Handiwork distinguishes the uniforms of military members in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program and others at Sheppard Air Force Base

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Young Lillis, right, takes an embroidering order from Paris Krula at the Amazing Threads shop on Burkburnett Road near Sheppard Air Force Base. (Photo: Torin Halsey/Times Record News)Buy Photo

Greg and Yong Lillis began their journey as entrepreneurs without a scrap of knowledge about needlework, military patch design or complicated sewing machines.

Over the years, the Wichita Falls couple has stitched together Amazing Threads, a small business created from hard work, fearlessness and a passion for needlecraft accuracy.

Their handiwork distinguishes the uniforms of military members in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program and others at Sheppard Air Force Base.

Indeed, Amazing Thread’s custom embroidery, colorful patches, engraved name tags, helmet covers and other gear appear on service members’ clothing around the world.

Greg Lillis and his wife, Young Lillis, own and operate Amazing Threads, a custom embroidery shop near Sheppard Air Force Base. The business also does sewing, alterations, shirts, hats, patches and engraving. (Photo: Torin Halsey/Times Record News)

But law-enforcement officers, veterans and countless others also rely on the Lillises to take an idea and make it wearable, as well as to perform sewing and alterations for a custom fit.

A wide variety of colors and thread types are available for the custom embroidery work done at Amazing Threads. (Photo: Torin Halsey/Times Record News)

“It’s just word of mouth and quality of work,” Greg said, “using the best equipment available, top materials.”

Even during a slow Thursday afternoon, the bell dinged as customers such as a pilot in a flight suit came by to pick up or drop off work at 4114 Burkburnett Road near Sheppard.

Pinned to a board, a large square bearing a design for the Texhoma Bull Riding Association bore an eye-catching bull bucking away while a rider hung on.

Embroidery machines in the shop follow computer-issued orders to create designs with up to 15 different colors of thread at a time.

The variety is likely necessary to meet demand, especially for NATO pilots. New classes of trainees start about every six weeks. Each trainee needs a minimum of two jackets and three flight suits with multiple items. Unique patches, monikers and slogans are part of the culture for pilot training, as well as the overall military.

Young Lillis, co-owner of Amazing Threads, does some alterations on a military uniform using industrial sewing equipment at the business near Sheppard Air Force Base. (Photo: Torin Halsey/Times Record News)

“Straight Outta ENJJPT, The Story of 16.08” and “The Mobflight, We Can Make It Look Like an Accident” are among Amazing Thread’s creations along those lines.

Besides the Burkburnett Road shop, a location on base fills orders, and the small business employs four full-time workers and one part-time.

Sometimes Greg’s mom even helps out when it’s really busy, and his brother, Lance Lillis, is on staff.

A retired police sergeant, Greg was still working at the Wichita Falls Police Department when Yong came home from her job as a sushi chef and made an announcement.

Pay was good at Samurai of Tokyo, but Yong was tired of long hours in the restaurant. Greg was taken aback by what she said next.

Looking up from a sewing machine Thursday, Yong said she had passed a shop featuring embroidery, and the idea just stuck in her head.  

They bought their first computerized embroidery machine for $16,000 on a lease-with-option-to-buy arrangement in 2003.

Their first client owned a roofing company. A storm had blown through town, and the couple’s house needed repairs. The company owner noticed the embroidery machine at their home.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll design it,’ ” Greg said. “That was our first order. We did like two dozen hats.”

Business took flight solely on word of mouth, and he told Yong he was happy as long as she was making the monthly payment on the machine.

Greg, himself, served six years in the Air Force as a military policeman and was stationed at SAFB before going to work for the city’s police force.

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The couple wanted to make military name tapes – which are regulated by the Department of Defense. Only certain founts and threads are permissible.

He and Yong stand ready to answer the call for custom embroidery, sewing and probably some services they haven’t thought of yet.

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