

The group has also offered knitting, weaving and quilting classes at nominal fees. The quilting classes are the most popular, and an advanced quilting class will commence in January.

Also popular was Daniel Klinglesmith’s Navajo weaving class.

“He built Navajo looms for everybody and showed everyone how to work them and weave,” Lorang said. “That class filled up.”

Socorro history quilt project
The guild plans a special quilt project next year to honor two historic Socorro institutions.

“We’re going to work on a community history quilt in honor of the 400th anniversary of San Miguel and 125th of Tech,” Lorang said.” It would be an interesting time to look at the role of fiber arts in the history of Socorro — quilts, colcha embroidery, knitting and crocheting.”

For more information about the group and its projects, visit the Socorro Fiber Arts Facebook page, or call 575-517-7452.