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Inspiration

Get to Know Sewing Educator Sandra Lee Chandler

Sewing educator shares her creative energy
Threads #216, Winter 2021
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A garment sewer and quilting expert who loves to recycle fabrics, Sandra Lee makes colorful garments that reflect her interests and skills.

Sandra Lee Chandler, owner of Sandra Lee Design, feels grateful to have made sewing her profession for four decades. She inspires others through live and virtual lectures and workshops, television appearances, YouTube tutorials, and an active blog. A running thread through her work is an emphasis on the joy found in sewing. Sandra’s been a passionate teacher of sewing throughout her career. She believes teaching is a two-way street and constantly finds inspiration in her students’ work. “Teaching brings new joy to my art,” she says.

Though her background was primarily in traditional quilting and sewing techniques, Sandra says that she has taken up new techniques along the way, such as sashiko, that influence her work, especially in garment creation. Her website is full of unique projects that cross styles, for example quilted jackets or upcycled denim garments that are embellished with cool patterns of quilting stitch lines. “My collections are inspired by past and current times and allow me to highlight my passion for putting art to use,” Sandra reflects. “Even as our world has changed, it is important to find some fun in expressing ourselves.”

Sandra Lee ChandlerFind Sandra’s blog, examples of her work, links to her classes, and more at SandraLeeDesign.com.

Threads: How did you get started in sewing?

Sandra Lee Chandler: My love of sewing was inspired by a beloved teacher of seventh-grade home economics. It was then fostered by the many teachers I had along the way in obtaining a home economics, textiles, and clothing degree from Arizona State University.

TH: Did you sew as a hobby first? 

SLC: Yes, I started sewing for myself and then quickly was commissioned to sew for individuals in my community. After college, I started my professional career, and taught quilting and sewing classes part-time.

TH: What inspired you to bring your quilting skills into fashion garment sewing?

SLC: For me, it’s all about education and bringing the non-quilting world into an understanding of the quilting world and its beauty. I believe that extremely well-crafted quilts that are made with love should be seen by the masses.

TH: There are a lot of fun denim looks on your website. What do you love about that fabric?

SLC: Everything. Denim to me means love. I love how thick denim is with the two layers of threads woven together. I love the diversity of the indigo dye color used in denim. I also love the fact that [denim fabrics] are made in different weights. Denim reminds me about how each one of us in this world is a little bit different, but the same in some ways.

TH: What other fabrics do you enjoy sewing with?

SLC: I also love working with linen and quilting cotton.

Sandra Lee Chandler wearing jacket outside Sandra Lee Chandler leaning on window wearing quilted jacket

TH: What sewing and quilting techniques do you favor?

SLC: Because of my traditional education, I believe that your techniques should result in a piece that is aesthetically beautiful inside and out. So, my favorite process is the binding of my seams. The process involves: sewing the seam; ironing the seam flat; sewing the binding to one side of the seams, which are sewn together; pressing the binding over the raw edges of the seam allowances; and stitching the double-fold bias binding on the second side. 

TH: What are your favorite sewing or quilting tools?

SLC: My very favorite tool is the iron. I grew up with parents from the South and the first thing I learned how to do around the house was to press and iron clothing.

TH: What are your favorite aspects of teaching?

SLC: For me, teaching is all about empowerment, not so much in what I’m teaching, but the fact that I like to encourage and empower my students to be the very best that they can be in whatever they are doing—and find joy in creating.

TH: What was it like to work with Quilting Arts TV?

SLC: The staff and crew are amazingly encouraging and professional, and we had a ball! Little did I know I would soon be teaching on Zoom for over a year, which closely resembles the environment of taping a television show. The challenges were determining how best to demonstrate and show techniques, without getting in the way of the cameras. Once I learned my angles, the rest was a piece of cake. Expressing enthusiasm and energy through the lens of a camera comes naturally to me.

TH: What was your inspiration for starting a blog?

SLC: I use my blog to show who I am and the love I have for what I do. I also hope to inspire others to jump into whatever they want to do. I tend to be a very private creator, who loves to just be in her own space and design room. But I have learned that my followers want to know more. So, from time to time, I create and show my process and allow my followers to see a little bit of my life.

TH: Could you tell us more about the upcycled garments you sew?

SLC: The upcycling process was inspired by family members, back to my great-grandmother, who upcycled. At one point in my life, I decided to do more with less and to look at the resources that God had given me to create. And once I started doing this, I have never looked back. Creating with the resources around me challenges me.

TH: Any fun plans for your business?

SLC: Oh boy, do I have plans. I would like to start a YouTube channel, well, several YouTube channels—one with hand stitching, another with repurposed materials, and a third that’s focused on working with denim. I am also creating a series of wall art dealing with inspirational times in my life. And I am going to be creating wearable art for men, especially in the 20 to 39 age range.


Sarah Opdahl is a writer and editor with a passion for sewing and crafts.

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