Since August 2022, female inmates inside the Fresno County Jail have been getting an opportunity to learn how to sew and develop valuable job skills.
This sewing program is funded entirely by the Incarcerated Persons Welfare Fund, which has been utilized to purchase sewing machines, fabric, thread and other accessories needed for the participants to complete their projects.
The participants began by learning how to operate two different models of sewing machines and were required to display their proficiency in threading the machines, bobbins and sewing a straight stitch. The sewing program continues to teach these women new sewing skills. They will be learning how to follow patterns, install zippers and buttons and use other functions of the sewing machines. They have had to use their math skills to layout their quilts so the patchwork fits within the overall dimensions while accounting for the size of their seams. The women have learned patience and perseverance, having to master the tedious and often difficult nature of cutting straight edges and stitching straight seams. Through all of it, they have expressed that they enjoy the creativity and expression that the quilts allow them. They have also expressed joy and personal satisfaction that comes from creating and finishing their projects. Some have been so inspired that they hope to pursue future careers in the sewing industry.
Some projects already completed include three patriotic quilts donated to the Fresno Veterans Affairs Hospital, a quilt for former Sheriff Margaret Mims and her retired secretary, Laurie Sahakian.
Inmates are now working to create pillows and quilts that will be donated to the Marjaree Mason Center, which serves victims of domestic violence.
Several people and local businesses have been instrumental in getting the sewing program off the ground. This includes Correctional Officer Cheryl Blair and Laundry Supervisor Melinda Lujan, who work with the participants daily. Authorized Vac and Sew in Fresno has donated fabric and provided their knowledge and expertise. Stitch Master Custom Embroidery in Fresno was extremely gracious in providing us with assistance in the creation of our quilts.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office strongly believes in improving the lives of those incarcerated and embraces opportunities to teach them useful skills that can benefit their lives and the community once out of custody.