Category Archives: crafting

get inspired: free coloring page!

I try to find something to get inspired about (or get excited about!) every day, and it’s always been my goal for this blog to do the same for you: to offer a little bit of inspiration (or maybe even education).

Last week, I found inspiration in many places, and actually had a pretty amazing week, making-wise (more on that later).

One bit of inspiration came courtesy of the always amazing Meryl Streep, and our dearly departed rebel princess, Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher quote mandala coloring page

Meryl’s speech was amazing in lots of ways, but that closing quote hit me hard in the feels! I was surprisingly weepy and pretty heartbroken when I heard about Carrie Fisher’s death, and I had considered myself more-or-less recovered until I heard that speech.

The sentiment alone is so powerful…I’ve always felt that creativity is transformative, and that making things can literally change your life (it changed mine). But to know it came out of the mouth of one of my favorite people ever? A personal hero of grade-school Valerie and real life role model for grown-up Valerie? The phrase was stuck in my head all last week.

I did a sketch on Thursday and I hated it, but I went back to one of my favorite mandalas from my sketch book (the one that ended up on the regina tote bag), and this coloring page is the result.

Click here to download it, and spend some time this week (or whenever) with your markers, crayons, or colored pencils. I’d love to see your finished versions!





the de-stash shop is open!

In the process of redesigning Holland Cox products, I’ve found that some of my stash is no longer what it needs to be.

So I’m getting rid of some of it!

fat quarters in purple, orange, and brown

My Etsy shop is eventually going to be 100% sewing supplies, but for now it’s a mix of clearance and de-stash items.

Click here to check it out!

I have added a few fat quarter bundles and all of my #3 nylon coil zippers that are just sitting around, not being used.  These would be perfect for zip pouches!


pink nylon coil zippers


Do you want to know when more becomes available? Join my Syndicate Sewing list and get tutorials and sewing tips sent right to your inbox, plus be the first to know when new patterns, fabric, or notions get added to my shop!





my favorite ways to customize fabric

I’ve been in love with fabric for so long that designing my own has always been inevitable! Digital design and ink drawing have both been preoccupations of mine lately, but they aren’t the only techniques I use in my quest for customized fabric…

Here are my top three favorites right now:

denim pouch with gold topstitching

topstitching on fabric

Anything you can draw on fabric you can stitch on fabric! Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with the classic windowpane check. It’s so simple but so bold that it never gets old. I especially love the classic combination of gold thread on dark blue denim.

I also love to combine topstitching with ink drawings or paintings (as seen on the regina tote bag below). It adds a certain depth to the surface design.


closeup of regina tote bag from Holland Cox


Tips for getting it right:

  •  Use a new needle! Dull needles are the #1 cause of skipped stitches.
  •  Mark your stitching lines with white wax chalk. A hot iron makes it disappear from almost any fabric (still test it first, though!)
  •  Be strategic about your thread choice – I use heavy duty buttonhole twist because I like the texture, and the way it makes the color pop!


zip pouch with DC flag reverse applique

reverse applique

There’s so many ways to reverse applique, all with a different end result. I used the simplest form for my DC Flag zip pouch above. First, I traced the design on the wrong side of the red denim. Then, I carefully cut out the stars and bars with super sharp scissors. Then I pinned the denim to the gold print and stitched around the stars and bars with gold topstitching thread. I left the raw edge, because I like the way the fraying denim looks. Done!

Here’s the same technique I used on a wristlet from my sanctuary collection from 2012, only with wool felt and linen instead of denim and metallic cotton:


wristlet featuring reverse applique from Holland Cox


tips for getting it right:

  • If you use interfacing, apply it before tracing and cutting out your design.
  • Choose fabric that won’t fray or that frays attractively.
  • Follow topstitching tips from above, OR use a wide, short zig zag stitch to imitate a satin stitch along the raw edges.
  • Position the applique away from stress points like zippers and pockets…you have just cut a hole in your fabric after all!


zip pouch with painted star motif


painting on fabric

After my obsession with drawing, painting on fabric became the obvious next step. For the zip pouch above, I used freezer paper to make a stencil of this 8-pointed star, which I ironed on to pre-washed canvas. Then I painted in the star using a tiny little sponge, to avoid the look of brush strokes. I used paint especially formulated for painting on fabric (it stays flexible as it dries), but I’ve heard plain old acrylic works, too.

The pink and gold polka dots on the felicity tote were painted with a brush and more or less free-hand. Making this tote served as my gate-way drug for painting on fabric…now I have a whole set of paints and it’s a big problem!


close up of Felicity tote from Holland Cox


tips for getting it right:

  • You must pre-wash and dry your fabric! No exceptions.
  • Use freezer paper to make stencils for crisp, clean edges.
  • Put a layer of cardboard behind your fabric before you paint, for stability and easy clean-up.
  • Use light brush strokes if free-hand painting, you can always go back afterwards and add more.


I love the idea of sewing something completely unique by customizing the fabric in some way before I start! If any of these techniques have inspired you, or if you’ve tried them before, I’d love to see pictures of what you’ve made. Share links below, or contact me directly. Happy making!



in bloom year round

Fabric flowers are so great – they are fun to make, easy to wear, and add color and interest to your outfit. I’ve used them on several handbags from my main collections, including the zaria envelope clutch, the oasis wristlet, and the idyllic envelope clutch:

fabric flower embellishments on the idyllic envelope clutch

They are also, of course, awesome to wear on your person – on a lapel or in your hair, or even instead of jewelry.

I’ve been meaning to write a tutorial on how to make fabric flowers forever, but never got around to it because there are only a million ways to make fabric flowers.

But, I have found my focus, and this tutorial is going to focus on only ONE technique: turning a ruffle into a flower. To illustrate the several different looks you can get with this one technique, I’m going to make flower embellishments for three items from my 2 Yards 10 Gifts e-book: the obi belt, the envelope clutch, and the bedroom slippers.

raw materials for making fabric flowers

step one: choose your materials
Literally any type of fabric will work for this. In fact, the more varied your materials the more awesome your final product will look, especially if you’re going to group a bunch of flowers together.

I chose a cotton print, cotton jersey, linen, wool, and of course (my favorite), double faced satin ribbon. Nothing beats fancy ribbon for pretty shine and saturated color!

I cut strips 20″ long, but this is not something that requires precise measurements. Don’t fret, there’s no wrong way to do this!

strips of fabric

step two: finish the edge
How do you want the edges of your flower petals to look? Some fabrics look awesome with a raw edge, both those that don’t unravel (felt, leather, jersey), and those that fray very prettily (linen, silk).

What about finishing off the edge with a narrow hem, or with bias tape, or a serger stitch? You can also fold the fabric to get a soft edge, or press the fold to get a sharp, creased edge. There are so many options!

trim the edge to create a shaped petal

With raw edges, you can also cut shapes into them, if you want more traditional looking “petals.” I cut my red wool into rounded petals, and my green cotton jersey into pointed ones. To do this, just fold the strip of fabric accordion-style, and then trim off one raw edge however you like.

ruffles to be shaped into flowers

step three: make the ruffles
The best way to make a ruffle is to run a long basting stitch down one edge of the fabric, and tug gently on one bobbin thread until your fabric gathers the way you like.

Your basting stitch can be right up against the edge, right down the middle (for a tuxedo style ruffle, like the black linen above), or somewhere in between, depending on the effect you like.

cotton jersey flower
cotton jersey flower with folded edge and a fabric knot center

step four: twist & stitch
All that’s left to do is twist your ruffle into a concentric circle, and stitch it together by hand, so that it stays in a flower shape. That’s it!

You may want to use a few pins to hold your flower together while you sew it. You may want to cut a small circle of some sturdy fabric to use as a base for your flower (felt is great for this), but these are both optional.

fabric flowers on an obi belt

Sometimes the flowers won’t need anything in the center; sometimes you might want to add a little something, like a button or a bead (or several…or both!).

Sometimes I’ll use a smaller flower as the center of a larger one. Or sometimes I’ll use a small bit of ribbon or other trim and tie it into a knot to form the center.

cotton and satin fabric flower

The last step is to figure out how to attach your flower! If you want to wear it lots of different ways, sew a pin backing on to the back. If you’d like to wear them in your hair, sew on a hair clip, bobby pin, or hair comb. Or, just sew the fabric directly onto the item!

gigantic red wool flower for bedroom slippers

As always, I’d love to see pictures of your flowers, and how you plan to wear them!





diy fabric envelopes for valentine’s day

Yes, it’s an utterly made up holiday. But what’s wrong with making up a reason to tell people around you that you care? Nothing. Especially if you do it with something handmade!

These fabric envelopes are an all-purpose gift. Whether you are celebrating February 14 with friends, family, or your sweetheart, you can do it with these pretty keepsake fabric envelopes.

finished fabric envelopes in three fabrics

This is a three-way tutorial, based on three types of fabric: a cotton print, silk dupioni, and thick and fluffy eco felt.

All three make really pretty ways to present your Valentine’s Day gifts, whether they are love letters, a simple greeting, or a gift card.

pattern for your fabric envelopes

step 1: draft your pattern
This pattern is incredibly simple and can be made in pretty much any dimensions. Draw out your pattern on a bit of posterboard or paper you have laying around (newspaper perhaps? magazines from last month?).

Check out the image above. On my pattern, a = 4 inches and b = 8 inches. Make yours anything you like.

For the cotton and silk envelopes, you’ll need to add a seam allowance as well. I like to use a 3/8″ seam allowance, so that’s what I added to each edge.

double faced satin ribbon

step 2: choose a closure
We’re trying to keep this simple, yes? So we’ll need an envelope closure that is easy and attractive. I hate velcro, and snaps are ugly, and making buttonholes is a PITA, so I chose ribbon closures. I have a ton of ribbon, plus it’s so pretty and colorful!

I used grosgrain ribbon to go with the cotton and the felt, and double faced satin to go with the silk dupioni, for a more posh effect.

cut fabric for fabric envelopes

step 3: cut your fabric
Your next step is to cut the fabric. Use your paper pattern to cut one of whatever fabric you’re using. If you are using the cotton print, you’ll need two pieces of fabric, one for the outside and one for the lining.

attach ribbon to right side of flap

step 4: attach the ribbon
For the cotton and silk envelopes, attach one end of the ribbon to the right side of the fabric at the point of the flap.

Make sure the ribbon is laying down on the fabric, with the other end towards the bottom of the envelope.

finished hems on silk envelope

step 5: finish the edges
The next step for the silk envelope is to finish the raw edges. You’ll do this by folding and pressing down (to the wrong side) a narrow hem on all sides, and then stitching it down.

Fold down the tip of the envelope flap before you fold down the sides. I used a 3/8″ hem, but use a bigger one if it’s easier for you. Use a hot steamy iron to get nice sharp creases in your silk, then sew the hems down in matching thread, making sure to catch the ribbon when you sew the tip of the envelope flap.

topstitching on felt envelope

For the felt bag, it doesn’t really matter which side you attach the ribbon, as felt does not have a “right side.” It’s up to you which becomes the right side when you do the topstitching.

I chose to topstitch so that the pointed tip of the envelope flap was visible, so my ribbon ended up being on the wrong side (it wouldn’t matter either way if I used topstitching thread in my bobbin, but I didn’t).

Topstitch along the angled edges of the flap, and along the envelope bottom.

sew self to lining, leaving an opening at the bottom

step 6: sew together
For the cotton envelope, your next step is to sew the lining to the print. Sew all the way around, leaving at least 2″ along the bottom open.

Backstitch at the beginning and end of that opening, and make sure you don’t sew over the ribbon! Trim the corners and then turn it right side out. Iron flat, making sure all the corners and seams lie nice and flat.

how to neatly finish a seam

Now all three envelopes are ready to be finished! Fold the bottom of the envelope to meet the bottom edge of the flap, and then sew along each side.

See the image above for a nice neat way to finish your seams…bring your top thread to the back side of the fabric using a hand needle, and then tie the thread ends together in a knot. It’s nicer looking than backstitching, and just as secure.

The last step is to fold down the envelope flap, and use a hot iron to flatten the crease…remember to use a press cloth when ironing your eco felt!

DIY fabric envelopes three ways

You’re done! Put your love letters or your Starbucks gift cards or your tickets to Hawaii (or whatever) inside your pretty fabric envelopes, and tie them up with the pretty ribbons.

You make these for any holiday of course, not just Valentine’s Day. Stuff the envelope full of cash for a newly wed couple or a college student, or make several as a super-fancy way to deliver invitations to a swank dinner party. Have fun with it, and let me see pictures of the ones you make!


summer skirt refashioned from old dress shirts

It seemed like last week was dress shirt refashion week on Pinterest…I came across several really cute ones, including this one inspired by Grosgrain.

They got me thinking about all the dress shirts sitting in my closet left over from my office job days. I should really do something with those, I thought. Here’s the end result:

finished refashioned skirt

I used three shirts – two long sleeved and one short sleeved, all shades of blue. The long sleeved ones were striped and the other was solid.

These guys were workhorses of my business casual wardrobe, especially when I was under 30 and still making an effort to look professional and grown up. I particularly loved to wear the dark blue one with a black jacket with a very sharp collar and lab-coat length hem (remember those!?).

blue striped shirt BEFORE a165space light blue striped shirt BEFORE


I wanted a pull-on skirt with an elastic waist, that was wider and fuller than the tutorials I had seen. I wanted the end result to be very casual and patchwork-y.

I decided on a gored skirt that would showcase the different stripes, and a 3 inch wide elastic waistband that would show off the gathers at the waist.

Three shirts that were mostly the same size meant I’d have twelve gores, four from each shirt. The long sleeves from two of the shirts would become the waist band.

three shirts = twelve parts

The first step was to cut the shirts into parts. I cut off the sleeves, cuffs, and collars, but kept the button plackets in place. I thought it would look cute on the final skirt to leave the buttons visible.

I also picked out any bust or back darts with a seam ripper so the fabric would lie flat as possible.

The next step was to make a pattern for my skirt gores.

skirt gore template

drafting your pattern
For a wide, flippy gored skirt, each gore should be a trapezoid shape. You only need three measurements to draft this pattern: how long your skirt will be (A), your waist measurement divided by how many gores you have (B), and how wide you want your skirt hem to be divided by how many gores you have (C). Don’t forget to add seam and hem allowances!

a word on the waistline
A gathered skirt needs a waistband that is bigger than your actual waist. How much bigger depends on how full you want your skirt to be. For a nice full skirt, try 150% of your waist measurement. So, if your waist = 30 inches, your skirt waistband = 45 inches. On your pattern, B = 3.75 inches (45 divided by 12, or the number of gores in your skirt) + seam allowances.

pattern layout on shirt remnant

I laid out my pattern on my shirt parts at an angle, because I wanted to preserve the button plackets.

Once I had all twelve gores cut, I spent some time arranging them in a pleasing order, since I had three different fabrics going – two different stripes and a solid.

skirt gores in a pleasing arrangement

I decided to keep the buttons showing, but to sew over the button holes…which meant my twelve gores were no longer identical sizes.

This didn’t bother me, since I was going for a casual patchwork look. But if you wanted your gores to be identical, this is something you’d deal with at the cutting and layout stage

Because I topstitched the shirt parts with the buttons attached, if I wanted them to be the same size as the other gores, I would have cut them without a seam allowance on that side.


Once all twelve gores were sewn together, the next step was to prepare the fabric waistband. The long sleeves from two of the shirts were perfect for this job!

I cut open the sleeve seams, and cut them into identical rectangles 6.5″ wide. I needed fabric that would cover both sides of my 3″ wide elastic, plus seam allowance to stitch to the skirt itself.

After stitching on the waistband, I then sewed the last seam on the skirt, joining the gores on each end and the waistband, so I had a complete skirt, although one that was not yet wearable.

attach the waistband a165space a waistband 150% the size of my waist!

You see how huge my waistband looked! The next step was to insert the elastic into the fabric waistband.

preparing the elastic waistband
Before I got to gathering the skirt, I needed to prepare my elastic waistband. You can use this technique for any elastic waistband…you don’t even need to measure your waist!

1. Wrap a length of elastic around your waist where you’d like your skirt to sit, making sure to stretch the elastic so it is snug enough to keep the skirt on you, (but not too tightly!), and overlap the ends 1″. Snip. Now you have a length of elastic that will form your waistband.

2. Overlap the ends of the elastic 1″ and sew them together with a zig zag stitch over both raw edges. Now you have a closed circle of elastic.

stitch ends of elastic band together

Now I needed reference points on my elastic and on the fabric waistband of the skirt, so I could match them up to sew together, since the skirt is significantly bigger than the elastic. The easiest way to do this is with evenly spaced pins. Check it:

3. Fold your elastic band flat in half, and place a pin at each end. Imagine that these mark the side seams of your skirt.

4. Then fold your elastic band flat the other way, so that the two pins meet in the middle. Now imagine that these pins mark the center front and center back of your skirt.

mark one end of the elastic band with a pin a165space make the pins in each end meet in the center

Place two more pins in each end of the elastic band. Now you have four evenly spaced pins, marking each side seam and the center front and center back.

5. Next, make the front center pin meet one of the side seam pins, and the back center pin meet the other side seam pin. Then use two more pins to mark the new side seams.

Repeat the process until you have eight evenly spaced pins (without measuring)!

eight evenly spaced pins

making the skirt fit the elastic waistband
Time to put the gathers in! This part is just like making ruffles…I used the longest basting stitch on my machine to put in two stitch lines all around the top of the fabric waistband of my skirt, 3/8″ apart.

If you want to take these stitches out later, I recommend using a contrasting color thread, so they’re easy to pick out. I used the same color thread since I planned on leaving them in.

long basting stitches

The next step was to mark the skirt with pins, using the same technique I used on the elastic band, so I had eight evenly spaced pins all around the top of my skirt.

After the skirt was properly pinned, I gently pulled on the basting threads to gather the skirt slightly, making sure the gathers were evenly spaced all around the skirt.

matching pins in the skirt to the elastic

Then, I matched the pins in the skirt to the pins in the elastic band, pulling on the basting stitches to gather the skirt evenly between each set of pins.

Once the skirt was gathered enough to fit the elastic band exactly, I secured them together with more pins, and sewed them together along the top edge, using a nice wide zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and stitched to the elastic

Lovely! Look at all those pretty gathers!

Now, the next step was to fold the elastic over, so that the top edge of the elastic (now sewn to the gathered edge of the skirt waistband) met the inside seam where the skirt was sewn to the fabric waistband.

But the skirt was still bigger than the elastic waistband down there, so I needed another basting stitch in order to do more gathering.

This time, I used red thread, because I knew I wanted to take this stitch out after the gathering was done, and the elastic was sewn in place.

another long basting stitch

This step was a little bit tricky, because I had no pins to guide me, but I just eyeballed it…I pulled on the red basting stitch until the fabric was gathered enough so the elastic waistband could meet the top seam of the skirt neatly.

I pinned the elastic to the skirt all the way around, making sure the gathers were as even as I could make them. Then I sewed it in place, again using a zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and pinned and waiting to be sewn

Finito! The last step was to remove the red basting stitch, and my skirt was ready to wear!

I may go back and even out the hem, but honestly I probably won’t. I didn’t cut off the shirt hems when I was cutting the skirt gores, so the finished skirt hem is all uneven and wonky, but I kind of like it that way.

wonky hem

You can never have too many fun summer skirts!

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll like the Syndicate newsletter even more. New tutorials, sewing patterns, and sewing tips & tricks every month! Click here to subscribe.


tutorial: fabric chandelier earrings

UPDATE: You can now purchase a kit to make these lovely earrings! Click here to check it out!

I don’t make jewelry. Partly because I love buying handmade jewelry (my #1 vice when attending craft shows), and partly because the materials don’t intrigue me enough to want to make things out of them. I’m more interested in the finished product than the parts.

But – and you already know thisI love fabric. And for a while I’ve had vague intentions of making jewelry out of fabric. As much as I love handmade jewelry, I haven’t found much in the way of fiber jewelry that I actually like.

Today, while procrastinating when I should’ve been sewing ipad covers for the Art Star Craft Bazaar, I made these:

fabric chandelier earrings in orange

They took FOREVER but it was so much fun and I am so very in love with them, I thought I’d share how I did it!

There are a ton of tutorials out there on how to make fabric button earrings and the like…but for me, there’s no point to earrings that aren’t swingy and dangly, know what I mean?

materials for fabric earrings

materials needed
I used less than a quarter yard of quilting cotton to form the “petals.” You could probably make two pairs of these with one fat quarter.

I attached the petals to super skinny 1/8″ wide satin ribbon with tiny 6mm jump rings. The earrings are finished with french hooks, because like I said, I need my earrings to be swingy.

You’ll also need matching thread and a super-sharp hand needle, plus a sewing machine and a hot iron.

cutting bias strips

making the fabric petals
The fabric portion of these earrings are actually slightly modified petals of the flower hair clips I make.

1. Cut bias strips of your chosen fabric 1.5″ wide. Then sew them into tubes with right sides together, using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance off, turn them right side out, and iron them flat with a hot steamy iron. Make sure the seam stays to one edge.

bias tubes of fabric ironed flat bias tubes cut into petals a165space

2. Cut your flat bias tubes into short pieces that you’ll sew into petals. For each earring, you’ll need three pieces 3.25″ long, and three pieces 4.25″ long.

I had these bias tubes leftover from making the ruffles on the thalia classic handbag from my 2011 spring collection, so I used three different coordinating prints.

No reason you couldn’t use a single print for these earrings, or even a solid color. Or, you could make every petal different. A great way to use up small scraps! These would look fantastic in silk dupioni, or something sheer (oh, I’ll be making more, for sure!).

skinny ribbon tied onto jump ring

start with your ribbon
I used really skinny ribbon with tiny jump rings because that’s what I had in my stash, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use wider ribbon and bigger jump rings, if that’s the look you want.

3. Start by cutting a 7″ long bit of ribbon and tying a knot in the center around a jump ring. Eventually the french hook will attach to the finished earring here.

ribbon with three pairs of jump rings

4. Next, you need something to hang your petals from, so slide some more jump rings onto the ribbon, and secure them in pairs, the way you would with a D-ring buckle on a ribbon belt.

I decided on six petals, so I have three pairs of jump rings, more or less evenly spaced apart. You could easily add or subtract pairs, obviously. They aren’t sewn onto the ribbon, but they don’t slide at all, the double thickness of ribbon keeps them in place quite nicely.

fabric petal with jump ring attached fabric petal with jump ring secured a165space

make your petals
5. Join the opposite ends of the bias strip together, so its folded end curls in to form a petal shape. Thread a jump ring onto your needle, and secure the raw ends of the petal with a single wide stitch.

6. Next, pull the thread tight so the top edges of the petal fold together tightly, making sure the jump ring (and its opening) is protruding from the top.

finished fabric petal

7. Secure the jump ring to the petal with a few stitches (3 should do it – you don’t want too much thread bulk), and then wrap the raw edges with your thread.

Bury the end of the thread underneath the wrapping, and them trim off the excess.

six finished petals - enough for 1 earring

lather, rinse, repeat
Almost done! Repeat steps 5-7 for all of your petals. If you’re using different fabrics, take a moment once all twelve are finished to decide on a pleasing arrangement.

8. Join your petals to your ribbon using the jump rings, pairing a small petal with a large one for each pair of jump rings. (Use a pair of jewelry pliers to gently open the jump ring at the top of each petal, and slip it into the jump ring on the ribbon.) I tried to make sure the petals curled in opposite directions.

single finished fabric chandelier earring

Viola! My earrings turned out to be about 4.5″ long, so they brush my collarbones. I haven’t even had them for 24 hours and they are already my new favorite thing!

These are perfect for me: colorful and dramatic, but still quite casual, since they are made of cotton fabric. I’m definitely going to store them hanging; I’m afraid if I lay them down in a jewelry box the petals will get crushed…they are a little small to iron smooth again.

If you make a pair, I’d love to see them!

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll like the Syndicate newsletter even more. New tutorials, sewing patterns, and sewing tips & tricks every month! Click here to subscribe.


make something everyday

decoupage thank you cards

Last year around this time, I decided I was going to try to make something everyday in 2010. My theory was that creativity is a muscle that needs loving care and exercise for it to flourish, and I still believe that. I figured now would be a good time to evaluate my success regarding that little endeavor. Accountability, and all that.

I think if I had to give myself an overall grade on this project, it would be a C+. I did very well in some ways, and very poorly in others.

embroidery practice

On the one hand, I am pretty sure I came very close to actually making something every single day of 2010. I spent an awful lot of time with my sewing machine and sketchbook last year! 2010 was my first full year doing Holland Cox full time, so no pesky day job (or sleeping, in some cases) to get in the way!

On the other hand, the point of the goal was to do crafty, creative things other than making handbags as much as I could. I was trying to diversify, pick up new skills, explore other avenues and all that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t accomplish that goal. The vast majority of my sewing in 2010 was fulfilling orders and preparing for craft shows.

knit jersey fabric flower

Most importantly, I didn’t come anywhere near taking enough photos of the things that I made. My Flickr account (where I was posting my daily project photos) is extremely bare for someone who spends as much time as I do sewing. You’ll notice that there aren’t any pictures from May 2010, and I assure you I spent 100% of my waking hours making things in May (I had a craft show every weekend, plus several bridal party orders!). Either I was too busy, or I simply forgot to take pictures most of the time!

Also, since so much of my sewing was Holland Cox-related, it got sort of boring after a while. How many versions of the jewelry roll do you need to see, really?

So, to sum up: WIN on sewing all the time, FAIL on sewing new things often enough, and FAIL on taking enough pictures and posting them.

custom keychain

I still think it’s really important to practice at being creative, and to stretch your creativity as much as you can on a regular basis. However, this year I plan on increasing my commitment to recording that practice – I think there’s something for me to learn by looking back on older projects, for example. Not only that, but without pictures, it would be impossible for me to share what I’ve learned with you!

If you have a Flickr account, I’d love to connect over there! Maybe we can keep each other accountable while we stretch our creative muscles!


tutorial: mini pocketbook

I’m sure that many of you, like me, are on an eternal quest for organization. I know I’m not alone in finding the Container Store’s promise of a perfect, organized life utterly seductive. But here’s the thing…I don’t really like purging, I love my stuff. Therefore I also love pretty things in which to stash my stuff, so I get to enjoy my fantasy of being organized and contained.

This tutorial is about helping you stay organized, in a quick, easy, and super-cute way. It is a distilled version of the Holland Cox pocketbook, and is a breeze to make. It’s got six pockets, a loop for a pen, and a very simple but expandable closure. A perfect project for a beginning sewer who doesn’t need any more pillows or placemats! Let’s get started.

the mini pocketbook

the pattern
…is only four rectangles. I recommend measuring out your rectangles onto spare paper or poster board. All four are 9.25″ wide.

  • the body is 7.25″ tall.
  • the large pocket is 5.5″ tall
  • the medium pocket is 4.25″ tall
  • the small pocket is 3″ tall

materials needed
I chose a vintage cotton canvas for the body in a bright retro floral, and quilting weight cotton in a matching color for the interior. Denim, duck cloth, corduroy, or heavy weight upholstery fabric would also be appropriate for the body.

You’ll also need a button and a bit of elastic for the closure, and a bit of ribbon for the pen. You could probably use elastic for the pen loop too, or even a strip of fabric.

I used two layers of mid-weight interfacing on the body to give it some heft. I like to use Pellon brand craft-fuse, a non-woven fusible interfacing. A half yard of quilting cotton will be more than enough for your interior pockets.

materials needed for your mini pocketbook

cutting your fabric
You’ll be cutting the body in a single layer and the pockets on the fold. Fold your lining fabric so that the raw, cut edges are matching, and place the long sides of your pocket pattern pieces along the fold.

  • the body: cut 1 of your outer fabric (the canvas), and one of your lining (the quilting cotton)
  • the pockets: cut 1 of the lining fabric on the fold for each pocket

preparing your fabric
The first step is ironing your fabrics. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the interfacing to the wrong side of your outer fabric. Let it cool slightly before applying the second layer. Iron your pockets so that they each have a nice crease along the top, and they are all the same width.

start with the pockets
1. Line up your pockets by size, with the largest on the bottom and the smallest on top, and baste them onto the body lining along the bottom.

2. Sew a line down the center to divide your three pockets into six. To find the exact center, fold in half and iron a crease, and then sew along the crease.

baste the pockets in place sew a seam down the middle


the closure
3. Using a ruler, sewing gauge, or tape measure, find and mark the center point on both short ends of the outside body. On the right hand side, mark a spot about 1 and 1/8th of an inch in. That’s where you’ll sew on your button (by hand). My button is 5/8″ wide, but you could use any size bigger than 1/2″.

marking where to sew your button where to sew your elasic loop

4. On the left hand side, use your sewing machine to baste the elastic loop in place at the spot you marked. I used an elastic hair tie, which I snipped down to 3.5″ and folded into a loop.

It’s very important that the button and elastic tie are lined up exactly, otherwise closing your mini pocketbook is going to be a challenge!

line up the button with the elastic loop

now for the pen loop
5. Cut a 2.5″ length of ribbon for the pen loop. I used 5/8″ wide grosgrain ribbon, but you could use any kind of ribbon, another length of elastic, a strip of fabric, or anything, really. Use a longer length (or something stretchy) if you plan on using an unusually large pen or marker.

Baste it in place along the edge of the large pocket, just to keep it out of the way of the button loop.

ribbon for the pen loop baste the loop in place

Almost ready to sew your body to the lining! But first, to make finishing a bit easier, I recommend pressing down a 3/8″ seam allowance along the top. You could eyeball it, but here’s what I do anytime I need to guarantee a perfectly straight pressed edge…

6. Placing the body and the lining with right sides facing, baste them together along the top with the longest basting stitch on your machine, using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

baste along the top with right sides together press the seam allowance open

7. Then, press the seam allowance open. When you rip out the basting stitches, you’ll have perfectly pressed edge on both the body and the lining that are straight and even. Hooray!

Now you are ready to sew both pieces together!

ready to sew together!

8. With right sides facing, and the folded edges matching, sew the body to the lining using a 3/8″ seam allowance, on three sides only. Leave the top, folded edge open. I like to double sew all of my seams, and reinforce the stress points of the elastic and ribbon loops.

9. Clip the corners at an angle, and turn your mini pocketbook right side out. Use your fingers to press open the seams, and a dull pencil to gently push the corners out much as you can, and then iron your pocketbook flat. Make sure you keep the top folded edges matching while you’re pressing. Fold your pocketbook closed and iron along the spine, as well.

ready for the final step! sew along the top edge

the final step!
10. Topstitch along the top edge to close up and finish your pocketbook. If you wanted to insert lightweight cardboard, plastic canvas, or timtex (the stuff the goes in the bill of baseball hats), you’d do that at this step, before the topstitching. But I found that the double layer of craft fuse gives it plenty of stiffness.

finished product!

Finito! Your finished pocket book is approximately 4″ wide and 6.5″ tall when closed. That makes the largest pockets the perfect size for a checkbook or a small Moleskine, the medium pockets Passport sized, and the small pockets ideal for credit cards, business cards, ID cards, and the like.

perfectly fits passports and checkbooks perfectly fits moleskines and ID cards

You could easily add or remove a pocket, if you were so inclined. Also, since these pattern pieces are fairly small, this is an ideal project to use up scraps, especially if you’re not fussed about all the pieces matching exactly. If you make one, I’d love to see a picture!

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll like the Syndicate newsletter even more. New tutorials, sewing patterns, and sewing tips & tricks every month! Click here to subscribe.

If you found this tutorial useful, please use the links below to share with your friends, and of course comment to let me know what you think, ask questions, or to make any suggestions!


book review: Design Your Own Tees

I spent part of my Saturday in Adams Morgan at the seventh annual Crafty Bastards art & craft fair. This year was the first time in years that I’ve been in town and not vending at another craft fair, so I was excited to hang out and absorb the craftiness. There were a number of my good friends vending who I wanted to visit, plus some new (to me) designers that I wanted to check out.

One of those new (to me) people was the clever Jennifer Cooke, who is totally not new to the indie craft scene at all. Since 1999 she has been the mastermind behind raeburn ink, the label under which she creates clothing and accessories that are all about color and pattern. Obviously a girl after my own heart!

The bright colors and intricate patterns on her t-shirts, tote bags and scarves is exactly what attracted me to her booth. She uses very bright colors in unexpected combinations. She layers bold graphics and abstract patterns to create images that are way more interesting than the same tired old motifs you see on everything these days. She uses patchwork in an utterly modern and eye catching way. Love!

So naturally, when I spied that she had copies of her book for sale I was instantly intrigued.

As a sewer who loves clothes, I’m always interested in project and pattern books about making cool stuff to wear.

But Jennifer’s book was even more seductive to me, as it promises to teach me how to print on fabric, something I’ve been interested in but have never tried. I was sold. Silk-screening and stenciling here I come!

Browsing through the book at home, I was not disappointed. The book includes twenty projects broken up into three themes – texture, pattern, and color (love!). Each project promises to teach a technique, rather than offer a set of rigid instructions for a very specific project. I love that, because that means I can make my own projects, rather than exactly what appears in the book.

One that I’m dying to try is layering two abstract patterns on top of each other in contrasting colors. I’ve never, ever screen printed before, and the instructions provided in the book make it seem so easy, and not at all mysterious! Every project lists exactly what materials are needed, and there is even a short section on effectively setting up your screen printing workspace, which was obviously written for total newbies like me. Awesome!

Not all the projects are about printing however, there are quite a few that focus on sewing, which of course I love. Many of them utilized techniques that I just finished using in my own fall collection, including embroidery, patchwork, and applique. Hooray!

Looking through Jennifer’s portfolio, you can see that she regularly employs all of the techniques that she teaches in the book, to lovely and colorful effect. Visit raeburn ink online for links to her Etsy shop and lists of places to buy her goodies in person.

I would definitely recommend Design Your Own Tees for both beginner sewers and printers, as the projects are interesting and adaptable, with clear instructions that leave lots of room for your own creative interpretations.

The images accompanying the projects are clear and colorful, and come with suggestions for little variations or ways to combine techniques. If you do want to make exactly what Jennifer made for the book, templates are included in the back that can be photocopied or traced. Everybody wins!

There are at least five projects that I want to try right away, as soon as I get to an art store for some printing, stamping and stenciling supplies. Yay for new crafts! What has inspired you lately?