ABERDEEN | Surrounded by rainbows of thread, $30,000 of equipment, racks of fancy dresses and shelves of favorite jeans, Gita Webb sits strumming a guitar.
It's the morning and Webb is preparing herself for a day full of sewing, snipping and seaming in her garage-turned-shop.
Webb is used to using her hands — they're her livelihood, after all. So to preserve them throughout the years, she's taken up playing the guitar, to give her mind and body a much-needed respite between hours upon hours of leaning forward, toiling on a minute, detailed scale.
But Webb can honestly say she feels like she hasn't worked a day in her life since starting up her alteration business. It's where she is at home, both physically and spiritually.
"This is easy for me to do because I love it. If there were extra hours in the day, I would sew those extra hours," she said. "Yes, I have to make a living, but it's about loving what you do."
Webb has been doing alterations in Aberdeen for approaching 20 years. But creating a career out of a hobby and staying in the area weren't things she ever considered when she arrived in the U.S. in 1993.
Webb's skills began in her home country of Guyana, where her grandfather was a tailor and her mother acted as his right hand. It was from them that Webb first learned how to embroider. By age 11 she was using that skill to contribute to the family income, picking up scrap pieces of fabric from a local factory.
Such was the norm in small South American countries. All young girls were expected to know how to sew, cook and keep a tidy house.
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After high school, Webb worked for a nearby factory that imported fabric and exported shirts. She cut samples from clothing patterns that were sent back to the U.S. for approval and discovered a passion for the business side of international relations.
Webb wanted to pursue a career that lined up with those goals and so she turned to the U.S., settling in Aberdeen because it was a small town very similar the one she was leaving behind. She graduated from Northern State University with an international business degree and took a job at Menards, where she worked in a supervisory role for a few years.
Around that time, Webb had an unexpected obstacle when she had to be taken to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to undergo brain surgery for an arteriovenous malformation.
On the way, she spotted a sewing machine in the window of a small shop. It made her consider her future and reminded her of a longtime desire to raise a family, coming from a household of 11 children.
A successful surgery and subsequent pregnancy seemed like good reasons to refocus her direction in life, and so Webb began working from home, using the skills she picked up all those years ago to start a career. It wasn't long before local businesses were requesting her alteration and embroidery services, and word of mouth between satisfied customers soon made Gita an Aberdeen staple. Her home business is called Gita's Alterations.
Webb's extended experience means she knows how all of the parts of a single piece fit together to make a garment. She can tackle just about any alteration request, and quickly. Letting out a bridesmaid dress hours before the wedding? Adjusting the hem on a pair of pants for a funeral later the same day? Webb can do it all and she wants to — her alteration business has allowed her to combine a love of working with people with an interest in production.
"I like to help people," she said. "If somebody comes in and they're a big person or a small person, I still make them look good."