The hum of sewing machines fills Sonora Sewing Factory — a cut-and-sew manufacturer of women’s apparel and industrial sewn products for the healthcare industry, college and university dormitories, hotels, resorts and cruise ships — on the North Side of Tucson.
Some workers sew medical hijabs for Muslim women in the medical field. Hijabs have slots on the ears for a stethoscope and also for a face mask. Others sew trail gaiters for runners and hikers to keep dirt and rocks out of their shoes.
And some seamstresses make shower curtains. Orders include pillow and mattress covers in vinyl and other commercial fabrics. Orders for items can reach several thousand per month.
Erica Yngve is the contractor behind the 25,000 square foot facility at 625 W. Rillito St. – in the San Ignacio community of Old Pascua Yaqui Village, near West Grant and North Oracle Roads.
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Since 2020, the factory has grown to serve more than two dozen apparel and sewn good companies across the country. Yngve employs 16 workers and Sonoran Stitch Factory, which has become the largest cut and sew manufacturer in southern Arizona, offers customers to store and assemble their products to the shipping docks to deliver their orders. .
“This comprehensive service allows customers to focus on new product development, marketing and sales,” said Yngve, a graduate of the University of Arizona in 2000 with two bachelor’s degrees in business management and German studies. , and an MBA in 2005 from DePaul University in Chicago.
She thinks Tucson can become a strong hub for industrial sewers, attracting more business and growing the economy.
“I’m very passionate about it. We have access to Mexico and the West Coast, and we can distribute nationwide via package carriers, trucks, trains, and planes,” Yngve said.
“More and more local apparel brands are looking to manufacture domestically due to issues with the supply chain due to COVID-19. This made overseas manufacturing very difficult. There are blockages and backlogs in shipments,” Yngve explained.
Close the gap
She partnered with the City of Tucson, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Flagstaff’s MoonshotAz, a program to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and created Arizona Stitch Lab to train and certify seamstresses. The lab is housed inside the Sonoran Stitch Factory. The lab, which has three instructors, offers a free workforce development program to fill the skills gap in industrial sewing trades. MoonshotAz, a non-profit organization, is associated with the campus of the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
The city has awarded $300,000 over two years in economic stimulus funds to Arizona Stitch Lab to train participants in basic industrial sewing skills to revitalize the Tucson sewing center, Yngve said. Those accepted into the six-week course do not have to pay, she said. The course teaches students factory settings and machine safety protocols; industrial machine operations, including different types of stitches; basic patterns, markers and die-cut applications; introduction to manufacturing; and the handling of materials and fabrics. Future training will include sewing machine repair courses and creating 3D models for clothing and home decor.
Upon completion, graduates should start with a salary of $15 per hour and with experience of $25 per hour. As the training continues, seamstresses have an annual earning potential of up to $100,000, Yngve said. Graduates can seek employment opportunities in areas such as aviation interiors, interior decorating, apparel production, shade sails and awnings, and upholstery. The objective of the program is to train up to 100 students per year in industrial sewing.
For continuing studies, the lab offers intensive one-day workshops and training throughout the year, such as clothing construction and an introduction to shade sails. In the fall, the lab will launch a 10-week Entrepreneur Class for those interested in starting their own sewing business.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is contributing up to $50,000 this year to pay for support services for tribal members enrolled in the lab. It includes transportation and childcare costs. The tribe also assisted in the purchase of machines for instruction. Twenty tribal members participated in the program. A total of 40 participants graduated, and the graduates range in age from 18 to 65 and come from multicultural backgrounds.
Graduates range from unemployed and underemployed workers to those with college degrees who want to start their own business that needs sewage to make upcycled vintage handbags, suits and clothing. Sewer jobs in southern Arizona include industries that manufacture interior products such as upholstery, linens, curtains, and pillows for private jets; interior decoration; shade sails for playgrounds and sailboats; awnings for commercial and residential structures; and upholstery companies.
The passion for sewing
Four young graduates have been hired by Sonoran Stitch Factory. One is Anthony Toro who signed up for the program, along with his mother who was also hired by the factory to cut patterns for women’s clothing.
“I liked the lessons and it was my first time sewing. I made t-shirts, pillows, bandanas, shirt pockets and did upholstery work for cars,” said Toro, 25, a graduate of Pima Vocational High School, a school chartered. “I want to learn as much as possible, and my dream is to freelance upholstery making for the automotive industry, or making handbags and wallets.”
Andrea Garcia, 23, a graduate of Cholla High Magnet School, said she was “super excited and surprised” when she was hired by the factory after graduating from the lab. She works as part of a four-person team that produces 2,000 hiking and running gaiters per month. “I also help package and ship products to customers across the United States,” Garcia said. It also ships products for factory customers in Canada.
“I like this company. I started sewing when I was 15 after my grandmother suggested that I sew clothes for our statue of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception,” said Garcia, adding that her grandmother 90-year-old makes blankets, family clothes and also sews picture clothes. saints.
Yngve, who started sewing at age 9 while in 4-H, smiled when she heard about Garcia’s grandmother and her love of sewing. She, too, was drawn to sewing and design, progressing to clothing alterations for friends and sewing bridesmaids’ dresses and her own wedding dress. The Casper, Wyoming native moved as a child with her parents to Tucson, is married and has three sons.
Contact journalist Carmen Duarte at [email protected] or on Twitter: @cduartestar