Hello and welcome into the Arabesque Studio! This is where the magic happens—my favourite space to unwind and get creative. Feel free to grab a cuppa, sit back, and have a look around.
This is the story of ordinary me.
It's actually a magical story, because it shows how small beginnings can grow into something wonderful.
My childhood was surrounded by family, and I had the important gift of boredom, that left me free to entertain myself. We weren't wealthy and I wasn't over scheduled with planned activities. But I was rich with time and imagination, and being free to use it made all the difference.
I loved to explore how things were made, and experiment with making them myself. I wasn't instantly talented at what I tried, but I always enjoyed the process of learning and problem solving.
My mum dabbled in some basic dressmaking, and I remember that excitement of hearing her sewing machine while I was in bed at night, knowing she was sewing for me, and there would be something new to delight me in the morning.
Mum taught me to use her sewing machine when I was 8. Then she left me to it, and would come and untangle that machine when I got in knots.
Grandma taught me to knit. Because my progress was so slow, she taught me over again every summer.
In my teenage years, when sewing definitely wasn’t cool, I started to make some of my own clothes, and designed my first patchwork quilt.
But I did everything I could to disguise the fact that it was homemade and the ultimate insult for me back then was, 'did you make that?'
Part of me desperately wanted to fit in with the ready made culture, but I never really liked the ready made things on offer. I was always a square peg in a round hole so to speak.
A dream began to form that maybe I could make something just as good or perhaps even better than what could be bought in shops.
I realise now, that the experience of eyeing my work critically, comparing and striving to do better, made me slowly but surely a confident and expert crafter.
When I got married, I turned my new passion into a dressmaking business. There were people who needed custom made clothing, and appreciated the work that went into making them. The learning curve was huge, but so rewarding! I had a whole room devoted to sewing and a huge table to work at.
Our family started growing, and I kept sewing, making baby quilts, toddler clothes, and still dressmaking for clients when I could fit it in.
When time and space became too small to fit the sewing machine anywhere, I turned to learning new crafts like crochet, tatting, embroidery and applique. Small projects that I could pick up and put down easily, but gave a sense of progress and achievement.
Babies and cots, and then little bodies took the place of my sewing room, but joy was always present amidst the chaos, and I always made time to craft a little bit everyday.
During this time of runny noses and broken arms, learning to homeschool and dwell together, family and personal relationships became more important than ever.
I came to realise that my sewing, which I’d once regarded as an almost embarrassing hobby, was actually integral to who I was.
My deep faith in God as our ultimate creator is the source of our abilities, and is the drive behind any creative effort. I became comfortable with my own identity, my unique square peg-ness in a world of round holes.
And now I love to be asked if I’ve made an item.
I’m proud of what I make.
I love that I create for my family, and can give handmade, thoughtful and unique gifts.
Something that most people don’t know how to do anymore while they’re lost in a busy life.
I believe the art of handmade is being lost.
So my purpose was clarified, my passion defined, stitch by stitch. My children are almost all grown, and I now have a lovely studio to sew in again.
My dancing scissors have taken on a richer meaning, and perfectly personified my purpose.
I want to show others, to show you, if you’ve ever been drawn to create, that you can learn to sew and achieve amazing skills.
I want to experience with you that special joy in sewing something with your own two hands.
And above all that feeling of achievement and joy in creating an article stitched with love.
A feeling that truly cannot be bought with money, or sold for any amount.
Let’s do this together.
Ali Phillips is an Australian sewist and entrepreneur with a passion for family, creativity, and organisation.
Over the years I've had so many wonderful blessings, and met so many amazing people. Here's some of the things I'm thankful for.