BLOOMFIELD — Half a dozen members of the San Juan County Quilters Guild dropped by the Bloomfield Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center to give the gift of quilting and company.

Bringing cookies and more than 100 colorfully hand-sewn pillowcases, the quilting members arrived in time for the "snacks and bingo" activity held in the center's dining room.

The women circled the tables, offering homemade molasses and waffle cookies with some bingo strategy and smiles. They repeated numbers booming rapid fire from the activity director officiating in the center of the room.

It wasn't until after the game ended that the 30 or so players cleared their game boards and focused on the pile of pillowcases. Each senior at the home received a unique pillowcase to add color to the stock white linens all too common in facilities like this one.

Four-year member Sandy Matlock came up with the idea to make the pillowcases. She unfolded and displayed some samples of the guild's recent work, vibrant, quilted blankets of many sizes, hues and fabrics.

"As a guild, our mission has always focused on community outreach, and I wanted to start the year here," Matlock said. "Just dropping off these pillowcases wouldn't be enough Ð we wanted to be good company, too."

Gail Aspromonte, owner of Quilt It Ya Ya, in Aztec, became the guild's president in January. Wednesday's visit to the Bloomfield seniors is part of their mission of outreach to the community, she said.


"We feel that the guild can help meet the needs of people and bring comfort and a smile along the way," Aspromonte said. "We've given in the past to the local rape crisis center, battered women's shelter and cancer center."

They also have given blankets to a Kirtland family that lost their home to fire over the holidays and donated a quilt for the silent auction at a benefit held last month to help Commissioner Jim Crowley.

In May, the women plan to visit residents at Four Corners Good Samaritan Village nursing home in Aztec.

Jon Austria/The Daily TimesMembers of the San Juan Quilters Guild prepare to hand out pillow cases and cookies to the residents of Bloomfield Nursing and
Jon Austria/The Daily Times Members of the San Juan Quilters Guild prepare to hand out pillow cases and cookies to the residents of Bloomfield Nursing and Rehab on Wednesday.

In its 30th year, the quilting group will expand its mission this year with a focus on education.

"We want to get in local schools and teach the art of quilting," Aspromonte said. "Plans are in the works for us to visit Koogler Junior High School."

Group members spend time together in workshops, offering each other tutorials and holding classes on applique, paper piercing, stenciling and "crazy" quilting, a hodge-podge quilting style.

Though they are predominantly female, the guild does have a handful of men Ð mostly husbands of current members Ð and some kids as young as eight who are "auxiliary" members.

They derive their strength from the members' often disparate and eclectic talents and backgrounds.

"If a member wants practice with a certain quilting style, we can always help each other," Matlock said. "But we stay busy Ð making over 300 quilts each year."

"One person will piece the scraps together, one person will do the long-arm quilting, another does the binding," she said. "It's an assembly line process, and we're constantly working to keep ourselves up to speed and share what we do with the community."

Shari Schmitt, a retired kindergarten teacher and 15-year member, said she inherited a love of quilting from her mother, also a guild member.

Ten-year member Donna Schmitt, a former high school science teacher and Shari's sister-in-law, is "the fastest bird skinner in the West," said Joyce Mills.

Mills just finished an entirely handmade queen-sized quilt that took 10 years to complete.

Guild secretary Billie Whitlow is a new member who once built her own motorcycle from the tires up. She is interested in helping local animal shelters by giving them quilts to sell at auction.

"I retired last year and wanted to practice quilting more regularly," Whitlow said. "Before I knew it, Gail asked me to be secretary, and here I am."

The San Juan County Quilters Guild meets in the morning and evening on the second Tuesday each month at the Civic Center in Farmington.

View the guild's website at

James Fenton can be reached at; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt