From Legal Files To Stitching Styles: A Big City Lawyer Reaches Back To Her Small Town Roots
There she was – diplomas on the wall, secretary outside the door, and a full schedule of conference calls and meetings with her clients. Yet something was missing. After seven years of practicing commercial real estate law in Atlanta, Hope Arbery looked around her and realized that, while she loved transactional law and all the excitement of corporate life, threads around her were unwinding: she and her husband worked long hours in tall buildings, and their home seemed to be just a place to eat and sleep.
In 2001, Hope took a break from the corporate world to figure out what to do. She quickly realized that simply staying home without engaging in meaningful contacts with others was out. After a few weeks she was itching to flip through her address book and fill her calendar. As she wondered what to do next, Hope got a call from a neighbor who had broken her arm. She did not realize it then, but it was a call that changed her life.
Hope rushed over and discovered a bumped-and-bruised, but mostly healthy neighbor. In fact, the neighbor’s biggest problem, aside from the bulky cast, was that she needed help completing a few sewing projects for which she had been hired. Hope’s neighbor operated a small fabric workroom in her basement.
Hope immediately knew that she could offer more than just a helping hand. As she helped her neighbor cut and stitch, Hope began to share her own experience and passion for sewing, which had lain dormant ever since she left home for college. She grew up down the country road from her family’s 550-acre sheep and cattle farm in the historic town of Abingdon, Virginia, where her father worked each evening after his “real” job was done for the day.
As a young girl, Hope took a special interest in the sheep, which became like pets. She regularly showed sheep at county and state fairs, and she learned how to make use of their wool. She also entered – and won – a number of sewing competitions. At age nine, Hope began sewing and she especially enjoyed working with wool. By high school, Hope was sewing and tailoring suits, such as her favorite, a red suit made of Pendleton wool, which she created by her bedroom window overlooking a pasture.
Hope’s neighbor listened excitedly, and then offered a word of warning: “Don’t tell your friends you can sew or your phone will not stop ringing! If you start sewing professionally, you’ll never want to work in an office again!”
As Hope continued to help with various sewing projects, memories of crafting patterns and threading needles as a girl in Abingdon flooded back. She was reminded of the values she had learned while growing up there: the centrality of home in a happy life; the joy of creating beautiful things; and the fulfillment of doing something useful.
Hope’s neighbor soon recovered and returned to her own sewing projects. But, by then, Hope realized she’d found her calling. She started taking on her own projects and, before long, she had a regular stream of clients. Her neighbor was right; Hope couldn’t go to the grocery store without running into a friend or acquaintance who needed custom-made window treatments or pillows. Before long, she had a six-month waiting list of work orders!
She converted a downstairs room in her home and worked during the day, when her two boys were at school, or on weekends, when her husband could chip in with household activities. When friends came to visit, they inevitably discovered her workroom and saw her beautifully crafted draperies, pillows, and duvet covers waiting for installation. Even more work orders followed. This was a business that required no advertising.
Since 2001, Hope has designed and produced more than a thousand custom-made, hand-crafted items that continue to beautify special places in her clients’ lives. Her projects have included draperies, curtains, shades, valances, pillows, bed covers and bed skirts, upholstery, furniture coverings, and many other fabric items. She has completed projects for clients in no fewer than 16 states, for living and working spaces in primary and secondary residences, offices, restaurants and other commercial sites, schools, retirement and assisted living homes, and even private yachts.
While Hope has found great success in her home business, she realizes that there is more to this calling than just completing custom projects. She understands that she is helping clients celebrate the spaces that are special in their lives, by making those spaces more comfortable, more inviting, more beautiful, so that those spaces can help create memories and make connections that will enhance and enrich their lives.
Hope also knows that she has tapped into something that many people long for. In the middle of one of the largest cities in the nation, she still holds to the values she learned while growing up in Abingdon.
Hope believes there is no place like home. It is, or should be, the central place in one’s life and a place to be celebrated. That is why Hope’s business is in her home and focused on the home. Hope describes it this way: “There is great value in beautifying your home so that you are excited to share it with friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Sure, you can go out for dinner with friends, but think of how much more special and intimate the occasion will be when you invite them into your home.” As Hope says, “You can’t underestimate how important that thread is that binds you together with others in your life. Cherish it. Love it. Celebrate it. And when you do, invite me over to hear your story.”
Hope also knows there is true joy in creating something with your own hands. The art of making and mending items of fabric, once widely practiced in homes across the country, seems to have fallen by the wayside. So many people are missing out on activities that are accessible to almost anyone. Hope wants not only to help people beautify their homes, but also to share her knowledge, skills, and passion in a very tangible way. She encourages others to learn and practice skills like sewing so that they can experience the same simple satisfaction that she finds every day.