Color inspires fiber artist to create coiled vessels

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

When Leigh Hollmann turned 45, she decided it was finally time to do what she’d always wanted to do — pursue her dream of becoming a fiber artist — and not as a hobby, but as an occupation.

“I’d always wanted to be a fiber artist,” recalls Hollmann, who lives in Ann Arbor, a town filled with creativity. “I opened an Etsy shop and started there.” It was on Etsy where she sold her fabric book covers before discovering how to turn strips of fabric and cotton cording into colorful works of three-dimensional art that function as decorative containers.

Hollmann refers to her work as “fiber vessels,” and because of her love for swirls and her black Labrador retriever, or as she calls him, her “studio pup,” she named her 3-year old business “Swirlpuppy Creations.”

As someone who constantly challenges herself to do more, Hollmann knew she had a winning product when her unique vessels were a big hit at the very first craft show she’d ever done, which was in November 2011. This holiday season marks the first time she’s ever done a show with just her vessels.

“My inspiration is color, color and more color,” she says, referring to her original designs — some made with fabric she dyes and embellishments she makes herself. “I was a graphic designer at Center for Creative Studies where I got my degree. I’m all about interesting shapes, color and graphic patterns, but my favorite part of the whole process of working with fiber is color — putting colors together, working with colors and watching how they play off each other.”

Her vessels are priced from $15-$125 each, depending on the size and how long it takes to complete one. She says, “Some require hand-sewing, and bigger ones are more elaborate.” The time it takes to make one bowl can range anywhere from one to numerous hours.

You can find Hollmann today through Sunday selling her colorful fiber vessels at the “Handcrafters’ Tinsel and Treasures Show” at the Northville Community Center, 303 West Main, Northville. Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. today, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults and free for those 12 and younger.

Here, Hollmann shares instructions for making a small bowl, perfect for storing little items.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or For more craft news and giveaways, visit her blog at

Small Coiled Fabric Bowl

Level: Intermediate

Estimated time: 90 minutes

Tools: Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, quilting ruler, sewing machine, scissors

Supplies: 11/2 yard cotton fabric in prints and/or solids (scraps can be used), about 20 feet of cotton clothesline/cording, thread


1. Thread sewing machine and set to a wide zigzag stitch.

2. Use rotary cutter and quilting ruler to cut fabric into 1/2-inch wide strips.

3. Begin randomly wrapping strips, one at a time, tightly around clothesline. Be sure to secure end.

4. Once finished, you should have a colorful piece of cording. Be sure to secure finished end.

5. Now, starting at one end of wrapped clothesline, make a tiny flat coil/spiral and place under presser foot so zigzag stitches catch/join both sides of coil.

6. Begin sewing slowly, adding additional cording as you work/sew coil in a circle to create larger flat spiral disk or base of bowl, making sure stitches catch/join both sides of cording.

7. Continue turning and stitching around disk. Once satisfied with size of base, tip stitched piece on a slight angle to begin forming sides of bowl.

8. After several rounds, tip bowl up slightly more and continue sewing and making rounds to end of cording. (Note: the more the bowl is tipped up, the straighter the sides will be.) As you approach finished point, neatly blend/stitch end of wrapped cording into previous coil/row for smooth rim.

Contact Swirlpuppy Creations at or on Facebook at swirlpuppycreations.