Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing

Quite a few things got sewn in the past nine months, and only a handful made it to this space. It's easy to lose track, innit?! I keep thinking this past summer was our summer down South. Also, Christmas was yesterday. And maybe comes again before Halloween? LIFE IS A GAME OF JENGA AND TIME IS A ROUND OF WHACK-A-MOLE. Is it summer? WHACK. Nope, it's autumn. Is that murmur the sound of a gentle breeze in Fayetteville? WHACK. Nope, that's the dulcet tone of a New York City garbage truck.

This carnival game isn't helped by the multiple time-sensitive balls in the air. My creative life is one big piece of content, whether it's shooting for sewing, or film/tv/theater work. That might sound a little whiny--actually, I prefer holding the reigns on what goes out there. But when your main job is almost always ruled by an NDA, and your side gigs are a jumble of deadlines for future projects, the timeline gets a little blurry.

Some of these things might eventually make a proper appearance on le blog, but *just in cases*...I think it's time for a stroll down topsy turvy lane.

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Bootstrap Cinch leg jumpsuit

Fabric: @chicfabricsnyc 247 W 38th street, NY

Spring had burst out at the seams when we were gearing up to leave Fayetteville, much like this poor linen jumpsuit. Cut in March 2020, finished in January 2021, shot in April 2021, and promptly ruined when I accidentally washed it on hot. I loved this thing so dang much! It saw me through a sew-jo boosting video and several self-tape auditions--and got me into the final rounds on a few (one of which would have cast me as a rollerskating queen. Dream job). I might have to see if Chic has more...

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Half Circle Skirt

Fabric: NY's garment district (a store I don't usually frequent. Shopping there made me remember why.)

The merry month of May found us back in the city, and our return came with an avalanche of deadlines, one of which was the Sewing Weekender, hosted by The Fold Line and Charlotte Emma Patterrns. I taught a class on using wax print to make a half-circle skirt. Since everyone attending was there to sew, longer classes were welcome, and it was actually a relief to make a thirty-minute-long video and not worry about the usual YouTube attention span!  A shorter version of this tutorial lives on our channel. You see me use a half-circle skirt CONSTANTLY. It's got one seam, y'all. Fast track to drama. 

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Simplicity 9041. Muchly hacked. Muchly.

Fabric: @fabricsusainc

After two online galas, a demo recording for a freaking brilliant new musical, and some general malarkey (unpacking and busted pipes), the end of May found me hellbent on JUST SEWING SOMETHING FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Like in the olden days. But it took me until June to finish this yellow baby. I must have spent a full eight hours on the floor placing the print, which of course I loved every minute of. Come warm weather, she's getting a proper shoot.

It started out "as drafted," with sleeves--oh wait I'm lying, this was a trial run for an autumnal dress for Threads, there was a reason for sewing this. Why else would I be sewing sleeves with the promise of Summer around the corner? I am not that chick! The armsyce was hella tight, and the center front was hella frumpy, so sleeveless she went.

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Self Drafted & Draped

Fabric: @fabricsusainc

More June, more wax print, more sewing for the channel...this was my demo dress for the centered zipper tutorial, which includes a serenade from Rob. I cut the bodice of this one seven times until I got the print placement I liked. No exaggeration! I have evidence I'll share here someday...

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Self-drafted bodice + half circle skirt 

Fabric: Stonewall from the Love is Love collection (affiliate link)

June ended with this little baby-hued number, a collab with Matthew of Mister Domestic, to celebrate the launch of his fabric line. This pattern was designed in honor of Stonewall--I have it in the red colorway as well and am still considering a matching purse. Matthew unknowingly beat me to the punch on that one with a woven clutch, and I'm glad he did, because weaving a clutch would be waaaay more fetch than just sewing a few rectangles together. 

Although it's quilting cotton, it's quite drapey and worked well with this combo. I don't know what drew me to these hues, but I feel like a pretty pretty pastel princess, as can any human of any persuasion. Shout out to all my humans out there being who they are!

You can see the dress in action in this Baby Hem Tutorial.

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: True Bias Ogden Cami

Fabric: Joann

The return to NY was a shock to the system, I'm not gonna lie, and shooting four tutorials in four weeks in four square feet of space had my brain over-easy. So we welcomed the chance to house sit in Connecticut for some of our oldest friends. Whilst listening to July birdsong and scrolling through my insta feed, I stumbled upon the Ogden Cami Hack month hosted by Kelli of True Bias. It reminded me that 1: it was JULY, and 2: I hadn't made my annual Ogden maxi dress! I found this butterfly fabric at Madame Joanns, and lemme tell you what, the Madame, she was maybe a little tipsy when she released this fabric. The print is obviously my jam. But the hand of it feels like a cross between vellum paper and popcorn. I refuse to do a burn test on it cuz I don't wanna know.

There's a decent chance I'll modify again, and hack this up into a floaty-sleeved top before I ever get a full-length snap of it....

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Camille Swimsuit by Sirena Patterns

Fabric: Stretch House, NY, 218 W 37th street

I guess my penchant for modifications is showing....in July, Makerist invited me to be a guest ambassador for their "Make It Yours" challenge. The brief was to modify a pattern and, you guessed it: make it yours. I was looking forward to jumping in a creek during our staycation, but ten thousand mosquitos had other ideas, so maybe next year she'll get wet.

(yes, that is what she said.)

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Pants, RTW Shorts Copy. Dress, Self Drafted

Fabric: @waxprintslacesnmore

WHACK! Suddenly it was the first week of August! I was in a race against time to sew for my birthday! Twelve yards of wax print arrived at our very temporary address, and I cut two dresses, one pair of pants, and a pair of shorts. In other words: MATCHING OUTFITS. Over the course of 24 hours, I sewed two out of four: this dress (another practice run for the bodice tutorial) and Rob's pants. Rob's pants suffered for my sewing delirium, that pose unwittingly disguises some very questionable print placement.

I didn't get the other dress and shorts knocked out in time, so we got...coordinating outfits? Cuz these prints so go together.

I got my matching outfit moment anyways, at the end of the long-promised bodice modification tutorial. This is also where I finally noticed, during editing, the unfortunate crotch area.

These might be #oonapants now.

Catching Up: 9 Months of Sewing | by marcy harriell

Pattern: Self drafted bodice + half circle skirt

Fabric: Outdoor canvas from Madame Joann

Rob, probably seeking a break from all that matching, went away on a Rude Red adventure, and I was all tutorial-ed out. I spent a week eating like a frat boy and making this dress, for a stitch-to-finish video. I have to say I love doing these speed ramped semi-music-videos. I know they're not step-by-step, but they give me a little breather, and hopefully they're inspiring!

And now, it's time to sew something! Unfortunately for me, the "something" is hemming Rob's dress pants. Fortunately for me, this means we are about to dress up. Silver lining, baby. SILVER LINING.


A Jacquard Gown for a Jewel Box Theater

A Jacquard Gown for a Jewel Box Theater | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

I’m coming to you from a little hiding place in my mind, where I live in an intimate jewel box of a theater that only houses about 250 of my closest friends. Come on in, I have a seat reserved for you. There are plenty of turrets and boxes to keep you cozy— and distanced, if the situation calls for it. Some are even way up high in the rafters, if you really want some personal space....

This beauty was our first stop on September’s mini tour: Ethan’s hometown of Menomonie, Wisconsin. He grew up thinking every town had a theater like this. As did everyone we met that night after the show! 

(I snapped my dear friend and cohort at the piano, unawares. He practices for hours before each show. The music coming from those hands, I'm telling you, we could sell tickets to soundcheck.)

Somehow, after the concert, I ended up perched with Rob in one of those velvet draped boxes, and we enjoyed meeting a masked-up Menomonie immensely from our whimsical vantage point, talking to all our new friends like we were on some sort of Victorian designed float:

Of course I researched every stop and stage beforehand, and made a dress that went with each. I had a head start on this pink jacquard gown—but really, three weeks ago, it was just a prop for camera. The half-boned, self-drafted bodice was pinned to some hastily draped yardage for our “Tea for Two” at-home singing Valentine, recorded across states with Ethan and a highly mischievous Rob. Who needs to finish the back of a dress when you’re only shooting the front, eh? And with nowhere to go, I didn’t see the point in putting a ring on it come February 15.

Stitching it up for real was the obvious choice for our first live performance together in twenty months.

I love jacquard. I love the duality of it. And I love how it suits this scenario: going from a prop on a little screen to a 3D gown in real life ties a neat little double-sided bow in my mind.

There's a bow in reality too: it sits at waist level, right where I used the flip side of this shimmering jacquard. Both sides of the pink floral fit the space to a T, although one of our new friends lamented that the thick rug placed onstage under the grand piano needed to suit my dress better—something in burgundy, maybe? Next time? she promised.

And I promised to come back, with a new dress. Gladly.

I'm gonna address the elephant in the world: yes, it’s kind of scary, after this endless year of doing our best to stay away from folks, to suddenly be taking gargantuan gulps of air for high notes and hugging new friends after shows.

But it’s also not. We’ve done everything we can to be safe and smart, and that includes Le Vaxx, folks, which our trio is, proudly and fully. Four states, three planes, three hotels, two rental cars, a dozen handmade cloth masks, and a 20 pack of KN95s. That's a lot of numbers. And we're all good. Plain and simple, here’s the equation after twenty months away:

Opportunity + Precaution = Work

I understand that equation isn't possible for a lot of the world right now. But if we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity, and have taken all the precautions we can, the only choice for many of us is to do it. The artists that society relied on to bring a smile in this upside-down world simply have to get back to work. If we don’t, the art you’ve scrolled to see won’t be around the day you’re ready to experience it in person.

I’m not talking about stars. I’m talking about working-class musicians, actors, comedians, dancers, costumers, technicians, carpenters, stagehands. The people who make their living through concerts, through content, through performance. The people who are on their way to becoming stars, the people who work days so that nights can be filled with art, the people who will live under the radar forever but are your treasured secret favorite that you can’t wait to introduce your crew to.

Art has always been viewed as a luxury. These endless months of insanity have taught us that it’s a necessity. Those who count sewing as a superpower know for damn sure that creativity is the air we breathe. As for us, we’re doing everything we can to breathe that creative air safely, and with care for our fellow humans. We hope you feel the same, we hope you do the same, so that when you're ready, we can see you again outside all of these tiny screens.


Performance Gowns…or, Back Onstage!


I had an epiphany last week (which will read as “plain common sense” to some): I didn’t need to sew three gowns for my return to the stage. I had plenty of dresses in my closet that hadn’t seen the spotlight for almost two years. Basically a closet full of brand new homemade couture!

Then I tried on a few…and a few more…and realized we’d, uhhhh, grown apart during our pause from the spotlight. Some relationships had grown more distant than others, by like, a good three inches. And then, after such a sensible yet squashed epiphany, I decided it would be enjoyable—easier, even—to sew three gowns start to finish rather than alter a few candidates. 

So seven days of slam sewing began, on top of everything else that life currently entails. At one point, Rob said to me we can buy you dresses if we need to. And then backed away slowly, as if from an approaching bear with her three cubs, when he saw the look on my face.

Yes, I could have made ONE look for all the dates of this mini jazz tour, but each venue is so different! And as a casting director once said to me: You like your clothes to match the part. 


Somehow they’re all done to the point where I *believe* I won’t be sewing in the dressing room. 

The songs of Bacharach, Hal David & Dionne Warwick are the set list. Our first venue (tonight!) is the Mabel Tainter in Menomonie, WI. Ethan’s hometown! Oh did I mention I’ll be performing with The Great Ethan Iverson? Y’all remember Ethan from the thong debate of 2012? His hometown boasts a gorgeous Victorian theater with exquisite backdrops (expect Instagram spam, if you follow me there).  Tomorrow night, Sept 16, we’re at Crooners, a Minneapolis supper club. Then Saturday the 18th we travel to Pinehurst NC for the grand finale at the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center. All venues have measures in place, so if you’re in town and decide to come see us, you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with anyone. Unless you count rubbing shoulders with us after the show, because we’d love to meet you. And by “we” I mean me ‘n the chrome dome. The Rob chrome dome. Although the Ethan chrome dome is very approachable as well. We got chrome domes aplenty.

Time to go sing in the shower and steam a gown. I won’t lie, I’ve got butterflies. But I’m going to remind myself that butterflies mean you’re alive and DOING THINGS. 

Hope you’ve got some good butterflies going on today 💗