Why this Florida woman is fighting to keep the art of sewing alive

Central Florida seamstress needs help getting space to teach important skills

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The art of sewing was a popular skill many decades ago. Many women would make their own clothing -- something that seems to be a thing from the past now. 

One Central Florida woman says she knows it's a dying skill, and she's been trying to bring it back into our community. 

"That's a beautiful skill. I'm in love with what I do, I'm passionate about this," Josefina Rosario said.

At 68, Rosario has no plans of retiring anytime soon from her first true love: the art of sewing.

She remembers when, as a teenager, she got her first shot at becoming a seamstress in Brooklyn, New York. 

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"Since that day, I learned how to sew everything," said Rosario, who started sewing at 8 years old.

Today, she owns two workshops. One is inside Plaza del Sol Mall in Kissimmee, where she's been making dresses and doing alterations for the past 15 years.

She said she knows there is a lack of interest in those skills among the current generation, but she's hoping to make them popular again.

"That's what we're trying to do, teach them how to sew their own clothing. It's beautiful to make your own clothes, your own fashion," Rosario said.

Rosario wants to keep this skill alive but said she requires her own space to teach.

"You don't find many people who are in business for themselves and don't mind teaching you something that they know. Most people are wanting to just kind of do it, get the money and keep it moving," Raymond Williams, a client of Rosario's, said. 

Rosario doesn't have a space that's truly her own. For now, Plaza del Sol is lending her a small office, but she can't offer evening classes with the limited space.

"I know for a fact that it's going to be good for the young people, and I need sponsors right now, that's what I need," she said. "This costs money to rent a space."

Rosario said what she needs is someone to help her write applications for grants.

"Maybe if some people in the community that would like to help, they can write the grant -- help her write the grant as a volunteer, and then after that, they will have the resources to take off with the school," Melba Rubera, a friend of Rosario, said.

That will help Rosario get money for a proper classroom and be able to get results to keep this fading industry alive -- essentially helping locals get jobs.

"We train them, and we put them to work. It's gonna be an income for them," Rosario said.

Kamilla Laila, one of Rosario's former students who now works as a seamstress in her workshop, said people don't understand the opportunities having the skills can bring.

"There's like a stigma that people don't think you could become successful, but then they'll craze over designers like Gucci, they'll craze over Oscar de la Renta, they'll craze over designers like that, but then when it's, like, the regular person that they know, they don't think it's possible," Laila said.

Laila said Rosario has taught her so much and agrees she should keep fighting to keep this industry alive.

"She's been a really good teacher, a really good mentor. She's taught me so much," Laila said. "This industry should not die. I feel like we need to keep going, even though there's, like, a stigma against, like, art students and seamstress and sewing and stuff like that. This is, like, a really good life skill. This can help you in many ways."

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