Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Kazakhstan; WCPO regrets this error.
MASON, Ohio -- You could say that Rita Zhood has sewn her perfect life into a masterpiece.
And like those massive pieces of embroidery that you see displayed in homes and museums, Zhood did it slowly, one stitch at a time.
Today, she is a seamstress, an entrepreneur, and an employer in Mason. She's also a woman and an immigrant, and has three employees who, like her, are seamstresses and immigrants.
"When women work, they work very hard. They know they have to do well, and when they do well, their families do well," said Zhood, 44, who has owned Magic Needle Alterations in Mason for 10½ years now. The small business specializes in sewing and alterations of any type of clothing.
It's been a long journey for Zhood, who was born and raised in the Republic of Kazakhstan, a country in central Asia. The country shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with large areas lining the Caspian Sea.
Kazakhstan was a part of the Soviet Union from 1920 to 1991, when it finally gained independence.
As far back as Zhood can remember, life was always hard. Families scraped by. Food became expensive and sometimes buying clothes was an impossible luxury.
Zhood's family, like others, bought fabric and sewed their own clothes. They stood in department stores and studied the designs, then re-created the dresses.
"I sewed for myself and for my family. I made professional and good-quality clothes. Still, for me, sewing was a hobby. A good skill, but I didn't want to make a living from it," said Zhood, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting in her native country. She also learned English.
Twenty-three years ago, Zhood and her husband, David, 38, emigrated to America. They were determined to have a stable life and the house with the picket fence. The couple have two children, Marina and Roman, both in their twenties.
David got employed as a service technician at Tech 23, where he still works, but Zhood struggled to find a job in her field. Her English skills became an issue.
Bored and lonely, she eventually realized she could fall back on her sewing skills.
For 12 years, she worked at a tailoring shop, Alterations of Springdale. Her talent with the needle shone. Excited customers praised her skills with formal gowns, prom dresses, not to mention simple nips and tucks.
Zhood received so many compliments about her "magic needle" that when she finally had the courage to open her own business, she used those exact words.
Over the years, she has "fixed or altered" wedding and prom dresses, gowns, tutus and costumes. She has sewn curtains and valances. She has worked nights and weekends for homecoming and school concerts. She fixes shoes with fabric and buttons and she alters leather outfits, too.
Zhood has help from three assistants. They are all from Russia and they are still learning English, but they are skilled in their profession.
Munira, 50, is from Uzebekistan. T'ea, 37, is from Georgia. And Gulchakra, 43, is from Kyrgyzstan. They only speak a few phrases of English, but they all said their lives were "much better here" when compared to their former lives and that they "enjoy their work."
Zhood estimates that at least 500 of the clients who come to her business are repeat customers.
Sweaters, pants, shirts, you name it, and she will do it.
"Rita is very reliable and she has such a great memory. She turns around and says '2 inches like before,' " said Waleed El-Ansary, a theology professor at Xavier University.
He explains why Zhood's services are sought out.
"It's such a shame to lose a good piece of clothing because of a small amount of damage. Rita is able to restore it back to its original form," El-Ansary said.
All of the high-end stores in Mason carry Zhood's business card and recommend her to clients if a dress is a bit too loose or too long.
Sarah McGill, 43, a teacher in Mason, said she only buys dresses when they are on sale. Once, she was lucky enough to get a dress for $51 that was originally $189, but it was too long for her petite frame.
"I took it to Rita and she fixed it so well that five of my friends went to the store the next day to look for that same exact dress," McGill said.
Zhood is grateful for her profitable business though she declined to discuss numbers.
"It's a wonderful thing to have your dream come true," Zhood said. "My advice to other women who have talents and want to start their own business is to just do it. I never knew until I did it that I can do it.
"Women can do anything they want in a great country like America. So please make your dreams come true."