November 24, 2014

a weapon of cloth

oonaballoona | a weapon of cloth

Growing up, our extended family looked like The United Nations. Only not so much with the United part. Holidays found our nuclear foursome piled in the Jeep, heading out for a day of ham, greens, biscuits, and raised eyebrows. We weren't dark enough to suit half the table, we weren't light enough to suit the other half, and let's leave aside the fact that the table itself was a mix of about seven races in the first place.

But in my mind, I was a gorgeous exotic bird! Some alien life force, gracing the scene with my plumage! I gazed with benevolence at the humans I was strangely related to, knowing that their inferior brains could not process the abstract language of my mismatched cloth! 

As Ruggy and I discussed the upcoming avalanche of holiday occasions, we cringed over the one or two events that will likely be more chore than play. There's always a couple of those, aren't there? Now, I plan to dress to the nines at all of the festivities, naturally, but when we spoke of these particular little wrenches, I breathed, through clenched teeth and with fisted hands: I AM GOING TO LOOK FABULOUS.

And it hit me: I use clothing as a weapon! Of course you do, Ruggy soothed. 



Long before I learned to sew, my childhood self would rifle through an eye searing closet, and assemble the most outlandish ensemble I could think of, adding a few stars on my cheek to top it off (I held a high rank in my own personal army) before racing down the stars to the delight of my Mom, who loved to see what I'd come up with next.  (Actually, the delightful Corinne and I just talked about this very memory in a recent episode of The Sewing Affair that I've been remiss in linking! I guess it's on my brain.) By the time my Dad got home from work, I was in hand painted oversized tees, practicing arias under my breath while we made midnight ice cream sundaes together. I regarded my brother's black ensembles with confusion, but respect. That was his mark.

But man, I put a lot of responsibilities on my colorful childhood closet! Though I could stand on stage completely alone and sing out in a spotlight, when it came to walking around in everyday life, I was super, crushingly shy. So I let my clothes speak for me. My ensembles did the talking, the fighting, even did the socializing for me: every weekend was spent at the mall hand in hand with my Nan, shopping sales, strolling happily past the cliques draped about the food court. My daily outfit was my technicolor armor, meant to blind the popular girls before they could come up with a sour glance, meant to raise my cousins' eyebrows to skyscraper heights, meant to trumpet for me: I AM DIFFERENT AND I KNOW IT. YOU ARE TELLING ME NOTHING NEW.

Not much new being said here either. Ruggy received my realization sans surprise. He assumed I knew what I was doing. Always a bad assumption. Of course we use clothing as a weapon, a crutch, a bandage. A spotlight! By nature of our skill set, we're very much aware that it's more than cloth. But it really hit me: my passion for this woven arsenal came from growing up in a family that was branded as "different" in society, in school, in our own extended family. My parents' mission to make that branding be a positive sent me charging out of the house to fight a colorful battle enswathed in the most outrageous version of "different" that I could be. 

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. For real. 

What do you use your clothing for?

November 11, 2014

boom boom boom

oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make


oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make


oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make

Anyone? Anyone? Black Eyed Peas at Superbowl XLV 2011 simultaneously dating themselves with a past hit whilst trying to prove how modern they were 3 years later? Actually pretty impressive, if you think about it.

Also pretty impressive: the rawring beast created by Amanda of Bimble and Pimble, the thing taking over your IG feed, your internet, YOUR LIFE, #bpsewvember.  Today, the challenge is "early makes," so I thought it appropriate to take a closer look at two of my earliest makes-- the second and third dresses I ever made, blogged in March 2008. (Thing One was a mud brown fiery phoenix print that never got photographed. Or worn out. It felt like wearing polyurethane.) 

Both dresses were made from the Danielle pattern, a Burdastyle jam from waaaaay back, when we used to walk uphill to school both ways and the patterns were free. Both were made from quilting cotton, both caused my head to swell in the most terrific way, and both had invisible zippers of PHENOMENAL QUALITY

oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make


oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make


oonaballoona | #bpsewvember | early make

Even though I cringed like my thong was showing at a cotillion when I pulled these dresses out of a storage box, I'm still proud of them. They were going to be a What was I drinkThinking post, but I decided that wasn't right--after all, they're level appropriate when you're teaching yourself to sew through the internet circa 2008, n'est ce pas? 

I now possess them only in memory. The last cross country trek left them in a donations box. Hopefully they've regenerated themselves into napkins. My memories of how I felt when I made them, and wore them, are much better than having them in my closet.

And I had So. Much. Fun. Making them! Deciphering the patterns, talking in the Burdastyle forums with fellow newbies (guys what the hell is a facing?), uploading headless projects, giving advice I had no business giving...seriously. I learned to sew on Burdastyle. Did I learn well? Obviously the evidence proves otherwise. But I learned voraciously and with GREAT INSANITY. I dove into fabric and patterns and made something new to wear every evening. And eventually (at least, in my opinion) I got better. Some of y'all share that opinion, as in a bit of full circle, I was recently voted a Burdastyle top 50 blogger. Now that it's (apparently?) official, I haven't properly said thank you yet-- so thank you, very much, for that. And thanks, Burdastyle, for starting me off in the deep end before I knew how to swim. Maybe one day I'll master a couture stroke or two...

Are you swimming with us in #bpsewvember? How did you learn to sew?

November 9, 2014

the end of the spool

oonaballoona | the end of the spool

It's Rapunzel's hair, golden floss, silky strands that glide effortlessly through everything I've thrown at it, and though it's been like the loaves n' fishes for several years running, it's coming to an end.

As I finished up the hem of my mohair cape with this magical stuff, I realized: I am going to be supremely sad when this spool of thread is finished! The realization hit me like a well intentioned, but poorly planned, surprise party. The end of an era wound around a little plastic tube. 

It was purchased at Greenberg & Hammer. Years ago, when I walked into that elevator-accessed store, I was not greeted warmly, I did want help, I had no clue what I was doing, and felt very aware that the staff instantly knew ALL OF THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME. I spent fifteen minutes trying to act like I belonged there, hesitating before unmarked drawers, stammering out a question about some advanced tool which completely gave me away...they were so totally over me. In their defense, it was September, and they were plagued with students coming in for class materials. I was a freshman of the internet with no list in hand.

I ended up walking out with two spools of thread plucked hastily out of a bowl by the counter, purchased to prove that I was indeed Someone Who Sews. Chosen for their color: one turquoise cord, one gold floss, neither of which I had any clue what to do with. Obviously I knew I should sew with them... but WHAT. Were they meant for buttonholes? Basting? Handsewing? Topstitching? For about a year, their only function was to remind me of my poorly executed shopping trip. 

Finally, I decided the universe would not implode if I just started using Goldielocks for... whatever I wanted. She was too pretty to languish in a drawer. Then I started topstitching with Cordy.  They're magical because I've invented their function. I do wish I could stroll back into that store, and open drawers and pick up new notions with confidence. But, Greenberg & Hammer reached the end of its era in 2012. 

Who knows what other magic I missed.