Passion for Fashion

Knit vest and blouse I made as a teenager.

I have always had a passion and talent for textiles and fiber arts. From the time I was a little girl, I loved handmade textile items, classic style clothes, and haute couture. Beautiful clothes and the work that is put into them have always fascinated me. The fact that I was born in Greece also fueled this passion. All Greek girls in my generation—and backwards—had to learn practical things, including embroidery and needlework skills to make their dowry.

I always dreamt of working in a fashion house with evening wear and fancy dresses. I wanted to dress like Joan Collins in Dynasty. I loved her style—and film personality. This actress’ film wardrobe is my all-time favorite. As an adult, I love watching films where actresses wear haute couture designs and learning about their costume designers. Some films with wardrobes that impressed me are: The dressmaker starring Kate Winslet, Cruella starring Emma Stone, The Devil Wears Prada starring Meryl Streep, Phantom Thread starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and of course, Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. In such films, I have eyes only for the clothes.

When I was five years old, my mother showed me how to crochet. My first crochet project was a red pillow cover in fillet stitch. My mother also taught me how to embroider and cross stitch. My first cross stitch projects were on painted canvas, but counted cross stitch was my favorite. My aunt taught me how to knit. My first knit project was a fuchsia pullover with yarn that a friend had gifted me. I first tried my hand at sewing when I made clothes for my Barbie doll from fabric scraps. I sewed them so well by hand that they looked like ready-made clothes. 

The first fuchsia pullover I knit.

At 15, I became an apprentice to an experienced local seamstress for three years. She used a treadle Singer sewing machine that sewed only straight stitches. This meant that we had to sew all other stitches by hand: whip stitch to prevent edges from fraying, buttonhole stitch for buttonholes, blind stitch for hemming, and basting stitch for fittings, among others. I learned to take body measurements and cut the fabric pieces for the design the client had chosen; do three fittings and incorporate any changes the client wanted; finish the garment, iron it, wrap it, and deliver it. We didn’t use any patterns. As my teacher seamstress told me, she had many students before me, but I was the best. I had passion in my heart for the profession, and I did meticulous, detailed, and orderly work. 

At 17, I opened my own sewing business in the basement of my parents’ house. I began by sewing clothes for my family, particularly work shirts for my father. As I gained more confidence, I expanded my services to other relatives, friends, and the public. As I worked, I gained experience and knowledge. I studied how ready-made clothes were made; I read Burda magazines and learned how to use and alter patterns; I bought my first treadle Singer sewing machine and, later, an electric one. Most of the money I earned, I spent it on fabrics and made clothes for myself.

After three years, I moved to the U.S. and my sewing skills followed me to college, providing some pocket money. After graduation, I worked with liturgical vestments for one year in Athens, Greece. Two years later, I attended the London Centre for Fashion Studies in London, and I took two pattern cutting courses. My instructor taught me how to create and manipulate a pattern on paper, then cut it on muslin fabric and fit it on a mannequin. When he saw my performance, he commented, “You put the pins like the Chinese. All in order, facing one direction.” In my class, I met a girl who used to work at Demetrios, a Greek bridal house. How lucky she was! I could have worked there too, but I moved to the U.S. and got married.

In my new home, I dedicated one room to sewing, and I was back in business. I named my business Grecian Needle. I stayed extremely busy, particularly the months of April and May, altering prom dresses, wedding gowns, and bride maids’ dresses. These gowns absorbed a lot of my time because of their delicacy and embellishments. I worked on dresses with over six layers of skirts; $2,000 wedding gowns with lace sewn on tulle with invisible thread; dresses with beads and sequins, you name it! But I was patient and extremely careful handling these gowns. As per customer requests, I expanded my services to include light upholstery work, curtains, handbags, pet accessories, small quilts, needlework on church kneelers, and crocheting. People preferred me and always tipped me generously. I even won two awards for my excellent work.  

When I discovered the power of the internet, I created a website, and I subscribed to sewing magazines and learning resources. My favorite ones are: Threads magazine, Piecework magazine, the University of FashionSailrite, and Annie’s Creative Studio. These sources teach me sewing techniques, fashion drawing, draping, upholstery, crochet projects, and much more. I don’t exclude YouTube either because I watch hundreds of fiber arts-related tutorials there. Over the years, my sewing business flourished, and I invested in specialty equipment such as two mannequins and a cover stitch sewing machine. Today, I own seven sewing machines including an industrial Consew that I mainly use for jeans.  

After 36 years of sewing, I developed tendonitis from repetitively using my hands. I also have lower back and neck pain because of hunching over the sewing machine for long periods of time. So, I have had to slow down a bit which was difficult to do because I can’t sit still. I’m not comfortable at all relaxing and doing nothing but talking or watching the sunset. I get antsy, impatient, and aggravated. I want to be productive and creative. When I’m forced to “relax,” I sit in my recliner and I pretend to watch TV while my hands work. I crochet, embroider, or prepare a garment for sewing. I always love to sew!

Even when my hands hurt from tendonitis, and my lower back screams for relief, I am still and always will be passionate about sewing. I will continue to sew, at a lesser capacity as I grow older, until my fingers can no longer hold a needle. I may have never made it to working in a fashion house, but I know people love my work as much as I love it.


Grecian Needle received the
2022 Valdosta’s Best Dressmaker Award


Grecian Needle received the
2020 Valdosta’s Best Dressmaker Award


Helping the Valdosta community

From mid-March to mid-June 2020, I had the opportunity to work my library cataloging job from home. Also, my supervisor was kind enough to let me volunteer my sewing skills to our Valdosta community during the Covid-19 crisis. So, I donated handmade goodies, and one business cleaning service to local businesses worth over $1,308. In detail, I sewed:

  • 62 face masks valued at $558
  • 5 surgical gowns valued at $350
  • 1 leather jacket lining replacement valued at $60
  • 4 upholstered boat cushions valued at $240
  • 1 business cleaning valued at $100

I sewed face masks including a HEPA filter, and surgical gowns for the following local businesses:

  • Dr. Patrick Powell Dental office
  • Maranatha Medical Clinic
  • Mindful Massage and Bodywork
  • Lighthouse Baptist Church
  • South Georgia Medical Center