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Portrait Of A Seamstress: Amparo

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The life of an artist, whether famous or not, has always interested me. Where did they learn their skills? How did they get to where they are today? Who inspires their work? And what can I learn from them? One of the many artists that I know is Amparo, a seamstress who was born in Columbia speaks so-so English. She tries her hardest to answer my questions thoroughly when I go to her with a sewing problem. Bless her heart. I bought her coffee one afternoon last week and asked her a couple of questions about her life. Regardless of the language barrier, she was able to comprehend what I was asking and as always, her answers were thorough.

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learn-to-sew
I was born in Colombia (South America) and I learned how to sew there. My mom sewed a lot and when I was fourteen, she passed on what she knew – her skills – to me. She gave me the first steps and then I went to school, not design school, to learn the basics. Schools in Columbia when I was young taught girls how to sew. Then I continued to do it by myself and the experience, the years, the time gave me the skills.

I came to America in 1979 and worked for a wedding designer named Alfred Angelo in Boca Raton (Florida). I worked there for 16 years, from 1979-1995, and then I moved to New York to work for Jones. I worked there until 2010.

difference

Here, they’re fast! When I worked in Columbia, the people like everything to look nice and neat on the inside and out and they like this because how it a garment looked from the exterior and interior determined its price.

favorite-thing-to-sew
I love sewing wedding gowns, extravaganza, costumes. Beautiful extravaganzas- I love it!

secret-of-sewing
Use the hands, not the machine. If you learn to use your hands, everything comes together beautifully. This is a very important detail – handling the fabric and the garment as it’s being made. You have to treat fabric like special chiffon and silk like it’s a baby in your hands. Press carefully, carry it from the sewing table to the ironing board with delicacy, and always touch the fabric lightly. If you do this, at the end, the garment will look nice and neat and not overworked.

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12 Comments

  1. Reply

    Francesca

    I think it’s lovely to refer to Ms. Amparo as an artist, but perhaps not accurate. From this article, she sounds more like a craftswoman, at least in the context of her job at Urban Outfitters. Does she consider herself an artist, and if so, it what way?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Great comment. I’m not sure what she considers herself but I will ask. If i had to guess, she doesn’t consider herself a craftswoman, artist, or any other similar word. This is who she is and this is what she’s been doing her whole life. When something is that intrinsic, like breathing, I don’t think anyone would give themselves a title. Even though you breath in and out every second of every day, would you consider yourself an artisan of breathing? No, it’s just something that you do.

      The reason I refer to her as an “artist” is because in my opinion, sewing is an art and it happens to be her art.

  2. Reply

    Marcela Vallejo-Montoya

    Oh darling, nice story, please don’t forget that it is “COLOMBIA” not Columbia!
    Greetings from Belgium

  3. Reply

    Melanie Yarbrough

    Oh, I love this! I’ve been self-taught in all my sewing and garment sewing, so I love having a little bit of guidance from someone so experienced. I hope you interview everyone sewing at URBN! Haha

  4. Reply

    Betty Allen

    ah, the secret of sewing is to use your hands, not the machine. Brilliant! even when machine sewing it IS about the hands to the fabric. Thank you.

  5. Reply

    Craft Sanctuary

    I love the bit about treating special fabrics like a baby and treating them delicately. It’s such a concise way of stating that not all fabrics are the same, and that we can’t treat them the same. She seems like a wise sewing guru!

  6. Reply

    Lady ID

    She sounds lovely. I like her note on caring about the inside AND outside of the garment. Sometimes I feel like I work too “slowly” because I take time on the inside of a garment. It’s something I’m working on perfecting.

  7. Reply

    Angela

    I am always amazed at the work that skilled sample makers can do. I wish I had those kind of skills! Great advice about sewing!

  8. Reply

    Faye Lewis

    What a great interview!

  9. Reply

    Thimble & Cork

    What a beautiful post. Amparo sounds like such an interesting lady to have coffee and talk sewing with. I loved her response about handling the fabric with care. Sewing is her art, and she obviously puts a lot of love into it. I very much enjoyed this interview, thank you for posting it!

  10. Reply

    Windsor Grace

    Wow, great interview! Thank you for interviewing a “real person.” Not that everyone sewing isn’t real, but it’s nice to read about someone behind the scenes from a different place and lifestyle than me. She’s inspirational. I now want to learn to sew by hand. Does she make her own patterns?

    • Reply

      Windsor Grace

      And also that she has taken something she loves and made it in a career that is probably more thankless than most. She is just awesome

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