wax on, wax off

A surprising sidebar came up in a recent post, the original topic of which was surprising in itself (however, said surprises were most likely surprising specifically to me, which is unsurprising, as I am surprised by A LOT these days.)

Of course, the post was about anything but the wax print dress pictured (and after 143 comments, I'm tapped out on that discussion). However, Gillian, one of the most thoughtful members of our stitching community, brought up a sewing dilemma:

Gillian: I've never decided if it's ok for a white lady like me to use Ankara fabric. Cultural appropriation, or awesome print used with knowledge of its history? I don't know, and it's not the kind of thing any one person can decree is ok or not, so here I am, Ankara-less!

Well, my friend, my FRIENDS, as Mixed-Chick-Party-Of-One, I am here to resoundingly decree this ever so much more than "ok." In fact: GO FOR IT!

Go for it, because it is fabric, and who better to treat a beautiful fabric with the respect it deserves than a home sewist?  A commenter pointed out:

Anonymous: as a white lady who appreciates the beauty of African and many other ethnic patterns I would hope that when I employ its use in my own creations others will perceive it as a thing of beauty and my joy in presenting it as such.

Go for it, because, as several commenters were quick to add, its backstory is as mixed as the chick who runs this here blog: it is of Dutch origins, but intended as a knockoff of Indonesian Batik. The "flaws" in processing spoke not to Indonesia, but to Africa, and the colors and prints were changed to suit the audience--geometric shapes and vivid colors, rather than the more muted floral design of Batik. It's now produced in Africa & China as well, and you could call those knockoffs, or you could say the original was intended as a knockoff in the first place. Is it distinctly an African fabric now? Yes. But in my opinion, it's more of an as-tweed-is-British and denim-is-American sort of thing, not a question of racial appropriation. Don't get me wrong, I understand, and am often hindered by, the lines in the sand drawn over race. Some are real, some are manufactured, some grow by perception. Two out of three of those lines should be crossed.

Karen: I am very aware of the multi-cross-cultural journey these patterns have made from Indonesia to West Africa, while both were under Dutch colonial subjugation, and are still being made in The Netherlands! Culture and language are very complex things, continually evolving to reflect current conditions. Let's keep our minds open to other peoples' truths.

Go for it, because, as its origins prove, MIXING IT UP A WONDERFUL THING. And something we are in dire need of today. Yes, I understand the ignorance of wearing a ceremonial Lakota war bonnet to a music festival, but I don't think any sewists wanting to dip their toes in wax print waters are talking about sporting a Kente head wrap.

Leigh: It's just fabric, unless you exact copy a traditional african dress. That could look a bit odd as they're kind of distinct, but you know what? They look comfortable, and how many people have made "kimono jackets" and didn't get crucified in the press?

Go for it, because of the joy you will create around you. Another commodity we are in dire need of today. It is impossible not to smile when you see 12,000 colors walking towards you. And if you don't want to wear 12,000 colors, choose a more docile print like the one I'm sporting here! YES IT'S DOCILE I MEAN IT'S PRACTICALLY A SOLID IN COMPARISON.

CinderellaRidvan: I will say that my ambuyas (grandmothers and aunties) are delighted to see my white friends wearing it, they say the everyone looks better in beautiful prints...

If a civilian raises an eyebrow? Politely divulge the bio of this glorious mixed up cloth. (You could also ask if they're into Rock n Roll, and if so, how much Little Richard do they have in their collection.)

Erika: I am a white lady, who has lived in Zambia and Uganda, who has several garments made of US patterns with African fabrics. I figure it will upset some people, and not others, and my job is to be ready to have a conversation with people who are upset, with a humble open heart.

If a sewist chastises you for using the improper name for it? Again, go for the origin story. There are many names for this stuff, and they are all proper. However. If you've chosen to call it Dutch wax print, and a homesick lass compliments you on your fabric from Ghana? Um, do not inform her of the technicalities of the origins of wax print. Recognize, as I did not, that she's lonely, and it lifted her day to spot some fabric from her homeland. Hey, Professor Sewist: technicality isn't always paramount.

CinderellaRidvan: culture is more about nuance and belief than technicalities.

Well, if you've been on the fence, I hope I've convinced you to jump in, along with these thoughtful words from my fellow sewists! If I had my way, wax print would be everywhere... and all the buildings would be painted in technicolor, and pizza would be free, and we'd have little wine spigots on the streets that popped on every day at dusk...

(One last GO FOR IT: Because you get 6 yards in every cut! Now, if you're like me, you will dive into your bounty with wild abandon, and come very quickly to a point where you realize that while you can make 3 garments out of 1 cut, you cannot print match across seams if you didn't plan ahead. That happened here, with Vogue 9253. Patience and planning. Who knew. Now go sew some wax print.)


Construction (not the kind you think).

As I sit here with my morning cup of black gold, soft breeze drifting through the open window, reveling in the sounds of the NONSTOP, DEAFENING BUZZ of a circular saw cutting through brick (a cacophony that has gone on ALL SUMMER LONG), I look to the weekend with equal parts anticipation and melancholy. The last weekend in August! IT CANNOT BE.

This weekend will be 50% creating and 50% celebrating, which equals 2000% awesome (because that's how kalkatroonaan math works). I'm also hoping to get some shots of the many things waiting to be documented...about fifteen outfits, I'd say, more than enough to make my photographer quake in his flip flops. We're getting pretty good at doing this quickly, though. Rob has two rules when he's snapping: he doesn't speak, and he shoots from the ground up. We now have a handsignal to allow passersby to safely cross without fear of being captured:

There's my guy, on the ground! Not talking, like a weirdo!

(He sings, though. Beautifully. Just not in public. At the moment, he's serenading me with a ukelele rendition of Ozzy Osbourne's "Goodbye to Romance," lyrics adjusted to reflect my current murderous mood.)

You'll excuse the haphazardness, won't you? Blame it on the table saw. I'm really just here to tell you about my Tribute dress, made for the Sewcialist's first challenge after their re-launch. But considering the NEVERENDING NOISE AFFECTING MY BRAIN FUNCTIONS, I'll leave the explaining to my previously crafted post: check out the dress & inspiration for it, over at the Sewcialist's blog. So happy to see them up & running again!

Ah, they're lowering the construction cage system! I sense a construction break. I'm off to take advantage of it. 


Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

WELL NOW. Unfortunately, it seems I must say some things about my the use of the English language, in order to continue to say anything at all in these parts.  It is unfortunate mainly for me, because to be quite honest, I DON'T FEEL LIKE IT. I'd like to just talk about the six yards of insanity I've got on, but, there's the rub, I shouldn't be describing a dress as insane... and so, the post goes back into the Realm Of Draft... again. Not because I can't think of another opening sentence, but because I DON'T WANT TO.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Let me explain. Following my last post, a reader (quite politely, actually!) suggested to me via Twitter that I rethink the usage of certain words, which is fair enough. It's not the first time my off-color sense of humor has chafed, and it probably won't be the last. If you're looking for a calm, sterile, and properly punctuated use of the English Language, I am not your huckleberry. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

But, I also don't intend any harm, with my random capitalization and colorful talk. So let me clarify, when I call my closet "schizophrenic and delusional," I am referring to the general, and not medical, definitions of the words, which are; schizophrenic: a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements, and, delusional: based on or having faulty judgment, mistaken. 

To wit: in the past, my closet held many inconsistent, contradictory elements of style, having everything to do with the fact that I had to be able to pull different looks for whatever role I was auditioning for. And in the present, where I am still a working actress in need of many looks, I THINK my closet still has those inconsistent or contradictory elements, but my judgement is faulty and mistaken: IT DOES NOT, because now that I sew pretty much all of my own clothing, there is no longer any room for RTW lawyer/nurse/cop wear. Yet I delude myself into thinking I can don something like this African wax print maxi dress to audition as a Suburban Mother with an Edgy Vibe. (The hair gets me to edgy all on its own, folks.)

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Hrm. Four paragraphs later, I guess I do feel like saying some things about this subject. But I don't. LET ME CAPITALIZE: I REALLY, REALLY DON'T. And contrary to what four paragraphs of rambling would suggest, I truly don't want to make a big thing out of it! Raising my pitchfork because someone doesn't agree with my yammerings about the idiosyncrasies of my closet would be, how do you say, blowing things out of proportion.

But are we, as a whole, maybe blowing things out of proportion in general? The (again, gentle and friendly) tweet came complete with a link to an article warning the reader against using words like Grief, Depression, and Insomnia as descriptors, unless you have truly personally experienced those afflictions. (That was about halfway through the article, and also where I tapped out).  

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Again, not meaning to start a Riot, party of one, over a tweet. It was simply a small reminder of the much larger liberal minefield that we've become, in the face of the impossibility of what we are. Our opinions and ideals have become our most precious possessions. Words are what the bulk of us have right now to protect those possessions. Words have become both weapons and prisoners. And on the liberal side, specifically, we're imprisoning words to protect our possessions from those who probably aren't out to damage an already beaten and bloodied society with an innocent turn of phrase.

But, words are loaded things with meanings that can shift entirely based on personal experience. There are plenty of nasty words out there that should be obliterated, and plenty of words that have taken on new weight when we weren't looking. That's just it, isn't it? Even if you think you're clear on the meaning, you have no idea how your words will affect someone else, because you are not living their life and their experiences.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

As for myself, there are plenty of words that conjure up real life experiences for me, that rub me the wrong way. Words that are mine in a way that they are not yours, because I have experienced them. They're innocent enough to others, and they're not going anywhere, and that's just fine. When humor is your weapon of choice (whether you're skilled at wielding that weapon or not), I think you have a wider...allowance. 

I know that in our current climate, the great good bulk of us are trying to be more careful with each other, and I applaud us for it. But can we try to assume that the person to our left, and I do mean left, most likely has our back? Because it's getting censored around here. And by here, I don't mean my small nonsensical corner of the web, I mean out there. There's no room for humor, no room for questions, no room for language, there's no room to talk about anything. When everything is sacred, nothing is safe.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

WELL. That's just about enough of that, although I do 100% invite you to share your thoughtful comments. Let's talk for a minute about the pattern, Simplicity 1687 (who, by the way, after a deserved backlash over their lack of ethnicity in vintage patterns have since made strides to correct that, and from what I can see have received no kudos for it--so kudos, Simplicity. And yes, I can already hear my fellow liberals fire back that a couple of pattern envelopes and reposts are not enough, but to this liberal, steps forward are steps forward.)

TOUGH TO GET OFF THAT SOAPBOX, EH, MIZZ BALLOONA? The pattern. I maxi-fied this midi dress, and shortened the waist by about an inch--and in doing so, made the pockets useless for actual hands. They will hold a phone, keys, and dinero, tho. The yoke was abandoned in favor of adjustable straps. I flat piped some of the shorter seams with remnants from this Vogue wrap dress, and both prints hail from AKN Fabrics. I feel like Holly Hobby in some alternate universe, which is just how I want to feel some days.
And with that, I believe I'm out of words.


Vogue 9106 (ish.)

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

My closet was always schizophrenic. As a kid, I loved to crash bang through a riot of color, and come up with a different character every day. Given my penchant for costume and spotlight, acting was the obvious path for me. Having many roles imposed upon me by many eyes meant having many outfits! YES PLEASE.  

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

Long before I sewed, I turned to RTW to play the part I was after. And then Stitching Superpowers entered the mix. Armed with my new skills, I could truly make whatever "costume" I needed! 

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

....except the role I've really always wanted to play is Technicolor Free Spirit, so whatever pattern I usually cast myself in (Business Woman, Ballet Patron, Demure Yogi) gets hacked & colorized so much it turns out to be nothing like the original design (see; Free Spirt), and nowadays I'd diagnose my closet as Delusional Bohemian. 

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

Example: This is Vogue 9106, a Vintage reprint intended for crisp fabrics, not the swooshy drapey viscose you see here. Also intended: cut on sleeves & knee length skirt with side gathers and CF seam. 

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

But I changed the role to suit me, with a button placket extending to crotch level, and a gathered waist that attached to a curved hip yoke that attached to another curved, gathered skirt panel...

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

And elastic picot trim on the neckline & armsyce, when I decided to lose the sleeves! I know it's a bit hard to see the style lines for the floral bouquets (See; Technicolor), so here's the line drawing, and here's what I did:

I forgot to draw in the added back waistline gathers. Listen... I'm no Gillian, with the cute computer sketches! 

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

I wish I'd snapped a before/after pic, because removing those sleeves really changed the whole vibe for me. Also wishing I'd added some piping to highlight the intersection of hip yoke/gathered skirt panel, but, c'est la vie. I'll keep it in mind for another role.

Vogue 9106 (ish.) | sewing blog | oonaballoona | by marcy harriell

This is the kind of typecasting I can get into.

Hey, wanna see another gal's take on this fabric? Unbeknownst to either of us, Sallie Oh and I cast ourselves in the same fabric, different colorway, for our June Mood Sewing Network projects. Sallie made a gorgeous knee length semi-shirt dress for a very romantic role indeed. Shorty made the maxi, Legs Diamond made the knee length! I smell a screwball buddy comedy in the making. 


The Pink Handheld Steamer: Confusing Non-Sewists Everywhere.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | The Pink Handheld Steamer: Confusing Non-Sewists Everywhere.

It's pink, it's oddly shaped, it has one job, and it does it well. 

(But it also has a side hustle of freaking non-sewing people out. Something about it says "1950's vibratory relaxation." I know this, because I asked a friend of mine when I caught her side-eyeing it with a confused, furrowed brow. "I know it isn't what I think it is...but I don't know what it is.")

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | The Pink Handheld Steamer: Confusing Non-Sewists Everywhere.

What it is is a fantastic companion to my iron. This little pink thing will steam your finished clothes into billowy goodness. You fill the roomy base with water, plug it in and let it heat up while you choose your outfit for the day, then steam away the wrinkles, sans ironing board. I like to hang whatever I'm steaming on our closet's drapery rod, to get it from all angles, but you could easily use your shower rod. 

oonaballoona | a sewing blog | The Pink Handheld Steamer: Confusing Non-Sewists Everywhere.

Those great big steam holes never drip, they just produce beautiful steam! And the cord is nice and long-- about 97 inches. I suppose, if you had the space, you could even steam out yardage, but I like to do that with my Maytag iron on my ironing board. (Oh yeah...and I'm researching ironing boards next.)

I don't like to recommend any equipment to y'all before I've had it and loved it for several months, and I've actually had my Jiffy Pink E Steam for over two years now! I've just been a slowpoke in sharing it with you. It hovers around 60 bucks, and also comes in black (but really why would you get black when you can haz TECHNICOLOR). My Maytag Smartfill iron (which you can see in the corner edges of these photos, with the water tank removed) is also still going strong, over three years-- I just bought a backup as the price has dropped to 30 bucks. Because OBVIOUSLY I need an iron for civilians who think steamers are...well...not steamers. (Fun fact! The first pleasurable device was powered by... steam! And was electrified only behind the sewing machine, fan, and toaster! I found this out when googling other words for pleasurable devices. Because I'm really looking forward to the weird traffic which will certainly follow my lead-in paragraph.)

Links in this post are affiliated and will whisk you to Amazon! Please let your fingers do the googling if you're not into that. Any pennies earned will go towards the sewing & blogging habit...and the occasional treat for my photographer.


Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

Welcome, Summer. So glad you're here. A little bummed that I can't wear this maxi wrap dress, made back in Spring, but really, who knows with our new fickle seasons? I keep my closet all temperature now. Like a bottle of Cheer. Do they still make Cheer?

I'm getting too deep.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

You see how my brain flits about. Concentration doesn't come easily to me. To boot, there's very little space in there once something is done. I therefore remember only hints about the making of this pattern, Vogue 1239 by Ralph Rucci. I do recall it was LOADS of fun, super interesting seamwork, lots of topstitching and getting into precise corners...

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

Can you see those intersections where the sleeve meets the front & collar? No? It happens on the back too! Here, let me pull my hair up for you...

No? Still hidden? Bit of a busy print, you say? I KNOW!!! ISN'T IT AWESOME?!!! This was another find from the glorious AKN Fabrics (located both here in town and online). At the brick and mortar, this six yard cut of Ankara set me back 22 bucks. 

Ya heard me. Twenty two smackeroos. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci


oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

Even with six yards, I still did a bit of jigsawing with this pattern, especially since I decided to maxify it, lengthening the hem panels to sweep the floor. I gained a little bit of elbow room by reducing the width of the side gussets by 2". Speaking of elbows, I messed with the sleeves too. I think maybe I raised the waist by 1 1/4"? Oh yeah, and I only used one side of the front wrap! And threw a wide horsehair braid in the faced hem...

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing blog | Vogue 1239 : Wrap me in Rucci

OH HELL. You don't come here for the explicit sewing details, right? You come here to maybe laugh and hopefully get inspired to hack into some fabric, yeah? LOOK MAN. THIS IS A FUN PATTERN. GO MAKE IT!

(I know. Sorry. I'll try and dig up my notes on this, if there's interest in that side of my brain. It's wild in there.) 


Full Floral for Spring

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Full Floral for Spring

It’s time to play Guess How Many Pattern Pieces Are In This Very Simple Looking Skirt. Ready?

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Full Floral for Spring

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Full Floral for Spring

If you guessed 17, you win no prize whatsoever, unless you’d like to laugh at my insanity.

I suppose I could have achieved this sort of swishability with a gathered circle skirt– and gotten to that achievement in a much timelier fashion– but I really had a hankering to play with some godets! I mean seriously...I JUST WANTED TO ATTACH GREAT BIG BUNCHES OF ISOSCELES TRIANGLES TO SOMETHING.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Full Floral for Spring

This stretch twill hails from Mood Fabrics (sidebar: it was my May offering for the network, but the post mysteriously vanished from the MSN site, which is partially why I almost always repost! I like to have my stuff over here at my joint. Plus I'm *kind of* a control freak. Moving on.) The fabric is on the thin side, and wrinkles easily. It's a bit translucent in full sun, so I attached a half slip lining to the inner waistband. 

I gathered every other panel, just to incorporate a few more invisible elements into this “simple” skirt. HA. And, because I just can’t seem to stop tinkering with it, I am 100% going back in to that waistband and using a stiffer interfacing! Or maybe some petersham. The soft fusible I used just isn’t enough support, as you can see by the crease line running horizontal. No bueno.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Full Floral for Spring

This hasn’t stopped me from wearing it as a floral talisman against the never-ending drizzle that is Spring…and getting some appreciative comments to boot. In fact, I went full head-to-toe floral yesterday, and got smiles all around. If only I'd stumbled onto that combo for these pics...but luckily I made Rob document the floral explosion on Instagram. Poor Rob. He doesn't quite get my reinvigorated passion for wearing ALL OF THE PRINTS. I blame it on Man Repeller (which is living up to its name nicely, considering my husband's bemused demeanor) and the general state of the world. Sometimes, you just need to wear all of the flowers.


Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

YOWZA. I'm back from a shoot in Pittsburgh and playing catch up! I've been rabid to show you this dress since I finished it a month ago, so I'm going to give myself a pass on creating my usual, slightly incoherent paragraphs to go along with it.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

Or maybe I have a couple of things to say.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

I DO NOT DO WELL AWAY FROM ROB. That would be the first and main thing. Although I had a wonderful time with the people of Pittsburgh (the phrase "salt of the earth" is not only applicable but proven there), don't let my wackadoo grin fool you: when apart, we simply wilt like plants that need sunlight. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

Also, we make questionable choices. Anyone around here remember Rob's One Man DIY Bathroom Renovation of 2013?*  Well, a month ago, when I careened through this dress, it was Rob who was out of town, and me making bad choices. While none of them involved a sledgehammer, I got drunk on a heady mixture of power and loneliness, and rearranged the entire apartment into my sewing domain. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

The kitchen table was shoved out into the middle of the room, fully extended, covered in rulers and blades! Rob's desk was commandeered, all flat surfaces held a sewing machine! Small mountains of Ankara were piled on sofa and chairs! Lamps, railings, drawer pulls, ANYTHING HOOKABLE was repurposed as hanging racks for a dozen or more projects! Stitch centric podcasts blared! (with the occasional break for King of The Hill and Jill Scott.) It was a creative war zone, made to keep my sad brain occupied. But in the end, my war zone only reminded me that I was filling up all the space that Rob wasn't using, which just made me miss him more.

I've got three finished Ankara maxi dresses from that week to show you, and all of them are evidence of questionable choices made when apart. On this diddy, ooooo, take a gander at that back view! That's not just twinning, that's quadrupleting! The passerby might not mind it, but it makes my right eye do the boogie woogie--and not in a good way. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

Nevertheless, I obviously feel good in it! (And I did make the very good choice of packing up some dresses to shoot during my downtime in Pittsburgh, as evidenced by the ever present remote in my right hand.) I'm happy to be back home and together, and happy to give myself a pass on a happy dress sewn to ease a state of sad brain!

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | Simplicity 8013: Sanity Sewing!

Pattern: Simplicity 8013
Fabric: Anakara from AKN Fabrics --a VERY early birthday gift from my girl, Carolyn!!💕❤️
Reduced the width in each skirt panel, eliminating the gathers at the waistline. 
Used only the "flat" side of the bodice
Straightened the front bodice side seam by adding 1/2" width, tapering to nothing at armsyce
Shortened the sleeves, and added a 1/2" horsehair in the sleeve hem
Added a box pleat to the back skirt panels
Cut the CF panel in 2 to make the faux wrap appear less faux
Cut a deep V back 
Added twill tape to the V neck , front and back