get in the limo: meg, THE GRAND!

ah, meg, always grand.  fittingly of meg the grand.  if i need a smile, i just remember the flurry of  103 emails that debi meg & i shot back and forth across the globe, planning a meetup.  i miss them both like mad.  get in the limo, meg!  shout us a tale!

Friends, when darling Oona asked me to be in her Promaballoona limo, how could I refuse?! I love proms. I started planning on my Senior Prom when I was a Junior in high school.  Prom was a big thing in my corner of Ohio, especially because I went to an all girls Catholic high school. Dances with people other than our fathers? AWESOMESAUCE.  

(Not to say that the Father-Daughter dances weren't epic.  Nobody before or since has "strolled" as well as the Grands, y'all.)  

Since I like to make plans, I invited my best friend, Brad, to my Senior prom during my Junior year of high school. Brad was, and still is, a riot and I knew we would have a great time. My boyfriend at the time was not pleased that I already had a date for my school dance, but I was stubborn and didn't budge (BEST.DECISION.EVER.)  Just for fun, I decided to find the cheapest dress I could that had the most personality.  And covered my bosom.  That's important at a Catholic all girl school dance. That and passing the breathalyzer test so you could get into the dance - these were very important things.

My dress had a navy satin bodice with piles of tulle and fake flowers sewn all over it.  That's how I bought it.  I was totally sold on the epic fake flower bunches and the fact that it was only $30.  

A few weeks before the prom, we voted in homeroom for homecoming court.  Each homeroom had a representative on the court, which meant eight girls could be picked out of the 250 in our class.  As we were listing out who we thought in our homeroom should be on court, my friend, Erin, leaned over to ask me if I wanted to be on court.  I said, "Sure!" And sure enough, I ended up on prom court.

I didn't win, but I had a great time with my fabulous date, who was all for posing with "the Freshmaker"

The best part of these dances were the huge group pictures of all the theatre people present.  We all did theatre together at the all boy school, since they did more risque plays like "Grease" and "Bye Bye Birdie."  I'm totally serious.  I didn't want to do plays like "Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" so I went to the boy school where I could be the old woman/Italian old woman/British woman/old British woman.  I liked playing older women - they were more interesting.

As crazy as these dances were, they were nothing compared to the oh so fabulous after parties at my house.  We played poker.  Not strip poker, but I think there may have been pennies or nickels involved.  Totally clean cut fun, I swear!  

I have no idea who I am lying on top of, but I can tell they are male and that is my basement.  Totally clean cut fun, I swear!

Ah, but time goes by ... but the awesomeness of prom (and Promaballoona) remains!  To celebrate this epic event, I took my handsome date out on the town for some strolling...

some dancing....

and some celebrating of the great and fantastic OONA!!!  Happy Birthday, darling!  

thank you tremendous meg, and oh so dashing rob!!!! I AM JONESING YOUR RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME DRESS! i feel another meetup is in order... and ruggy is feeling underdressed now that there's another contender for prom king in the limo.  i may have to separate the men.

by the way, anyone surprised that meg was on homecoming court?  or posed with mentos?  OR TOOK A BREATHALYZER TEST?!


get in the limo: tanit-isis!

oh hai!  i'm getting all fancy and writing in italics because i'm about to hop in a virtual limo and pick up some lovely peeps who'd like to share some prom tales of yore with y'all!  these sewists never fail to make me laugh, and since they can't be at promaballoona in person, we're picking them up photoshop style.  ruggy has gallantly offered to chauffeur, what a man.  first on the itinerary: the goddess tanit isis!  get in the limo, girl!  tell us a tale!

Happy Prom Week to you! Happy Prom Week to you!

Now, I'm sure you all know as well as I do that no one throws a bash like Oona, so as soon as she announced her plan for a Promaballoona Extravaganza birthday week, I was so in. Even the complete impossibility of actually making a whole prom dress right now wasn't enough to deter me---I'll just take some new photos of my old one!

However, when she asked for our hilarious prom stories for these guest posts, I confess I got some rather cold feet. My grad (we don't actually call it prom up here) experience was awesome. I had exactly the kind of wholesome, safe, fun graduation that every parent should wish for their child. Which was lovely, but doesn't make for a great story.

I'll start with my date. Let's call him the Dr.  He wasn't then but he is now, working in cancer research in the San Francisco area. What a catch, eh? He's also tall, cleancut, funny, humble, and a serious gentleman. Unfortunately, being a teen, I had agreed with all my friends that he was "too nice" and locked him firmly in the friend zone. I can't really regret it, now, being slightly addicted to my husband, but one can still indulge in the odd twinge of "what might have been," right? He was a few years older than me, and by the time I was of graduand age, had made a bit of a business out of escorting young ladies of our social circle to their various grads. He had it down. He taught me to ballroom dance in the months leading up to the big day, mostly on the patio on top of his apartment building, which was one of the few genuine (ok, almost) skyscrapers in my hometown.

On The Day, he showed up with a beautiful iris wrist corsage for me, matching buttonhole corsage in his suit. Flowers hadn't even occurred to me. And he gave me a tiny little notebook full of hilarious and sweet little stories, silly jokes, and anecdotes about how awesome I was. It's probably the single most romantic gift I've ever gotten. I read it cover to cover during the bording speeches.

We danced at the dance. We hung out with my crazy friends. One wore a tux; one brought her girlfriend; one wore a 1700s panier dress rented from a costume house (with a buzz cut). For the after-grad, we skipped the official After Grad and went to another friend's house, outside of town, who had a pool. We hung out and swam and talked until dawn. There was a disappointingly complete lack of teenage drinking, sex, or any other debauchery.

God, I'm so straight-edge I make me sick.

And the Dr. and I continued to be just friends. He went on to acquire a PhD in Microbiology, while I went on to experiment with teenage pregnancy. (Ok, I racked up some degrees, too, eventually...)

Aside from the brains 'n all, the Dr. is also one of the funniest people I've ever met. In fact, that little notebook is considerably funnier than I could ever possibly be, so I've photographed a few of the pages just to share with you.

can you believe that notebook?!  THAT WAS LOVE, YO!  you can see more of The Dr's pages here (and really, YOU SHOULD).  having had the bittersweet luck of a fifteen minute meetup in an airport, i'm completely un-surprised that this gorgeous goddess had doctors-in-waiting filling up composition books for her.  

alright, ruggy's going to pour us some champagne (oh, the benefits of reliving prom at legal drinking age) and steer our trio to our next guest... see you soon!


in techni-living color

edit: here's the facebook page with all the event details!


oh hai!  are you busy making a prom dress?  do you need somewhere fabulous to wear it?  well then!  come on out to Sew LA for promaballoona!  the absolutely delicious ladies of this lovely locale are throwing us a prom, yo. A PROM.  complete with photo booth, dancing, fabric corsage making stations, sugary treats... and unlike your prom of yore, the spiked punch will be totally legit.  expect tinsel, tiaras, and tipsyness!  OH MY GOD THAT SHOULD BE OUR PROM THEME.

(if you haven't been to Sew LA's new digs yet, you're going to drool.  i stopped by last week to pick up miss haynes latest pattern, after gnashing my teeth in jealousy over these gorgeous Sew LA ladies' makes.  by the by, the pattern is magnificent.) 

speaking of patterns... worried about your prom attire?  well, i'm loosening up the rules on that.  IT'S MY BIRTHDAY PROM I CAN DO WHAT I WANT.  maybe you procured your frills from a vintage store... maybe you lovingly hemmed an RTW frock... maybe you just had a stiff drink in your closet and picked something out.  all fair game.  because everyone should go to prom, in virtual realities of all kinds, and everyone should feel fabulous.  

(of course, if you made your prom dress, you get total bratty bragging rights.)

be there, or be sober.  which, you know, is pretty much the same as square.  i'm so excited i might pass out, sober or no!


cheater cheater pumpkin eater

***as my fancy english friend says, STOP PRESS!  there is a delightful giveaway of some truly delicious retro patterns going on right now over at sew essentially.  if you don't know what to make for promaballoona, graca has you covered!  and miss graca... i do believe this puts you waaaay ahead in the running for Most Awesome Party-er.  we now resume our irregularly scheduled post.***

seriously, why pumpkin?  why not something more dishonest... like splenda?

i have many confessions to make about this dress, simplicity 1880 of the project runway line.  first off, speaking of, i did NOT see project runway last night, as we do not have lifetime.  huge boo and hiss.  i won't have a chance to see it online till SUNDAY.  weep for me.

hello slip!  i need a hot pink slip for this dress.  i like how it peeks out at the neckline... but a peek of color is ever so much more flattering than a peek of flesh tone lycra.

second confession.  you're going to be seeing a lot of these around the web today, i bet, as part of sunni's spectacular sewalong party.  i'm joining in, but i did not make this dress along with all the fabulous partygoers. nope, i'm just a brat.  i started this dress in the beginning of june, fueled by a recent viewing of punch drunk love (one of the best movies IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE.  THE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN UNIVERSE, I TELL YOU).

i used the selvage to finish the sleeves... love the gathering there.  hey, and this is the truth! at the time of stitching i did think sunni would really enjoy the delicate gathering on this bodice.  and BOOM, she picks it for a sewalong.  dr oona von dooma, master of puppets?  maybe....

or maybe i just like to twirl a lot.

actually, i loved making this dress and  i did think about joining up to make another, but i had already stalled on completing this one-- the center front was drooping down and i needed to rip out the waist and add a snapparoo... sunni had some wonderful tips on the finishing of it all, so i used the sewalong to fuel the finish of this make.  

and another truth which is probably completely self evident: i am so. impatient.  i haz no playalong skillz!!!  let me distract you with my contrasting back yoke!  happy about that decision.  not so sure, however, about that center back seam on the skirt.  the skirt has a lovely shape, but if you're like me and you insist on making dresses out of air that need a slip (this is some sort of netting found at levine's loft), and you possess a mount crackatoa of your very own, center back seams on skirts are not your friend.

but this pattern, like every simplicity PR jammie i've tried, is indeed your friend.  don't let the envelope fool you. whenever miss joann has a ten for ten sale, i go in and grab every blue envelope that does not have a child on it. you get so many options with this line, it's like getting three patterns in every joint.  i may just read through sunni's shirtdress version and finally tackle some buttons.  because her white shirtdress is giving me the vapors.

final truth: this house is not purple.  it is a stolid colonial blue.   come on, purple is so much better.

happy weekend!


promaballoona around the blogisphere!

oooh i have to share some prom goodness in the making...

I DID NOT MAKE THESE DRESSES.  but if i owned one, i might just lie and say that i did.  (i'll take the one with the hot pink rosette the size of alabama, thankya.)  do you know angela of bonne chance, the re-creator of these vintage pieces of heaven?  iffn ya don't, hop on over and meet her... she has an absolutely sweet blog that i've been happily stalking, and oh la la!  she's draping a prom dress!  wait till you see the curves on this jammie...

also in the works, some serious prom action from the girl with the star spangled heart... stephanie has made not one, but TWO muslins of a droolworthy advance vintage pattern and i can't wait to see the finished result!

this could be dangerous, as both ladies are already-in or will-be-in LA during promaballoona weekend.  i'm feeling a meetup in all our finery is necessary.  if this happens, surely i'm going to have to find a way to keep from snatching these dresses off the respective owners.

are you making a prom dress for the kalkatroonaan birthday festivites?  lemme know!  if you're not celebrating virtually and are in town, would you be interested in a meetup?  lemme know!  



how ladylike

When I first picked up this "hobby" that has since become an overwhelming obsession passion, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by every manner of estate sale.  Back in the day, LA was chock full of 'em, and they had yet to be taken over by specialty companies that did their market research and jacked the prices up. And no one knew what they had. Including me. I was lucky enough to snag both of these Claire Shaeffer titles for about 2 bucks, forked over the paltry sum simply because "sewing" was in the title, and when we jumped back across the country (neverending, these jumps across the country) I LEFT THEM IN STORAGE. During those three years apart, my knowledge increased, and so did my regret.  She's basically a sewing guru.  

I left a guru in a public storage facility by the airport.  

We were reunited the very week we landed back on LA soil, and since then, I've been using these tomes non-stop. Especially now that I've developed champagne tastes. Every evening in June, you could find me with a Manhattan and post-it tabs, poring over taffeta and italian brocade. Currently, I'm researching silk. OH MY GOD I LOVE SILK. The one I'm fondling at the moment is a thicker silk, like meringue right before you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Of course, Ms Shaeffer has several tons of valuable information on the subject, and I had to share one of her hints with you. I love her hints, but this about knocked me off my chair:


I didn't think I could love her more, but now I do. Anyone know if the new & improved reprints have this tidbit? Either way, her entire library is on my christmas list.  


hello, my italian friend

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

Someone once asked me if there was a fabric out there that scared "even me." At the time, the answer was a definite no. But this stuff... this stuff gave me nightmares.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

Yes, I actually woke up panting like I was being chased by a full on serial killer with eight arms, no head, and a never ending banshee scream in my dreams. Ruggy opened his baby blues in that half asleep state you use when you know your loved one is okay, and just needs to be lulled back to dreamland, murmuring s'kay, babe, bbbrrbbb, mmm s'kay. I slowed my near hyperventilation down to a dull roar, and cautiously recalled the dream:



I'm sorry, I need to pause there to reflect.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

Alrighty. Let me get back to the source of my fear. The celestial fabric. The fabric made of moon and stars and firecrackers. She's more purple here, no? She changes colors like i change my moods. I LOVE THAT.

Y'all know I've been desiring something more substantial to work with for some time...I don't know, maybe it's the tres chic hollywood air? I first spied this Italian brocade in mood's online shop, and surprisingly I knew what it should be. I'm not like that, I buy fabric because it's cheap awesome, and eventually I figure out the plan. But I knew right then this 'spenive stuff wanted the simple funky shape of burdastyle 108A.  

Still, being a touchy feely sort of gal, I needed reassurance. After a quick email to mood's LA locale, Silvana happily pulled it for me in advance, and I headed down to lay hands on the goods. I was flabbergasted when she led me down the aisle: nothing but black. Darkness everywhere. This was not a kalkatroonaan lane! Excuses would most certainly need to be made! But then, we started flipping those fabrics over... oh glory. Explosions of color! Metallic flickering lights everywhere! I was head over heels. The unexpected pink pleather piping was the icing on the cake.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

And then I stalled. This Italian brocade was certainly the most glorious stuff I've ever had on my table. I'd walk past it daily, giving it a wide and respectful berth, occasionally allowing myself to carefully refold and pet it. Practically deifying the precious. My pattern choice wasn't helping my confidence. Because really, adjusting a Burdastyle pattern is not fun... can I get a lengthen/shorten line? And drat it all, I already had a perfectly adjusted copy waiting for me 3,000 miles away. Just about a year ago today, I made my first honest to god full muslin for this dress, and like a good sewist I adjusted the paper pattern accordingly. In my mind, it was the bee's knees.

Why are they knees? Why not the bee's wings? They are obviously a more important and actual part of a bee.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

But when I looked back on that post, I saw that I was the victim of delusions of grandeur. (I am often this victim, there ought to be a support group.) Gaping neck and back, droopy bust. So I bit the bullet and printed out the whole shebang again.  

I graded from a size 18 to 19 through the bodice, and that seemed to easily fix the gaping. The back neck was a little high, so I scooped it about 3 inches lower. I left the shoulder seams as is, I love how narrow they are. I also found the armsyce to be quite wide... so I pinched out a quarter inch, vertically, right where the side seam would be, on bodice and skirt pieces. Possibly not the right thing to do.

Even though this is geared towards the petite lass, I still raised the bodice 1 inch, and went up another quarter inch for the final.  I just eyeballed my own shorten line, marking it at the same place on all bodice pieces. Although the extra quarter inch was probably overkill, much happier am I with the perky bust fit!

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

But the back bodice. Perhaps my night terror was a premonition, because THAR SHE BLOWS. She is too long. essentially, I haz given myself a wedge of fabric in order to produce a swayback. This could also be due to the armhole balance, as beautifully summed up by madalynne earlier this week. There's no side seam, but her description of the issue does seem to fit. Or maybe it's my eyeballed line? The unconventional side seam pinch?

At any rate: insert much gnashing of teeth here. I stood stock still staring in the mirror, deciding what to do. At this point all seams were finished, after all, I'd MADE A MUSLIN so that I could insert my piping without a care in the world, why would I need to try the damn thing on... stomping away, I decided I could live with it, and if not, I could live with it until I was reunited with my serger.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

And I mean, look at what I would have had to take seam ripper to. I think the insides look like a rock concert. Or a pinball game. OH MY GOD IT'S THE WHO'S TOMMY, Y'ALL. No way I was ripping that out, or covering that up with lining! Apparently 'spensive fabric makes me step up le guts game. I pored over my Claire Schaeffer library, and decided on bias facing for the raw edges, which I HAND OVERLOCKED. And I enjoyed every minute of it. This fabric was delicioso to play with. For pressing, I used a large piece of organza, and more of it to hong kong finish all my seams. I stay stitched each piece at 1/4 inch and they held up fine until I was ready to do my hong kong finish.  

Or, as Ruggy immediately dubbed it, my Wrong Kong Finish. For some reason I always tell him when I'm not doing something to the letter. He exploits this information at every opportunity. That ruggy. He's a card.

oonaballoona | a sewing blog by marcy harriell | burdastyle space dress

Laugh it up, fun boy. But sleep with one eye open. Me and the Italian brocade are friends now, and we rule the night, yo.

this neon shimmer was using my monthly fabric "allowance" as part of the Mood Sewing Network.


not what it seams (i couldn't resist)

i've got some offbeat sewing tools in my arsenal (yes, that is a frog tape dispenser with a gun roll.  i also have a blue plastic gun for said roll.  don't you?) so i thought i might make a wee thing of sharing a weekly favorite with you.  see that can of duck cassoulet up above?  it was DELICIOUS, and most certainly aided in my recent love for adding ease.  and now, it also holds all three hundred of my zig double tipped fabric markers.  these were enabled by mommaballoona's stash of 50% off coupons, like ten years ago.  they're still rocking.  i'm a big fan off capping things tightly.   

(no, i do not have three hundred, but it feels like it.  the most i can find them in now is a pack of 25, for like 50 bucks.  you can see where a coupon comes in handy.)

they've got a mean little pointy tip and a thick doofus tip, depending on your mood.  i almost always open up the wrong end first and scowl at the thumb sized end.  mostly, i do pointy rage work with these.  see:  stitching gone awry!  see: oona gnash her teeth in the direction of seam ripper and go for the cheater's route instead!

EH!   EET IZ VANISHED!  with all the colors of the world at hand, it's soooo easy to mask a little drunken stitching. and these won't wash out, being fabric markers.  i highly suggest searching your local crafty superchain the next time you've got a fancy coupon.

have i sufficiently ruined your image of me?  what do you do to avoid the seam ripper?


advice for a young kalkatroonaan

if i were to talk to my high school self about the shitty jersey tube mini dress she wore to senior prom, i'd tell her i made this drapey jersey maxi dress for 5 dollars.

she would know that all she needed was a hot iron and an eye for organic placement (read: cocktail) to bling it up.


and stink eye, you must have stink eye.   how else do you expect to keep those randy boys in their place.

you could go the demure route.  young high school oona certainly did, as cocktails were not an option.

i'd tell her: if you ain't got it in the front, party in the back.  (and no, young oona, they won't be growing much more.)

and i'd DEFINITELY tell her don't sleep on the 2 dollar a yard bolt found at international silks and woolens, even when the uninspiring shoplady opens said bolt to reveal an oblong hole cut smack out of the middle of it. because, young high school oona, when you take that jersey home, you'll find it's actually a tube, and the oblong hole makes a perfect drapedrape neckline to step right into.  and of course you bought a sheet of iron on studs from fabric planet to play with.  because you're smart and pretty and amazing, young high school oona, and one day you will rule the world.

(or you'll get tipsy on the regular and post stuff on a fun little blog too early and totally gum up the works.  hey by the way GOOGLE READER SUCKS.  my updated promaballoona got bumped to the back of the line.  you could say it was my own damn drunken fault, but i prolly wouldn't listen to you.  check out the new details, including incriminating photographic evidence of ruggy.)

what would you tell your prom (or formal, or grad...) age self? 



sophomore year.  asteroid blue dress.

If you hung out around these parts last year, you might've come to my virtual birthday party.
Peeps got quite drunk on fresh lime basil concoctions, sang songs, and brought all sorts of favors to the soiree. In the end officer mcnaughty had to be called in. It was BANANAS. Well. This year, I would very much like to have a prom for my birthday.

I went to prom. Actually, I went to prom three years running. I know, I know, I'd have you believe I was a social outcast in my high school career--and in the popular clique I certainly was--but with the "other" crowd I had a certain je ne sais quois that got me invited to prom early.

No I did not put out.

is that a face that puts out?  junior year.  the dress was actually pink.

Mall gowns were bought (that is not a typo), pictures snapped in front of rose bushes, dances danced. Fairly uneventful and nice. No stress, man, it's not MY senior prom. I'll stress when it's important, yo.

And therefore, my senior prom was an absolute bust. Six of us chipped in for a swank ride, and drove around for over two hours trying to find the locale of one of the dates (she was from another school, like eighty six towns away). By the time we got to prom, it was ninety percent over. I had decided to go with a friend (wah WAAAAAAH), and possibly in some stroke of karma, chose an underclassmen. We entered the room, and I didn't see him again for the rest of the very short night.


but i DO have a picture of senior ruggy.

Let's talk about The Dress That Was Not Snapped In Front Of A Velvet Curtain In Some Cheesy Banquet Room.

Kalkatroona, the motherland, is what you'd call the mecca of malls, and the Balloonas took me to Every. Mall. In The Tri-Kalkatroonaan Area. In the endIi decided on the first dress I saw on that three hour tour, and I don't even want to tell you what Nan Balloona shelled out for it. Because I know I could make that jersey knit tube with sateen rosettes and half cape for about 15 bucks. It was the EXACT shade of my skin. Flattering, no? After ten minutes of pseudo dancing, one of the rosettes (which were the size of my head) had wilted right off the damn thing. The storeowner was not amused when we tried to take it back. It's handmade, she said. Um, YEAH, obviously that's the PROBLEM was our uniformed and shocked response. Duh! If only we had known before we bought it! How could anything handmade last for more than one night?!

No seriously that's what we thought. 

So. I want to go to prom for my birthday. I want to go in something stunning, something created in my sewing room and not a mall, something properly handmade (sorry, boutique lady), armed with the man of my dreams, and I would be ever so off the charts thrilled beyond belief if you joined us.

Here's my proposal: make a prom dress. (edit: you may also alter, thrift, repurpose, or wave a bottle of vermouth around a prom dress.) You can go for the era you attended, you can go for the era you wish you attended, but GO. Go with a friend, go with a lover, go with a cocktail, GO BIG, AND GO OUT. Go out in something handmade and rock the surrounding vicinity. You've got the weekend of August 4th and 5th to paint the town whatever color you choose! (Probably don't go for flesh tone, word to the wise). Snap a pic, and post it on your blog. Let me know you went to promaballoona, (yeah that's right I NAMED IT) and I'll do a wrappy linkup here the week of Monday, August 6th. That would be my birthday week. Are you surprised I get a week? Really? You did read that whole promaballoona thing, yes? Good.  

The week of August 6th I'll be sharing your prom pics and doling out awards. That's right. Maybe you'll be voted most likely to succeed. Maybe you'll be class clown.  

Maybe you'll be Prom Queen.  

(*I'm* obviously Birthday Promaballoona Ultimate High Ruler In The Known And Unknown Universe, so yes, I will dub a Queen. Maybe a King too. BRING IT, BOYS.)

(edit: if you're in los angeles, come on out to sew LA for a real life promaballoona!  and don't forget to share your links if you're celebrating virtually :)