Since the age of 17, Lucila Sanchez has harbored a passion for sewing. After spending several years as a chef and working in bank management, Lucila followed this passion and opened up Azaleah’s Sewing Academy LLC and Handmade Shop.
The Springfield small business teaches sewing skills to all: from the novice who wants to mend a hem, to the more advanced student who wants to make their own clothes.
Lucila joined Zydalis Bauer in-studio to share more about her goal of making sewing accessible, regardless of skill level.
This interview originally aired August 6, 2021.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Since the age of 17, Lucila Sanchez has harbored a passion for sewing. After spending several years as a chef and working in bank management, Lucila followed this passion and opened up Azaleah’s Sewing Academy and Handmade Shop.
The Springfield-based academy teaches sewing skills to all, from the novice who wants to mend a hem to the more advanced student who wants to make their own clothes.
Lucila joins me in the studio to share more about her goal of making sewing accessible, regardless of skill level, and how she develops her passion for it.
Lucila Sanchez, Azaleah’s Sewing Academy: Because of the pandemic, I started sewing masks and we donated so many of them, and because of the quality, people started asking me to sell them. So, we did.
And after that, then other items came over. We started sewing wristlets and many other items, and I decided to change careers and go into what I really, really love. This is my passion.
Zydalis Bauer: You first started sewing at age 17 after taking a home economics course in high school.
What is it about sewing that you love so much? Why are you so passionate about it?
Lucila Sanchez: Well, sewing, it’s not just a skill. Sewing…is…it’s a therapy. So, you know that I did banking for 14 years, that means stress over stress. And I used to go home and so a little bit just for relaxing.
So, my passion is not only relaxing, it’s also a way for me to create new things from scratch. So, I just love it.
Zydalis Bauer: Sewing, just as you said, is more than a skill. For you, it’s therapy, it’s a craft. It’s also an art.
Can you talk about the artistic aspects of sewing and working with a needle and a thread?
Lucila Sanchez: Oh, gosh, I love this question. I love it!
Because when we cut the fabric or the materials and then we choose the thread, what kind of needle we’re going to be doing, it’s is an art, like you said. And then you see all those pieces of materials, and they don’t mean anything when you look at them. But when you put them together, oh, then you see the creation.
I just love it! It’s an art, like you said.
Zydalis Bauer: The sewing academy offers bilingual classes in Spanish and English, with a different experience levels and participants of all ages.
Can you walk us through those different levels and some of the projects that are being made?
Lucila Sanchez: Yes, well, we teach kids. We do kids classes, in the age range from eight or nine to 10, 1; and those teenagers like 12 to 16, they go into to the adult class because they can handle the machine, they have the skills, and they are mature enough to handle a machine.
So, we do 101, which is the basic one. We do 102 and we do 103 and 104 is actually under construction right now, because they asked for it. So, 101 is basically it’s for those who have never, ever have touched machine before, and for those who have been sewing for such a long time, not knowing that there was a lot that they didn’t know about.
So, they learn everything. They learn a little bit of the history of sewing. There is a history behind it. They learn about the history of the machine. They learn how to handle the machine from scratch, like, say, from A to Z, proper names, the function. They learn all about the machine and they learn how to sew, to do straight lines, semicircles, how to put together a project.
And they actually come out with making a bag. Gorgeous! It looks like it’s kind of difficult to make, but it’s not. They come out with the skills.
Zydalis Bauer: And upon completion of the sewing academy, you celebrate the students with a graduation.
What types of skills will the students leave with, aside from the obvious ones, but the skills that are really going to be able to apply to other things with sewing?
Lucila Sanchez: Well, when you mentioned — I love it because it’s not just a skill, they leave with a lot of self-confidence. So, I love what — when they come in, they are afraid to touch the machine. They’re afraid to cut fabric. And when they get into the class and it’s not only confidence for sewing, they apply to their to the life.
Zydalis Bauer: Despite the challenging times that we are all facing during this pandemic, you have been able to move forward and open up your very own small business.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Lucila Sanchez: For all of them to not to give up, go for it! do not let the pandemic, do not let anybody, to tell you that you cannot do what you can do.
Zydalis Bauer: So, you’ve said that building meaningful connections is one of your favorite parts of this new business.
How has your business helped other local businesses and communities so far? And why is this so important to you?
Lucila Sanchez: At Azaleah’s Sewing Academy, the place that we have, we also allow people to come in and bring their own business cards and just leave it at the counter. We also allow them to use the place for them to do any kind of meeting as well.
And Azaleah’s Sewing Academy — it’s not just a business, it actually is a place for the community. And they feel like they own it, as well, let me tell you.
So, yes, it’s the same way that I have been receiving so much support, I like to give them back to my community.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, you’re empowering each of these participants by teaching them an important life skill.
How are they, in turn, empowering you?
Lucila Sanchez: You know what? When I first started teaching sewing, I thought that I was going to be the one leading and teaching. Well, guess what? Ended up that I’m the one learning more from then what they’re actually learning from me.
I have learned they are so humble, especially those who come and have been sewing for such a long time. It’s not easy to go to an academy and start learning something that they already know that they knew.
So, putting all the knowledge that they have on the side to start from scratch and let someone younger to teach them that really inspires me.