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?


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?


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.


technicolor depths

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

Are you ready to see what's underneath that GIGANTIC HOUNDSTOOTH?

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble


If you didn't see my post over at MSN yesterday, here's my November allowance offering. Capety Cape Cape!! And, bonus (non-Mood) CRAZYFACE DRESS!!! 

This schizoid ensemble was all about opposite directions and course corrections. At first, I'd made the cape up in full with a Hong Kong finish. The houndstooth was so pretty! Why hide any of it? Well, for one, it sheds little baby wool hairs. And for two, I'm starting to appreciate the weight that a lining gives. The look, for three. OH THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS TO LOVE LININGS THAT MOST OF YOU ALREADY KNEW.   

Seconds before landing, I changed course and seam ripped a bajillion hairy stretchy seams, adding the red superheroine ponte. Under the wool and mohair, I'm all ponte, all the time.

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

The floral ponte hails from my neighbor to the north, Oh Canada. I had a Top Secret Super Quick Spy Mission that left me with a little time for fabric hunting (and very little for socializing. Next jaunt!).

You guys. You guys in Toronto. King Textiles is awesome. AND IT WAS FIVE BLOCKS FROM MY HOTEL. WHAT ARE THE ODDS. I came home with 5 pieces, one for every block, and ate supermarket haute cuisine to make up for it. WORTH IT. FABRIC IS MY FOOD.

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

But! Do you ever get that small yet consuming feeling of complete and utter dread, just after the proprietress cuts the first snip of your choice? This is not the droid you were looking for. This droid is defective. And this droid is now YOURS.

The print feels painted on with some crafty substance, even after washing, and it has zilch in the stretch recovery department. But I refused to change course! I eagerly plunked down my super pretty Canadian money! I'd deal with the saggy wrinkles for that palette of Holly Hobby flowers!

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

Later, in the hotel room with my feast of deli selections, I sighed and realized it was probably best suited for pajamas. Or pillowcases. Which, in Opposite World, made it the perfect choice for Vintage Simplicity 7398, hacked into a dress. 

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

With coral neon elastic stretch topstitched zigzagged embellishment. As you do. 

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

As for the cape: I often succumb to trends, in that I squirm uncomfortably over an endless parade of a suddenly coveted item, finally break down and snag everything I need to make it mine, sit on my supplies until the trend is over, and ultimately make something else.

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity patterns ensemble

This ginormous houndstooth wool threw me in reverse. When she arrived, I fell on her, and thought I'd make a sleek tailored blazer. But you know, super chunky, and not sleek in the slightest.

However, as the days passed, she whispered to me---actually she hollered at me, I mean, look at the size of that print: DON'T YOU REALLY THINK I SHOULD BE A CAPE. COME ON, MAN.

oonaballoona | wintry vintage simplicity ensemble

Of course capes aren't a passing trend, they're in every Fall, and this pattern (vintage Simplicity 7866) harkens from 1968. So I guess they're here to stay.

Ruggy says I look like Christmas. Yeah! Vintage Christmas! I took that literally and hamhandedly painted the backdrop with yellow and blue mulitcolored photoshopped holiday vintage glow. I guess I should have gone red and green. But I'm often running in the opposite direction of my original intention.

And you? Do you stay the course? Or run where your whim takes you?

the wool cape was made using my monthly fabric "allowance" as part of the Mood Sewing Network.


before and after

This project was just a mo-hair's breath away from becoming a What Was I drinkThinking. When I embarked on this cape, I was so in love with both sides of this wool and mohair yardage, I just couldn't bear to line it. So I made the questionable decision to bind each and every seam with some of that loaves-n-fishes Betsey Johnson floral jersey, shown above.

And the garment drooped and sagged, and called me names, and looked crazyface.  So I ripped out every. Single. SEAM. (Including every seam of the wool itself, which I actually did not need to do.)

But I soldiered on and I'm glad I did... it's one of Ruggy's favorites! I LOVE IT WHEN I MAKE SOMETHING THE RUGSTER LOVES! You can see her today, in full, up on the MSN blog... and tomorrow, I'll show you what's lurking underneath: another technicolor floral jammie that could be Betsey Johnson's Canadian cousin.

Though I don't know if a technicolored floral ponte could really lurk if it tried. Like an elephant trying to tiptoe. 


King Of The Library

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

Mystery fabrics at rock bottom prices always get me. Postage stamp sized New York joints filled to the rafters with random goodies, gimmie. But, at under $5 a yard, there's little chance a fabric tag will accompany the myriad bolts threatening to crush patrons.

Should you find yourself fondling questionable items, the clean, mostly white samples in Clive Hallet's and Amanda Johnston's Fabric For Fashion: The Swatch Book hope to aid you in understanding fabric, through text and touch.

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

Though I'll be honest...it's the pretty pictures that have my eye. I almost don't see fabric when it's not patterned, or technicolor. I just sort of glaze over on neutrals. I totally get the why, but it's hard for me to buckle down and read the text. That's the point of course, the pale swatches are meant to help you focus on the characteristics of the fabric.

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

And maybe that's where I'll prove a bad student, because YES GIMMIE THAT WHATEVER IT IS

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book


oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book


oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

DAMMIT, WOMAN! FOCUS! Let's be real, if I'm going to continue to be seduced by bargain bolts, this is medicine I need to take. When I'm enamored of a particular fabric type (usually through Mood, where things are nicely marked), suddenly every unmarked bolt I touch is that fabric by virtue of my current obsession. Back when I was working on my silk chiffon Anna, I swore everything I picked up in the shadowy streets of the garment district was silk. IT WAS NOT. 

As Ruggy says, I can tell myself a lie in the most truthful way.

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

But here you go, silk and poly CDC right next to each other, waiting to prove my silk colored glasses wrong. Um, yeah. THEY DEFINITELY FEEL DIFFERENT. Of course I know this. I just need proof every now and then.

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

Although the whimsically bound tome (I feel like I could definitely find some cool blank insert pages to insert for my own stash reference!) has 125 fabric samples in all, it's not just swatches. Overviews on Animal, Plant and Man Made Fibers, plus chunks of info on each little swatched subdivison, and the usual beautiful layout of a Laurence King tome grace 88 pages.

oonaballoona | laurence king review | the swatch book

Those 125 swatches do add up, over a buck a page at 95 smackaroos. Not something I would splurge on myself, but definitely something I would put on a wishlist! And the holiday season is coming, isn't it?

oonaballoona | laurence king at FIT

I most brattily thank LK for Christmas Come Early in Kalkatroona... it's a beautiful addition to my shelf. I do so love my little sewing library! Speaking of which...

There's a splendiferous FREE event happening at FIT tomorrow, hosted by Laurence King, with draping demos and raffles and lectures, oh my. I was drooling in anticipation until I realized it fell on my wedding anniversary, so you probably won't see my fabric dazed face there. Unless I can convince Ruggy that this would be a totally romantic start to the evening. 

There's a minute chance that I can actually do that. Last week, on his birthday, he asked if I might like him to build me some fabric shelves under our windows.

Which makes him King For Life.

this book was provided to me by Laurence King in exchange for an honest review.