In Need of Beauty: Three Rizzoli Books You Must Possess.

In Need of Beauty: Three Rizzoli Books You Must Possess.

We had a gorgeous Thanksgiving, during which time the world stopped, and we were able to live in a private universe of family and food and love and beauty. On Sunday, our world was whittled back down to our dynamic duo. We readied ourselves for Monday--Rob with football, and I with a floral mesh swing coat inspired by Dior. We ended the weekend together on the couch, with the final episode of Friday Night Lights (our second time through), and Rob sighed,  I want more Good stories.  There's not enough of them.  I replied,  I think we'll see more soon. Actually, I think we're about to see a lot of beauty over the next four years.

We're about to see a lot of *everything*, no doubt, but don't you feel a push, a wake up call, to make it clear that you are Good? Even in the commercials we saw during Sunday games--the COMMERCIALS--people, corporations, are making themselves clear. Walmart had an ad up with Thanksgiving tables mixed with every race, color and creed--a black female soldier declaring to her platoon that you are my family, it doesn't matter what color you are. Zales showcased a lesbian couple joyfully tying the knot, showered with love from every direction. Amazon has an ad that's gone viral, in which two old friends with different beliefs share the same aching knee problem, from the kneeling they both do for their separate religions. Beautiful.

At any rate, I won't belabor you with half baked deep thoughts on every post, but it did seem to me that beauty is more important than ever right now. So I'll end the musings there, and give you an eyeful of beautiful books I've been meaning to share with you since last Christmas, as part of my Sewing Goodies series. Because these books will make you want to Sew. Beautiful. EVERYTHING.

In Need of Beauty: Three Rizzoli Books You Must Possess.

I don't like to say "never," but I can firmly say that I will N-E-V-E-R be a person who can read a book on a Kindle. Books, real books that you can hold in your hand, there's no comparison for me. Yet, I was completely blind to the use of fashion books for years. I mean, you can google inspiration from any number of designers! Turns out, having that paper in my hands is pure ambrosia. Beats a computer screen right to death. 

Hands down, Rizzoli books are my favorite. It's gotten to the point that if I see their mark, I'm sold. This large format book, Valentino: Themes and Variations, is glorious.

I've had this huge tome since last Christmas, and I haven't even gotten through the whole thing yet. Partly because I want it to last, partly because the inspiration is so overwhelming, I can only take so much at a time before I cry UNCLE VALENTINO and run to my sewing desk. It's just that stunning. 

In Need of Beauty: Three Rizzoli Books You Must Possess.

When I added Lanvin to my wishlist, it was purely for the fact that it was published by Rizzoli. (See? I wasn't lying!) When my parents gifted it to me, I thought ehhh this isn't my style even as I proved myself to indeed be a liar, as I drooled over the beadwork and thought up ways to incorporate it into my hamhanded machinations....


In Need of Beauty: Three Rizzoli Books You Must Possess.

And last but not least, Dior Impressions. The one that started my little collection. I checked this book out from our local library--it was actually the first designer book I ever leafed through in the quiet of our home, and as Rob read his "book" in bed next to me (on an Ipad, BLASPHEMY) I couldn't keep my reactions quiet. In fact, he got very little reading done that night, as I kept punching him to look at each new page.

It was the first designer book I decided I had to own. Not quite coffee table size, this cloth wrapped gem is smaller than the rest, and hands down my favorite. It ties Dior's work to inspirations of his own: art and nature.

(Speaking of coffee tables, these don't actually reside there, as that is reserved for eating in our small apartment. Nope, they live atop our electronics cabinet. Yesterday, Rob shocked me by asking if I could move them, as they're staring to pile up and block the speakers. I think you know what my reaction was.)

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into some of my favorite "trophies," as Rob rightly calls them (you'd think such a perceptive man would know better than to pose the aforementioned question, eh?). We readily plunk down cash for sewing books, but poring over these tomes is, in my opinion, a gold mine. It's like having a carefully curated exhibit in your home. If you're like me, and late to the party on the value of having one or two or TWENTY around, I hope you'll give them a try, whether it's through these links, or your local library (actually, the library is a great gateway drug for these! I have a pile of books that I check out every time we trek home for the holidays, and I pretend they're ALL MINE for a whole week.)

And for those of you who are already designer bibliophiles...got any recommendations? Our electronics cabinet needs piling up, dontcha know.

the links in this post are amazon affiliate links, so let your fingers do the googling if you're not into that! pennies earned go towards keeping up the sewing and blogging habit... and maybe another book or two...


A Statement: Purse.

oonaballoona | a blog by marcy harriell | A Statement: Purse.

Welcome to my bag of crazy.

Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Firstly, thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful thoughts on my last post, and the beautiful stories you shared. To be honest, I felt like typing out my (true, and heartfelt) thanks to each comment would seem hollow for the repetition, so I'll say it here: I really and truly appreciate every word written. That kind of communication gives me hope in what is, undeniably, a turbulent time. 

Secondly, with everyone feeling unsure about the future, it feels a bit ridiculous parading photos of a giant technicolor fringed bag-- like belting out a showtune at a wake. But I'm determined to try my best to inject color and fun into this space. And maybe, hopefully, brighten a day or two with my insanity. We don't know what's ahead, but for now, I'm going to (as Rob put it) keep my worry levels low and my action levels high. 

A Statement: Purse.


This bag.

A Statement: Purse.

This bag came into being at the end of October, when M&J Trimming asked if I might like to play with some goodies of my choosing. M&J has been a landmark in NY's garment district for, good lord, I want to say almost two decades? Early on in my sewing adventures, I ventured in a few times, but always left overwhelmed and empty handed. Now, they've gone through a makeover, and the store is bright, beautifully laid out, and happy. In early October, the staff was jovial, the owners gracious, the mood energetic-- made all the more so by the fact that The Khaljeesi was in town, guiding a group of sewists shopping for trim for Chanel jackets. 

(I *might* have harassed a few of them into showing me what was in their fabric bags. Oh, the bouclé...)

A Statement: Purse.

Back to this fabric bag! It's two giant curved panels of red boiled wool, with trim basically quilted to it in long gently curving swaths. The wool (which you can see in the belt and strap loops) matched the trim pretty well, and when I was done with the front panel, I considered leaving the back free of decoration. 

WHERE IS THE FUN IN THAT, I barked at myself. And away I went. 

A Statement: Purse.

The lining is some yellow mystery stuff from my stash, attached to a denim facing. Mystery Yellow was salvaged from this dress, which was only worn once. The skirt of it always felt thin-- like it was meant for lining. So the flimsy fabric finally found its purpose in life...

A Statement: Purse.

The blue rope trim, used for the strap, and the floral "belt" of the bag both hail from the vintage wall at M&J. Oh, I could have set up camp in front of the vintage wall of trim! There's about four yards for the strap, and a sensible yard of the floral motif for the belt, which is simply tacked down under the woven buckle.

I wish I could tell you how many yards of red ridiculousness went into this thing, but I lost track in my creative haze. I spied four large spools of it in the warehouse clearance section of the store, and I pounced. (My first thought was to make a bag covered in small fur pom poms. That bag would have cost about nine hundred dollars. This soft decor trim was the perfect compromise... not to mention, far easier to sew with). 

A Statement: Purse.

Total weight of bag: two and a half pounds. YEP. It's so heavy that putting items into it is something I have to seriously consider. It's like a small statement purse, meant only for keys and phone and lipstick, only it's half the size of my body. Completely irrational. I ADORE IT.

I'm very grateful to be able to partner with small stores and show my love by creating, when I can't necessarily show it with my wallet-- I do hope y'all don't mind it. And if you're inspired by my insanity, M&J would like to pass the love on and offer a 15% discount code for you. Just use "OONA15" through December 15 on the site (no affiliation).

And now, I've got some creating to do. I hope you do, too. Lemme know if you're making something completely irrational. I'm ALWAYS looking for good harebrained ideas...

this boho bag was made to make me smile, and hopefully make others smile too. i'll even take a laugh or two. thanks to m&j for providing the supplies!


To the Veteran I Never Knew.

oonaballoona | a blog by marcy harriell | To the Veteran I Never Knew.

This is my granddad. I always believed that he did not love me.

One summer, long after he had passed away, long after both my Grandmothers had passed away, my parents put together a photo album for me as a birthday gift. The bulk of the shots were true and believable memories. But I stared in surprise at my Granddad, me cradled in his arms. The love on his face was undeniable. And unbelievable.

But our beliefs are not always truth. 

Granddad was a quiet man. I shared maybe a hundred words with him over the years, most of those in the form of hellos and goodbyes. He was a Veteran. He served for four years in the Navy during World War II. I know next to nothing about him. This is what I learned today:

In 1941, my Nana had moved from Virginia to New Jersey, where she met my Granddad. Her brother, Eddie, was a Marine, and when my Granddad first met him, Eddie was in uniform. Granddad thought this man was an unbelievable sight, and he enlisted in the Navy in '42 -- mainly because he didn't want to give up the curl in his 'do with the mandatory buzz cut of the Army and Marines.

Granddad served in the South Pacific, but whenever they were docked stateside, Nana would go to visit him on his ship. His crew mates were incensed that a Black man was involved with a woman who, by all appearances, seemed White. They had to assure them that she was not.

When he returned from the war in January of '46, they were married by the end of the month. Twin girls arrived in November of that year. 

His first job after the war was short lived. When he asked for a raise, his boss said, no problem, you'll have your raise starting tomorrow. He arrived at work the next day to find that his boss had placed several pallets by his workspace to stand on. He quit on the spot.

He was incredibly hard working. He had multiple side jobs on top of his full time job at Western Electric, which he got because he was a veteran, in spite of the color of his skin.

One hot summer day, the young family of four all got on the bus to Olympic Park in Irvington, NJ. They were excited to ride the roller coaster and cool off in the pool. But when they arrived at the gate, they were denied entry because of the color of their skin.

During the Newark riots of '67, now a family of five, their car was stopped by the police, who then searched the vehicle. The police found a hammer in the trunk, there because Granddad did all of the repair work on the two homes they owned. The police considered the hammer to be a weapon and said something to my Granddad, something my Mom did not hear. But she felt it when he suddenly hit the gas and sped off and she heard it when the police shot at their car. 

Or was it the National Guard? My shock at these stories, at once completely believable and absolutely unbelievable, makes it hard to remember the facts.

Granddad once caught an electric eel when fishing in the Raritan River. What did he do?! I asked. He threw it back! my Dad replied. The thought of my stoic Granddad reacting to an electric fish is unimaginable and yes, unbelievable. 

oonaballoona | a blog by marcy harriell | To the Veteran I Never Knew.

Everything I've just told you comes from a conversation I had with my parents this morning. I didn't hear any of these stories from my Granddad, who I rarely saw anywhere but in his domain: the basement TV room and bar. There, he would sit in his recliner (though never in a reclined position), watching TV. We would kiss him on the cheek. He would grunt a hello. We would leave him be, and go outside to play with our cousins. The only thing that changed as we grew up was that I would go upstairs to debate with our cousins, while my brother would stay downstairs and sit with him. I know no other small tidbits about him. 

I do have one memory of my brother and me, sitting on bar stools, while Dad and Granddad made a couple of rum and cokes for the ladies upstairs. (Nana said no one made a rum and coke better than my Dad. EASILY BELIEVABLE.)

oonaballoona | a blog by marcy harriell | To the Veteran I Never Knew.

This might seem like a story about race. It's not-- but it is. I said at the beginning of this lengthy post that I believed my Granddad didn't love me. I suppose I should tell you why. My extended family looked like a Colors of Benetton ad, but it sure didn't act United. We were opinionated, and funny, and loud, and passionate, and ever-slightly-feuding--and though every single person in that house was born of a mixed race marriage, a lot of those holiday feuds were centered on race. What race you were, what race you claimed, what race was better than the other. Neither of my grandparents ever joined in these conversations, especially my Granddad, who sat downstairs as the hollering went on. His silence made it easy for me to believe he didn't care enough to talk. I believed my particular racial blend held both of my maternal grandparent's love for me at a quiet arm's length. 

But maybe my Granddad simply wanted quiet after the weight of so many struggles. The worst of which had to be losing his 33 year-old daughter. Maybe my Nana was just shocked to see a teenager with natural hair the size of New Jersey greeting her at the door, when she had to wrangle her hair into a small, straightened shape every day of her life in an effort to appear a little bit more "acceptable." Maybe I was just an unbelievable sight to her. 

Race plays an enormous part in the story. You could easily say it is the cause of it, but it is not the sum of it. It is a story about strangers, brought on by a day which honors a man I didn't know. 

I've been reading this over and over, wondering what the hell I'm trying to say. Just now, I heard some yells, some drums, coming from up the street, and my mind immediately went to thoughts of protestors and trouble. I believed this imagined scenario instantly and completely. Looking out the window, I saw a troop of 30 young Black kids dressed in some sort of school military uniform, carrying marching band instruments and carefully rolled flags. They walked happily down the street, obviously heading somewhere in honor of Veteran's Day. I wrote a story in my head that I instantly believed, and which turned out to be the complete opposite.

Would I have gotten these stories directly from my grandparents if my own beliefs hadn't clouded up every encounter I had with them? My beliefs became truths that made no room. They colored every hello and goodbye. And they made my grandparents strangers to me.

We all have strangers in our lives: neighbors who vote the other way, family members we just don't get, countless people we only know through half-thought-out opinions on social media. In honor of this man I didn't know--this man, who by sheer virtue of the magnificent daughter he raised, was obviously a man who had great love inside him--in honor of this man, I'm going to do my best to question my beliefs. To hear a siren and consider that it might mean help is on the way for someone. To consider that a stranger's sideways glance might not be condemnation--maybe it's a commendation on my latest oona creation. To let my beliefs be pliable enough that I can give small and large kindnesses to those that I see every day, and those that I'll never see again.  

To consider that my belief isn't always truth.


it begins

Voting, and coverage of it, has begun. Although I don't talk politics here, I've been completely unable to keep my mouth shut in public--lobbing out a soft ball to test the waters, and then jumping in with both feet regardless of temperature. In waiting rooms at auditions. In ballet class between exercises. In Mood at the cutting tables. In my neighborhood grocery store. I've run into more than a few peeps who have decided to sit this one out, but who at the same time have unbendable opinions about who should win.

This year saw two of the most watched Presidential debates in our history. It's easy to watch--well, let me rephrase, I watched all three from tip to tail, and it was not easy to watch whatever that was at all. What I mean is, watching is passive. Typing out 140 character rants on social media is worthless if you don't back it up and vote. I'm not here today to take sides, I don't think you're going to have to stretch your brains very far to guess what side I'm on. I'm here to implore you to take your side and make it official. Of course I wish you'd vote for the one that I want (doowop-shoowadawada, oo, oo, oooo). But more than that, I want you to physically make a choice. Even if our voting system is a mess--make this the biggest voter turnout in our history. 

And we'll see what history has in store for us in the morning. 

(Tonight, I'm going to leave a pretty piece of fabric folded up on my desk to greet me alongside the AM results. I highly recommend it. And right now, I'm going to turn the comments off because it's the day of the show, y'all. Stop typing. Go vote.)