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Short-term project has been offered for past several years

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NENAHNEZAD — The sound of sewing machines competed with the country music playing on a radio as community members worked on quilts and rugs inside the chapter house here on Wednesday.

Martha Rey was putting the finishing touches on a queen-size quilt using a sewing machine she borrowed from a friend.

"This is the pinwheel," she said about the pattern made from brown, tan and black fabric.

Although Rey learned to sew when she was young, this was the first time she had used that style.

Rey was among six chapter members enrolled in a quilting and rug-weaving project managed by the chapter that started on Nov. 26.

The 10-day program was scheduled to end today and produced quilts of various sizes while the weavers each completed a rug.

They will be paid for their work under the chapter's public employment project, a program that provides short-term employment and job training for chapter residents.

Arthur Bavaro, community services coordinator for the chapter, said the annual project is designed to empower chapter members with skills they can develop and earn money for over the holiday season.

The quilts and rugs made during the project are sold by the chapter, and the money raised goes toward next year's purchase of fabric and supplies.

The project has been offered by the chapter for several years — Bavaro said it was operating when he started working in 2002 — and has transformed from focusing on rug weaving to quilting.

"As time went by, I started concentrating more on quilting because I found out the quilts were being sold a lot quicker than the rugs. … I tell people we want Nenahnezad to become the Two Grey Hills of quilting," Bavaro said.

Weavers from the Two Grey Hills area are renowned for using natural color wool to create intricate designs.

The quilting and weaving project at Nenahnezad picked up steam over the last three years under the guidance of Loretta Martinez Nakai, who was a seamstress for the Bernina Sewing Center in Farmington before working as an office assistant for the chapter.

Nakai, along with the chapter's accounts maintenance specialist, Laura Tom-Jones, teaches participants about quilting patterns, maintenance tips for sewing machines and how to use sewing tools.

Nakai and Tom-Jones also offer sewing classes throughout the year, during which students create items such as purses and pencil holders.

The group was busy sewing and weaving on Wednesday. They paused from time to time to tease each other or to talk about fabric and quilting patterns.

Mae P. Atcitty was weaving a rug that depicted a Yei'Bi'Chei' dance and measured 2 feet by 3 feet.

She was developing the design, which she learned from her mother, on a loom she brought from home.

"I like it because I like working out here with the people," she said about the program then added the money will help with end of the year expenses.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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