Born in 1923 in Fresno, Phillips began as a traditional knitter in her childhood. But after high school, she got into studying design, and then learned weaving under the guidance of Marianne Strengell and Lola Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art situated in Michigan. Phillips followed that up with a stint as a weaver under designer Dorothy Liebes in San Francisco, which helped her discover her own potential as a textile designer.
Her renown as a textile artist grew as she opened her studio in Fresno, and she had the privilege of working on the textiles for the much-renowned Arizona home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Phillips eventually finished her graduation by the year 1960, and it took her another three years to do a masters in fine arts, specializing in innovative textiles.
But the turning point in her career came from the suggestion of a famous fabric designer and friend Jack Lenor Larsen, who urged her towards artistic expression through knitting. Phillips took up her old hobby once more, but this time she had qualifications in fine arts and innovative textiles, and her perspective had evolved from following pre-existing knitting patterns towards contemporary expression.
Philips broke all knitting conventions in order to express herself, using un