Category Archives: fabric

adventures in NYC

A week or so I ago, I went to NYC with a friend to spend the day in the garment district…y’all know me, so you know it was an all day affair that included a dozen (or so) stores.

One of them was Global Leathers, where I picked up this lovely stash of pretties:



Not pictured is a large handful of red scraps and a skin in an absolutely gorgeous pewter metallic. The last several days have been all about my sketchbook and daydreaming ways to use this (and the other goodies I picked up in NYC) to make pretty things for you! Stay tuned.





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!



a sneak peek at the new button scarf

In the slow process of revamping the Holland Cox line, I’ve discovered that wearable accessories are the most interesting for me to design and to make.

button cowl style scarf in red and black

I envisioned a cowl-style scarf that would be bold and colorful, but also cozy warm to wear in the winter (I hate being cold!). You can get a big, chunky, yarn-y scarf anywhere, but I was looking to make something a little different.

Using fabric opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of pattern and surface design, and pattern and color are the best ways to make your outfit exciting.

I want you to get excited anytime you use something I made for you! I want you to get excited about getting dressed!

I also wanted to make something that would be easy to wear, that you could wear all day (not just when you’re outside wrapped up in your winter coat), and to design something that would give you anxiety-free style…there’s no wrong way to wear it!


stack of button scarves


The first scarves I made paired a bold, colorful print with a lightweight microfleece, making a scarf that was warm and cozy, but still lightweight. If you went to my holiday trunk shows, then you’ve already seen a few of them.

But I was torn: should I only focus on bold, colorful prints? Perhaps I should make a patchwork version, a way to use color blocking like some of my favorite handbags from previous collections?

Or perhaps I wanted to take the time to create scarves featuring hand-drawing or some other surface design, like I’ve been obsessed with lately.

I couldn’t decide, so I figured I’d do all three!


hand drawn mandala, black ink on off white cotton


I’m making the scarves in three different styles – one will focus on bold cotton prints, one will be about color blocking and texture, and the third will feature hand-drawn details like the mandala in progress above.

When I first went shopping for the fleece and flannel lining, I found a deep red that I fell in love with, that set the tone for the whole collection. Just like my evolution collection satchels, the button scarves will be very much about red, with black and purple and bit of my gold obsession mixed in.


topstitching on gold, red, and purple twill ~ button scarves in progress


Stay tuned, as all three versions will be available next week! Get on the list before then, as Insiders will see the new scarves first, and (as always) will enjoy an exclusive introductory price.

Let me know what you think!




a sneak peek at the evolved tote bag

My inspiration for the very first Holland Cox tote bag is not only my perfect tote, but my longtime fixation on the idea that versatile does not mean plain.

mandala drawing on fabric

A tote bag is the sort of wardrobe workhorse you need to be really functional: it should hold lots of stuff, and it should be easy to carry around. You should be able to use it anytime, all the time. It should go with everything.

You may be tempted then, to think that such a workhorse needs to be neutral or plain.

But guess what, friends: your most versatile items only need to go with YOU.

The stuff you use everyday should be as awesome as you are. They should help you stand out in a crowd, not blend into the background. They should make you smile every time you reach for them!

tote with patchwork detail

The Holland Cox tote is by far the biggest bag I’ve ever made: 15″ wide and 13″ tall, with deep, 6″ side gussets.

The quilted lining and interior structure keeps it from being too heavy or stiff (you still want to be able to carry it once it’s full of stuff, right?), but not too floppy or shapeless, either.

The double straps form a 12″ drop, making it easy to carry in your hand by the straps, or over your shoulder.

Like all the best tote bags, this one has tons of pockets: six total, including one with a zipper that (of course!) hides some fun fabric.

welt zipper pocket

What makes them worthy of the evolution collection is that each one has something that makes it a little special. A bit of hand drawing, a unique combination of fabrics, or some other type of surface detail or fabric manipulation.

Something that makes each one interesting enough that you’ll know when you see the one that was meant for you! You’ll know when you see the one that will make using it a mini adventure, and not a mere exercise in utility.

As always with my handbags, they will all be one-of-a-kind. Get on the list to be notified when they are available for sale.


drawing inspiration

doodling with Sharpies

One of my new year’s resolutions was to draw more. I wanted to get into the habit of drawing regularly, but also I was intrigued by the idea of drawing on fabric, which I had never done before, and figured I could use some practice before I jumped in.

I started by delving into my collection of Sharpies, and just mindlessly doodling. I learned on Pinterest that these days, that’s called zentangle. Along with adult coloring books, it’s become a popular way to relax, and a simple way to meditate. I can confirm it is completely addicting! (Check out my Instagram feed to see some examples from earlier in the year.)

mandala-style floral doodles

Eventually my doodles turned into more mandala-style florals, and paisleys reminiscent of henna tattoos (it happened by accident, but I just went with it).

Some of those doodles became useful when I did Pattern Camp this summer, but I still wanted to draw directly on fabric.

I really like the idea of using hand drawing as a way to make a single product completely unique…truly one-of-a-kind, in a way that something made from plain or commercially-printed fabric couldn’t be.

This process is clearly not practical for any kind of mass production, but that has never been my goal, anyway.

watch roll with hand drawn details

This watch roll was the first item for my shop with a hand-drawn element, and the first thing I made with floral style doodles, rather than the more graphic, geometric designs of my gold leather experiment. (Click here to see the details on this watch roll.)

So far, I’ve experimented with fabric markers, Sharpies, and paint pens on twill, canvas, denim, and linen, and I’m currently trying to talk myself out of buying fabric paint as well!

(I’ve always loved drawing, and therefore have always been in love with markers and pencils and crayons, but for some reason paint brushes intimidate me.)

fabric dopp kits with vintage, upcycled, and hand drawn fabric

I’m still drawing almost every day, and figuring out the best ways to get my doodles onto fabric and then on to Holland Cox products! There will be new dopp kits next week, one of which will have hand drawing (sneak peek above).

The drawing probably won’t end up on everything…it really isn’t practical time-wise, but it’s so much fun! So you’ll probably see it on a few handbags this fall and other things as well. Get on the list to stay in the know…newsletter subscribers always see the new goodies first!



a better word than “reformed” or “recovering”

bolts of cotton prints at Mood in NYC


I’ve been sewing since 2003, and I have so much fabric.

There was a time when I tried to get on the bandwagon of de-stashing…when I subscribed to the notion that my (massive) collection of fabric was something to be ashamed of.

Thankfully I was never so delusional as to think myself completely “reformed,” but I confess there was a time when I optimistically fancied myself a “recovering” fabric hoarder (after all, reformed makes it sound like you’ve stopped completely, which has clearly never been the case).

printed "ponyhair" leather remnants


Yeah, those days are long gone. While I haven’t bought any fabric in a very long time (not since the metallic leather last October) I have recently acquired quite a bit of new goodies for my stash!

The studio where I teach gets donations all the time, from home sewers, professional designers, and even local theater departments. Much of it is stuff I would never think to buy if I came across it in a store, but that nevertheless intrigues me.

At first I tried to resist even looking at the fabrics when they came in, but these days I give in to temptation pretty much immediately.

upholstery remnants acquired from a local designer


I don’t say no anymore because exposure to all this completely new stuff has been incredibly inspiring! I see a certain type of fabric that I’ve never used before, but that feels or looks interesting, and then I want to make something I’ve never made before.

This is an incredibly seductive feeling, and I can’t say that I’d want to give it up ever. Truthfully, although I haven’t bought fabric in a long time, that does not mean I haven’t been to the fabric store. I’ve been many times in the last few months, and have not experienced the same inspiration. Crazy, right?

leftovers I will be upcycling into travel accessories


Perhaps it’s the notion of upcycling leftovers, remnants, and stuff forgotten in storage bins into something new and pretty that someone can use and love again!

Perhaps my recent urge to re-vamp my product line is part of it…I itch to make new stuff, and to use new stuff to make it as well.

Either way, I am doing the opposite of de-stashing. There will never be a time when anyone can use the term “minimalist” to describe my living or working space, trust me. I’d feel bad, but I’m very sure there are much worse habits to have! The konmari lady wouldn’t even disapprove, since I can guarantee every inch of fabric in my stash definitely brings me joy!

Instead of “reformed” or “recovering,” what I’m feeling is refreshed. My growing stash is making me motivated, excited, and inspired, and I’ll definitely be sharing the fruits of my labor, so stay tuned.




pattern camp is the only camp for me

It has been my secret desire for a very long time to design fabric!

blue flower scatter repeat

I have an entire Pinterest board about pattern and textiles. Shopping for fabric (including window shopping) is my #1 favorite past time next to actually sewing. So when I found a link (on Pinterest, of course!) to Jessica Swift’s Pattern Camp, I knew I had found the only summer camp for me!

An intense, hands-on approach to learning how to make repeating patterns was like a dream come true, and I jumped on it right away.

paisley sketch in green sharpie sketch rendered in black via photoshop


I learned SO MUCH that honestly my head is still spinning with it all! Camp was especially thrilling not only because I was learning something completely new (it’s been a while for me!), but something that I’ve wanted to learn about for such a long time (nothing like satisfying that burning and pining).

So here’s the process…first you start with a sketch. The green ink drawing above came from my sketch book, and was done in bright green Sharpie sometime in May, when I was obsessed with drawing these mandala-style florals and paisleys.

After spending lots of quality time with Photoshop (and learning the hard way that it’s best to start with a drawing in black ink), I was able to turn it into the clean, clear, black and white image on the right. Somehow it rotated in the process of scanning and cleaning up, that was not at all intentional!

inspiration chair and color swatches

Next came color! I used this image (from another Pinterest board of mine) as color inspiration. I remember being intrigued by those particular shades of green and blue when I originally pinned this chair to my “pretty places and spaces” board.

Using the nifty eyedropper tool in Illustrator, I extracted the colors on the right from the chair image, and then altered them a bit to suit my whimsy. I had absolutely NO plan in mind, and it was incredibly freeing and fun to just play with the color wheel. I added a purple because I love purple (obviously) and because why not? Then I went to town on my mandala-style sketch.

second attempt at repeating pattern

I ended up removing the paisley portion of the image, and focusing on the flower and the leaves. After much experimentation, this is the repeating design I came up with. The process of coloring an image and then manipulating it (adding and removing elements, adjusting the colors, rotating, rescaling, reflecting, et cetera) was completely addicting and I could easily get sucked in and just do it all day long.

This is not even the final version of this pattern, I went back and played with the colors quite a bit more. I’ve also gone back and used the full image (and altered it in other ways) to make other patterns. But I love the idea of preserving my first try, so here we are!

What am I going to do next? First thing is I’ve got to sell a kidney to get a major computer upgrade and the new Illustrator and Photoshop software. It’s pricey but amazing. I used a free trial during the course of the camp got completely hooked.

Then, there’s lots and lots of practice in my future! Stay tuned for more patterns, and hopefully some pretty things made with fabrics I designed!




a sneak peek at my spring 2012 collection

Last summer, when I first started thinking about purples and blues for my la acquabella collection, I already knew that my next collection was going to be all about green.

green and gray fabrics, for Holland Cox spring 2012.fabrics for the spring collection: green & gray

I’ve been in love with a certain shade of bright, apple green for a long time…probably since 2005 or so. I’ve used it very often in previous collections, but this is the first time that green will be the star of the show!

reverse applique in progress, for Holland Cox spring 2012
reverse applique in progress, for an envelope clutch

This is the best part of my job…I’ve been having the most fun mixing fabrics and textures, and coming up with new ways to create a handbag worth coveting. I never want to make anything that’s too much what you could find at the mall…what’s the point of that?

patchwork envelope clutch in progress, for Holland Cox spring 2012patchwork envelope clutch in progress

The collection will be out on April 26. As always, newsletter subscribers will see the goodies first, as well as get a pretty sweet introductory price. Become an insider and don’t get left out!

circle applique in progress, for Holland Cox spring 2012
applique on a wristlet in progress

Check out my Pinterest board to see some of my inspirations for this collection…and stay tuned for lots of awesome ways to wear one of my favorite colors…how do you like to wear green?




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!


fall 2011 preview: la acquabella

I can hardly believe it, but I’m about to introduce my eleventh collection for Holland Cox!

As always, the collection consists of eighteen one-of-a-kind handbags, in three styles: the classic, the wristlet, and the envelope clutch. But this time, I’m very excited to offer a new look for the envelope clutch!

patchwork envelope clutch in progress

The merrimack envelope clutch in progress. You’ll have to wait to see the whole thing!

The title of the collection is la acquabella. As you can probably guess, I was inspired by water. Specifically, the power of water in motion, and its mystery, danger, and beauty.

bias strips of silver silk dupioni and navy blue linen

Bias strips of silver silk dupioni and navy blue linen.

I am in equally in love with and deathly afraid of the ocean. In the beach vs. mountains debate, there is no debate in my mind: the beach wins every time, mostly because of that soothing whoosh sound. You know the one I mean?

Soothing, but so terrifying as well. Water can be so powerful and deadly that it’s almost incomprehensible. It swallows cities and wipes out species; it created the Grand Canyon! But at the same time, life would be impossible without it. It’s an intriguing paradox.

satin, grosgrain, and velvet ribbon

Satin, grosgrain, and velvet ribbon.

My color palette is all about purple and blue, with lots of black, gray, and silver mixed in. Each handbag will feature lots of handwork and surface detail, but you’ll see plenty of the wild prints you’ve come to expect from me, as well!

All eighteen handmade handbags are named for bodies of water, specifically powerful rivers that have sustained major populations all over the world.

Some will be delicate, others will have more of an edge…the same duality and moodiness that makes water so appealing and mysterious to me.

wristlet with linen ruffles in progress

The danube wristlet in progress.

While my spring 2011 collection was all about linen, this time I’ve used as many different fabrics and textures as I could get my hands on (sometimes on the same bag).

Denim and cotton, of course, but I’ve also used silk dupioni, wool felt, silk voile, ultrasuede, tweed, and linen, plus ribbon and trims of various fibers and weaves.

stack of fabrics in different fibers and weaves

From the bottom: denim, linen, wool felt, voile, dupioni, and tweed.

Look out for the new collection in about two weeks! As always, the Holland Cox insiders will see it first, and of course get the exclusive insider’s price. Don’t get left out!

While you’re waiting, check out the current collection, because once la acquabella is out, the divine feminine will no longer be available online. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!