Celebrating 10 years of Arabesque

Looking Back With Gratitude

Feb 2023

Read about how I got started, progressed and where I am today ...

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Arabesque Scissors and I thought I’d share a little bit about how I got started and the story of this fabulous journey.

My hope is that it might inspire you to follow your own journey and enjoy the process. Everything for me has unfolded at the perfect time, as it always does in God’s plan.

I’ve often thought about why this little business of mine came to exist. It’s almost as though it couldn’t not exist. The urge and drive to create and design has been so strong ever since I can remember, and eventually it burst forth into something I just had to share with the world.

I knew there were other women out there who loved the same things I did, because I had started to find those women already sharing their own creative journeys and I loved to follow along! I really had no plan other than to share what I loved doing and hoping that someone out there might be interested.

Was there a place out there for me??

Getting Started

As I’m sure you can relate to, starting is often the hardest step. I wasn’t on social media, I didn’t know anything much about computers and how blogs worked, I didn’t have a business name, or how to take nice photos.

I just knew what I liked, and how to sew and craft my own ideas from scratch.

I sat down one day to figure out a name – that seemed like the logical place to start. It began by writing down a list of words that I liked. I love ballet and the French language, and so I made a list of sewing and ballet words I liked. Words like ‘pirouette’ and ‘needle’ and ‘glissade’ and ‘stitch’. Then I plugged them into an online name generator that spits out all the random combinations you give it.

I didn’t have any faith that this would produce anything memorable – but low and behold there was one- ‘Arabesque Scissors’ and immediately my brain lit up.

I saw it in my minds eye – the dancing scissors.

They were elegant and functional and totally epitomised what creating with thread meant to me. I never dreamed that something so perfectly me would simply plop into my lap, but there it was.

I scribbled a pencil sketch, and that was the first iteration.

From there I went to the next place you go for tech help and things you don’t know about – your teenagers and hubby. My then 15 year old son was a budding graphic designer, and took my sketch and Pinterest board of ballerinas and scissors and made my beautiful lady just the way I envisaged her. I was so excited that this name was available on the WWW!

This is the first logo I had ... I don't even have a large image saved of this version! But you get the idea.

We set up a domain, on 6 December 2012, and on 11 January 2013 I pushed publish on my very first blog post.

You can click through and read that very first post here.

I remember how weird that felt – writing to an unseen audience. Would anybody read it – would anybody care? I remember the frustration of not being able to take better pictures, and the annoyance of how long the whole process actually took.

I was fearful ... so fearful.

I wanted to share and at the same time I was petrified that my sewing wasn’t good enough. The learning curve was so huge it almost turned me off ever writing another blog post. But I couldn’t keep that urge to share suppressed, so I got back up and did it again – albeit a few months later.

Making Progress

In September 2014 I joined Instagram and a whole world of amazing talent opened up! I discovered so many people just like me, and then nearly fell off my chair when we got to know each other and became friends. I was connecting with women all over the globe and the world became a slightly smaller place in the best kind of way.

Gradually I got faster at the tech side of blogging, better at photography, learning to edit pics in Adobe, and more confident showing what I was making.

In 2015 I opened an Etsy shop, selling a few items and taking custom orders for monogrammed name cushions.

My very first sale took a month to happen, and it was a little Holly Hobbie tote bag – I’ll never forget the joy of that first sale and the excitement that the buyer was someone in New York!

In April 2016 I had my first article published in Homespun magazine, another huge pinch me moment. After that I had a few articles published each year in Homespun and Handmade.

Money was really tight for us – we were a homeschooling family of 8 on one income, and so pretty fabric was one of those luxuries that had to be deliberated over and the budget finessed to make it stretch the farthest.

I often dreamed of having a fabric budget that would let me buy what I wanted without having to get one thing and not another. But I was always blessed with kind people gifting me things - and finds in thrift shops. I never went short.

In 2016 I answered an Instagram call from Ava & Neve who needed crafters to make items from Liberty lawn. I never dreamed I’d get an answer, but Martina answered and before I knew it I was the astonished owner of some Liberty fabric.

Something I never thought I’d own.

I knitted some booties for them with Liberty on the soles, and they were the prettiest things ever.

Our relationship blossomed, until I was helping out as an Ava & Neve Socialite and blogging about the monthly Liberty Society. My Liberty collection swelled to fill a whole shelf! I will always be grateful to Marti for taking a chance on me!

We designed the second iteration of my dancing scissors then. She was simpler and a slightly different colour.

Around the same time, I wrote my first pdf pattern, a crocheted Bunny. This was another thing I put my heart and soul into, learning how to use more Adobe software, slowly adding to my body of knowledge.

Then Wynne got some clothes, blanket and basket. She looked so cute with clothes!!

It sold really well on Etsy and opened up to me the world of passive income which was truly another ‘aha’ moment. When you wake up in the morning after making money in your sleep, life is a little bit different.

I did a lot of crochet bunnies in those days - and dressed them in sweet, tiny clothes.

In 2017 I launched my YouTube channel, another truly nerve wracking thing. At the time it was something I wanted to try, but I didn’t have the time to devote to regular videos, so it wasn’t something I focused on.

As my children grew up and left homeschool, I had more time to devote to working in Arabesque, and I could see a clearer vision of what I wanted it to become. I loved designing my own patterns more than anything and had so much delight seeing others make my designs!

Finding Focus

Like many of you, I’m pulled to many different forms of craft. I love crochet, knitting, embroidery, quilting and sewing for a start. I knew that I needed to really specialise and focus on just one area to actually be productive.

At first, I wanted to be a quilt designer and sew masses of colourful, squishy quilts. I thought that being able to make an income doing this meant I’d finally be an adult lol. In 2019 I had a quilt accepted into Love Patchwork & Quilting and this was a total pinch me moment.

I had to wait a long time to finally see my quilt in print because the whole world blew up at the start of 2020, but eventually it was published in December. I was so proud of that quilt and now it’s on my daughter’s bed and I love that she loves it so much.

But there were so many roadblocks for me becoming a full-time quilter. Whilst I love quilts with a passion, I don’t love the process of putting them together. Making quilts is really expensive. It’s heavy work cutting and sewing and quilting large pieces of fabric and my fibromyalgia meant that much of this was quite an ordeal to be endured.

Not to mention, I find repetitive work really boring! There are times I don’t mind it, but the thought of this being my reality much of the time was not something I was excited about.

I really believe if things are this hard, it might just be time to reassess everything at grass roots.

So I gave myself a pep talk and analysed my motivations –and permission to not be a quilter, for now anyway. I asked what things that I enjoyed making the most, and instantly the world felt a lot brighter again. I had a purpose I could get behind and things seemed much more within my reach. I enjoy making smaller, functional projects – useable everyday products.

In 2020, while the world was shutting down in many ways, creative entrepreneurs had an opportunity to thrive. I know a lot of people really struggled in this time, but for me, it was a surreal time of being able to love on my family and stay home and create! My sales boomed and my connections with other sewists did as well.

My son Tim, who by now was a fully qualified and super talented qraphic designer came onboard to re-brand my business.

We refocused my purpose, he built me a new website, and my dancing scissors got another redesign and grew up a little bit (she lost her skirt!).

In August we launched a brand-new site focusing on one of my great passions ... organisation.

When things are cluttered, jumbled, and uncategorised I really struggle to feel relaxed and calm. As we’re always messing up our spaces with day-to-day life, it’s become an ongoing hobby of mine to keep sorting and develop systems that help keep order – and I love applying it to my sewing space, and now sharing with others how to improve their own systems.

In March 2021 I designed the Smart Sofa Station for the Tilda Club and released it to the rest of the world in November. That really was the spark that changed everything and solidified my purpose. It transformed my stitching life, and if you’re someone who stitches and crafts every day, you know how important a sorted sofa space is to your sanity.

The Smart Sofa Station helps you relax knowing you can find everything you need right on the arm of your chair.

Around this time I approached Janome about becoming a Janome Maker, and they said yes! This was another amazing opportunity to try out a wonderful machine, the Continental M7, and support a company I really love. I’ve had 18 fun months exploring a beast of a machine and have really enjoyed myself.

Looking Forward

As we click over my 10th Anniversary, I can truly say I’ve had a blessed decade.

I’ve learned so much about running a business, made great connections and dear friends. I'm still learning so much - I'm learning to let go of fear. It's always there lurking in the shadows.

Best of all I've discovered those anonymous people who I wondered would ever read my blog, or care about what I was doing, are becoming more real and familiar every day. I’m selling my patterns all over the world and finding out what a wonderful impact they’re having as they touch women’s lives.

I used to be embarrassed about my early blog posts and the amateur way they looked, but now, I’m excited to look back at them. I wouldn’t be here today without those first steps, and I’ve learned that the journey is the more important than the destination.

I’m truly thankful to God, and to each one of you who has bought a pattern, made a tutorial from my blog and especially sent me a message telling me what you’re doing.

I hope you stay walking with me, as we navigate the future.

I also hope that my story inspires you to have the courage to start that dream you’ve always been wanting to start. To take those baby steps that won’t be perfect but will be progress.

Keep learning, growing, and finding your purpose.

It’s hard work, but it's the best work ... joyful and fulfilling.

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Meet Ali Phillips

So glad you stopped by for a read! I'm a sewist with a passion for family, creativity, & organisation.