A Blogger Walks Into A Bar....

Or, what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Before I revealed my secret identity as an actress, this space was all about stitching. No one in the sewing world really knew what we were doing jetting from NY to lalaland, or why random strangers who had nothing to do with a sewing meetup were asking for pictures on the street, or why I was suddenly popping up on a tv screen, left on for background noise whilst setting in a sleeve. And on the flip side, people in “the business” had no idea I sewed, until I screamed THANKS I MADE IT when complimented on an outfit at work. And they certainly had no idea I had a blogging alter ego.  

But in this particular case, I had the surreal situation of making a friend, through blogging, who was in the music business, who had no idea this sewist was also a singer.

We first heard Ethan Iverson play the piano through a tiny, tinny TV speaker in a little LA tree house apartment. The cable TV “jazz radio” station had started off with the ubiquitous “Take Five,” swinging us from Coltrane, to Davis, then suddenly to the quiet opening notes of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Rob and I slowly turned from our books and fabrics to the TV screen, in confused recognition, as the intro settled into a transcendent Tears For Fears cover, with Ethan’s piano as voice.

This was The Bad Plus. We immediately sought out everything they did, including all the live concerts we could make. I never said we’d been introduced to the catalog of their music on cable TV *out loud*—which at the time was akin to saying I'm a coffee afficianado, and then giving the name of your favorite Nespresso pod when asked which bean you drink. (Mine was Ristretto.) But we find so much music through streaming devices now, it seems completely normal. (And I’ve since graduated to fancy small batch indie coffee, SMELL ME.)

We started to become familiar faces at concerts. Then Ethan found us, through the blog. Through a post about the public appearance of thongs in airports, to be precise, in which our opinions were 100% sympatico. One evening in NY at Smalls, during a particularly awesome birthday week, he stopped at our bar stools between sets. I know you, he said. You’re oonaballoona

YES I AM, I grinned back, practically falling off my stool onto Rob’s lap, who was coolly shaking hands and exchanging actual names. Of course I shoved the Marcy part under the rug, I mean, I had just missed one of the few concerts they had done with a vocalist, because I was in the middle of shooting a David E Kelley pilot and starring in ”In The Heights” on Broadway, but more importantly, I MADE MY DRESS.

We met and fell immediately in love with his mate, Sarah Deming, author and Golden Gloves champion among her myriad talents. The four of us multi-hyphenated folk—author/pugilist/sommelier, writer/musician/composer, writer/actor/saucemaker, and sewist/secret identity, grew into the sort of Great Good Friends you cook for, and stitch for; friends that you watch all the important episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with, friends that you eventually let your secret identities out with. The sort of friends you plan imaginary vacations with, and spend real New Years Eves’ with. 

We’ve been happy audience members at the annual Village Vanguard concert for years now, Sarah and I bedecked in oonaballoona originals, Rob in a handmade tie, Ethan bringing down the house.  This year, Ethan’s stepped out on his own, continuing his constellation of fantastic collaborations with jazz greats and mentors, writing, composing, creating, and basically exploding. And this New Year’s Eve, our musical paths converge, as I’ll be sharing the stage with him at the Zinc Bar (a stage where Billie Holiday sang while Sinatra watched from the audience. No pressure.)

Two sets begin with The Ethan Iverson Trio, Vinnie Sperrazza on drums and Corcoran Holt on bass, then I’ll totter on out in a handmade gown for a set of songs you likely know well— the music of Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Dionne Warwick. And yes, I’ll wear a different dress for each set. Never pass up an opportunity for a costume change. NEVER

If you’re in town, I hope you’ll join us.  And let me know if you do, and let me know what pattern you’re wearing, because when you think about it...sewing is the thread that got us here.


Rob Was Gone For Five Days So I Made A Five Hour Dress.

Rob Was Gone For Five Days So I Made A Five Hour Dress. | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

GREAT TITLE RIGHT?!!!! Last week, Rob was away for five days, which in Casa Harriell Time (CHT) is ALMOST FIVE YEARS, and, as previously evidenced when we are apart, questionable decisions were made.

Rob Was Gone For Five Days So I Made A Five Hour Dress. | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

For Rob, it's doing things like demolishing and renovating our bathroom single-handedly (this turned out to be a very good thing in the end; Rob: I love the bathroom). For me, it's turning the house into a tornado of fabric and slam sewing through anything within reach.

Rob Was Gone For Five Days So I Made A Five Hour Dress. | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

This was one of those slam sews, a dress made in about 5 hours, which at the end of the day, for a dress of this level, is just silly. It was worn that very evening, to perform with the Loser's Lounge. We have a ridiculously good time at those concerts! But when my ladies asked me how I was upon arrival, I had to say-- nay, HOLLER: 

There were a lot of new faces there, and therefore new peeps learning I make my own stuff, and therefore new requests for stuff of their own, which I happily dodged as much as possible. Though one gorgeously talented lady did correctly guess how much a dress like this might cost...she gave me PAUSE, y'all!! 

I digress. The dress. The slam sewn dress. She doesn't stop at the waist, as the belt might suggest. I elongated my self-drafted strapless "bustier" pattern to stop at mid-hip, then attached a paneled skirt. 

To keep her up, I made a second bustier pattern as drafted, and threw rigilene boning on those seams. Now, if I hadn't been POSSESSED, I would have realized that having a waist edge underneath a dress without a waist seam would get uncomfortable, which it did. Should have made the lining as long as the bodice, but you know, I elongated my pattern directly on the fabric, because poor choices.

I didn't have an appropriate invisible zipper, of course I didn't, I didn't plan this out AT ALL, so I used an exposed gold zip. She buckles a litte just under the waist--but never you mind that, JUST NEVER YOU MIND, because she's not long for this world in her current state! 

Which is why you're getting these slightly blurry, back alley pictures of this dress (another intriguing decision, as my photographer was gone). Evidence that she existed as such!

My first instinct for this fabric, which hails from @fabricsusainc, was to go for an autumnal maxi skirt, and after her virgin outing proved vexing, I believe that's just what I'll do. Time for some surgery. Though I'll grieve losing that print placement on the bodice portion! Print placement took about 3 out of the 5 hours of stitching!

I know, I know, shhhhhhhhhh. Nothing is safe in my handmade closet. I might salvage the bodice portion for a two-set, though!

Rob Was Gone For Five Days So I Made A Five Hour Dress. | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

If you wanted this look, you could use the bodice portion of Simplicity 8456 (it's really the same look, my pattern just fits my tatas better 😁) and attach a half, or full, circle skirt at mid-hip. You'd simply use your mid-hip measurement for the "waist" measurement, and if you don't want to do the math, put those digits in any number of circle skirt apps to get your skirt pattern (I love By Hand London's online calculator.)

By the way, I have LOVED reading your comments on my jacket giveaway post, both here and on Instagram!! I haven't replied, as I'm keeping the area clean for pulling a name later today. I'll close off entries at noon 10/28 EDT (that's today as of the writing of this post) and pull a name out of a hat this evening. It'll probably be announced on Instagram before the blog, but I will put the winner up here as well (and you don't have to be on IG to win, though you do get an extra chance if you follow & comment there as well--again, before noon!)

Okay cheerio then! I don't know what's got that phrase in my head, but when you start with a post title like this, might as well FINISH STRONG.


Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One!

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

Most weekends, when other teenagers were grabbing their friends and heading to the mall, I grabbed my Nan for a girl's day. Mom would drive us up, drop us off, and we'd spend hours arm in arm, checking out every store, getting a slice of pizza and cake for lunch, meeting at the pickup point in time for dinner.

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

Nan could change my luck in a store SECONDS after walking past the threshold and taking in the scope of things by simply saying: Nah, there's nothing for us here... As the type of personality that wanted to go through *every rack*, this always dismayed me. But when we hit a store that passed muster, forget about it. You like it? Get two! You love it? GET THREE!

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

Where the first proclamation made me slump, the second always made me cackle. Nan! I don't need multiples! What am I gonna do with three of the same neon yellow polka dot shirt? And we'd laugh and laugh, arm in arm, ignoring the weird looks from my contemporaries in their teenaged, impenetrable circles.

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

By the time we got to lunch, we usually had a bag or two of clothing, which I later realized she was buying with her Social Security checks. She lived pretty frugally, spending the money she saved on others (and not just the trivial fashioning of a grandaughter by a woman who raised four rowdy boys and didn't get to play dress-up-- I'm talking, we think she helped put more than a few people through school).

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

All this is to say, when I saw this jacket: I bought two. I liked the longline style so much, I wanted to take the original idea and run with it. I figured two jackets would morph into one extra long duster. Then....this embroidered mesh caught my eye (and my breath) and I was careening away, off on another track. 

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

When we finished this episode of Re:Fashion Season 2, I realized I had plenty of fabric left over to make another! 

You like it? MAKE TWO! 

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell
Don't mind if I DO, Nan!

Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: BUY TWO!!! And Giveaway One! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

And true to her spirit, I'd like to give the second one away. A little trip to the oonaballoona mall! To get your name in the hat, leave a comment here, and tell me what you love about fashion. I have many layers of love for fashion-- a very fond layer is the memory of those Mall shopping dates with my Nan. I wish she could see what I'm doing now, I know it would make her holler (she often hollered on the phone to me, if there was even a *nanosecond* of silence: MAAAAAAAAAAARCY! Followed immediately by laughter on both ends). She would have been yelling at her TV set to see me wearing this on the Today Show, for sure. And she was always giving, so this seems the appropriate thing to do, when you buy two ❤️

You can also enter on Instagram, but as stated in my last post, the world is not entirely on Instagram, non? But, you'll have two chances to win if you throw your hat in the ring on both arenas.

Full disclosure, the jacket is my size, as I didn't know where I was going till I got there! As usual. Giveaway is open all over the world, and I'll close the entries on Monday Oct 28. I'll throw the winner's initials of choice in crystals the back :)

Speaking of bling, there were also LED lights and all manner of mayhem, courtesy of Rob, on the meandering way to creating this look--to see how I did it, you can catch the full episode here on Bluprint. (If you don't already get your Sewing TV there, you can sign up for a free trial, and right now they're offering a super discounted price of 59.99 for a year, but I think that only lasts through tomorrow! I know I sound like a commercial, but that is SO MUCH LEARNING Y'ALL. Besides getting entertained by all manner of makers, last weekend, I watched Kenneth King sew pockets, & Alison Smith taught me tailoring. Cuz somebody's on the warpath to make a tuxedo.) Links in this post are affiliated, to feed the sewing beast!


The NYCB Fall Gala Gown, Take Two!

The NYCB Fall Gala Gown, Take Two! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

Sometimes I think in captions, ie: I'm def gonna need more coffee lolzzzzzzzzzz😴☕️... AND THEN I WANT TO PUNCH MYSELF. When you think in captions, it's time to re-evaluate your life choices. It's good to know when you have a problem. The first step is calling yourself out on it. Or rather, as Rob said when I outed myself on the morning coffee talk in my head, The first step is admitting you don't have any control over it.

The NYCB Fall Gala Gown, Take Two! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

HAHA ROB. Ok. I don't, I really don't, Instagram is taking over my online life and I need to curb it STAT. I forget that the world is not entirely on Instagram, nor should they be, and it's high time I had y'all over for coffee here, in my own internet living room, and gabbed about what became of the Gala gown! The Bazin print is still waiting in the wings (that Bazin print placement is TRICKY, y'all!) I decided to leave her for when the time is right, and dove headfirst into this pink and black wax print from AKN fabrics. Or pink and green, as my man behind the cash register at AKN insisted. I see black. Though as you're about to see, she photographs as she pleases. 

I didn't have much time, but I already had the one-shouldered bodice pattern drafted, and figured I could drape the skirt. That said, it wasn't super quick. There was still a bit of wrangling to do, print-wise, on the bodice. Lots of opportunity for lines cutting me in half or circles outlining circular areas! The bias looked best to me on the form, so I split the CF panel to get a chevron effect, cutting the bodice on the bias across the front. To support the bias, I cut all the lining pieces on the lengthwise grain, and used some rigilene boning on the bare-armed side.

But the skirt was eaaaaasy, I just used the existing lines in the print as my guide, and pleated along the design. I whispered to myself a lot during this phase. Black to the pink, over to the center, black to the pink, I'm sure I sounded properly off my rocker, which really, I was. As usual, it was nonstop around here-- I was rehearsing a musical workshop from 10-6, sewing 7-11p and/or 7-9am, doing a gig with my loves The Tall Pines, and recording a segment for The Today Show. (Oh yeah! I should tell you about that! It airs TOMORROW, Friday, 10/18, in the 8am hour!)

The NYCB Fall Gala Gown, Take Two! | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

One of my dinner breaks was spent buying a hoop crinoline from Ye Olde Amazon. I bought several, actually. I've been meaning to make one for years, and you know what? I just have ZERO DESIRE TO WRANGLE TULLE THAT NO ONE WILL SEE. I grabbed 4 different styles, and I'm going to throw a video up on our channel to give y'all an idea of what you can get for under twenty bucks. Spoiler alert; they are ridiculous amounts of fun to wear. I have no idea if I'm wearing mine correctly, I have a feeling you shouldn't see the ridge of the hoop around the hem...but FUN nonetheless!

A lunch break was spent careening into the garment district to find some extra bling, when I decided the finished dress didn't scream Gala. These "crystals" are made to look like hot-fix Swarovski crystals, you just get more for your buck. They come in a large cuttable sheet, with a glue back. I lost a few strips during the actual Gala! 

Now, I decided to iron these on after the dress was made. I was in fact, madly ironing them on the day of the Gala during my lunch break. Heat setting the glue on curves, through multiple layers of fabric, is probably not the best way to give these a thumbs up or down. I have more, and will test them out in a more sensible way and let you know, cuz if these babies work when properly applied, there is a WEALTH of gorgeous pattern and color out there to be had! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS TO GO WITH BLACK UMMM SPEAKING OF....

Black tie, black vest. Which I made as well. CUZ I DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH ON MY PLATE! This is a sample welt, Rob decided he liked the bias cut as well, and he gets what he wants ❤️. His shirt & tie are also made by me, though from previous years! 

the handmade harriells

Lookit that face. This is what we look like after we wait in a red carpet line for an hour after the rain moves the red carpet to a cement walkway and causes a veritable goat rodeo. A man with that much good humor deserves a tuxedo, no? Anybody got a good pattern? Anybody? Help...

our "red carpet" photos by the awesome Nina Westervelt!


Design Process: A Gown Gone Crazy

puff sleeve

I have been having a time and a half working out this dress for the NYC Ballet's Fall Gala. A TIME AND A HALF. Said Gala is this Thursday. In hopes of getting ahead of the curve, I started stitching soon after my birthday, when my Mom presented me with this g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s bazin print. Isn't it amazing? IT'S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PRINT I'VE EVER SEEN.

side view

It's also turned out to be one of the trickiest! Once I really took a look at the layout, I realized it had a heavy directional repeat. The smaller suns run along both selvages, the larger suns lay smack bang in the middle. Then there are lions within each sun. (Cuz the birthday girl is a Leo.) The smaller lions' feet point towards the selvage, the larger lions' feet alternate every other sun. And ALL feet are marching along the crossgrain, so using this print on the lengthwise grain means your lions are ass over teakettle. To boot, you can't use both sides of this print like other forms of wax pint, as this has a (super cool) shiny, embossed jacquard print on the "good" side of the fabric.

front view

I took a full day to carefully cut a twelve-paneled maxi skirt, making sure I got all of the suns in the mix. Then spent another day on the bodice, eeking out a sun section for the sleeve. I'm talking days of cutting only--not stitching! Sewing it up was a slow train as well, french seams and underlining and boning and all that jazz.

These are not complaints, I LOVED figuring out this stuff! But after all that, I didn't like her. Maybe I spent too long looking at her! But I developed an eye twitch with the placement of the smaller suns. I felt like my gaze was drawn was to knee level, snared by those larger suns.  

So the three center front panels got a haircut from the waist down. 

It seemed like I could finagle the rest of the length into some sort of bustle...which, to be honest, looking at these pics, maybe I should have done. But each french seamed panel kept getting separate haircuts, until I was at the point where I should've just shortened it all at the waist in one go. 

With a fully shortened skirt, I tried MORE options...these are just a few pinned up. I went back in and added more panels for fullness, which I somehow don't have a picture of? That's ridic. Hold on a sec.

She'd need a crinoline, and I need my head checked. The amount of iterations she's gone through at this point is approaching Hollywood levels of reboot.

As I was scrolling through my own IG feed last night, like a diary, trying to find clues on where I began and where I might end, I came across another red carpet attempt that didn't make it to the finish line, and thought....maybe I should get that peanut butter in this chocolate.


This is often how things go around here! I thought y'all might like to see the process. I hope you don't get too attached to any of these as it may turn out to be something completely different...but feel free to tell me your favorite, or share more ideas! 

I am bound and determined to be somewhere solid with this by Sunday night, like, WEARABLE solid, since I start rehearsals for a workshop of a new musical on Monday, and I am NOT GOING TO SPEND THREE WEEKDAY EVENINGS SLAM SEWING. I'm not! I'm so super not! I have other options, and if I don't get her done by then, she shall marinate before I cut into her any more than I already have! 


Behind the Seams of Re:Fashion, Season 2: MADMAXI !!!

On the streets of New York, most people hear me coming, and turn slowly in wide-eyed terror to get a glimpse of the large, intimidating beast that is surely barreling down upon them. Nope. Just me. 5’2 of clomping heels, swirling fringe, jangling bells and a large mass of curls COMIN ATCHA. 

My favorite clothing makes NOISE when I walk. I love it when I make noise! Sometimes I speed clean the house yelling BANGCRASH just to make it more fun. Ask Rob. It's one of his very favorite things. This little dress is noisy both in color and in volume! I think of it as my mad maxi. Thunderdome in technicolor. Partly because of the frantically paced trip I took while adding trim upon trim to it, in an effort to fix my miscalculations on that hemline. She used to be super long! And super weird! You really do need to see the before on this one:

YOWZA. That’s a SKORT under that open floor-length panel, a panel that displays the wrong side of this polytastic madness. AND CHECK THE BACK VIEW. Y'all, the back view of my dress was WAY WORSE...the technicolor warning bars of the tie occupied an entire side of the back, right smack dab across my booty, which I happily model for you in the episode

But I saw all that color on the hanger, and knew it was meant for my scissors. And when I went too haywire with the shears, trim came in....POM POMS! LACE EDGING! LANTERN BELLS!

I'm fond of all of the episodes, which I feel I can say humbly, because it is largely due to the wonderful crew that we shoot with. But I'm especially fond of this one! It's the last episode we shot, number 6 for Season 2. On most sets, the last shoot day is the hardest-- people are tired from a long week, especially as the hours grow longer, but not with this gang. There were so many bits and bobs on this one: panels, french seams, lapped seams, gathering, reworking the sleeves, hemming, reconfiguring prints, ripping and reinserting invisible zippers, and allllll that trim work...IT WAS A LOT! But the mood that day was just as fantastic as it was the first day. (And, at that point in the week, we'd found the sweet spot in the day for caffeine Nitro, so 🤪)

I've gone out of order in my recaps here, because I think these next two outfits are appropriate for Transitional September Styling, la di dah. I'll be back in a minute with another transitional look, that I think is probably the fan favorite for this season ;). Til then, you can catch all six episodes exclusively on Bluprint

Happy almost weekend, peeps!

Tips! If you don't get your sewing TV through Bluprint and want to scope it out, you can download the app and watch free for 24 hours. You can also sign up for a 1 week free trial on the website...handy for a weekend of Making All The Stuff.


Sewing In the Wild...YouTube, that is.

Self-drafted floral maxi dress with tie front

I am nothing if not stubborn. To wit: this dress was a self-drafted job, wrangled when I HAD TO HAVE some version of several tie-front dresses out in the summer Big 4 offerings. 

Self-drafted floral maxi dress with tie front

I am nothing if not impatient. To wit: I was not near a Joann's, and could not wait for shipping. 

I am also nothing if not FORGETFUL, cuz my sewsister Sonja picked up this pattern for me like WHO KNOWS HOW LONG AGO and I have yet to carve out a freaking hour to squeeze her, and take whatever number of envelopes I've gone scatterbrained on, off her hands!

So, if you'd like to make this dress, do have a search through McCall's summer dresses. There are several there that fit the bill. And though I'm pretty pleased with myself for drafting it on my own, I'll readily and happily admit, I love Big 4 patterns. Especially McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue. (Are they Big 5 now?)

As usual, my photographer was a bit more concerned with the composition than the details,  like the tie front and exposed lacy zipper...

...so you get a flat lay of Sewing Splendor in the Grass.  

(I'm pretty sure that's inappropriate speech.)


I made sure he got the pockets 😂

SOOOOOOO.....these were snapped at the end of filming a little ditty for our YouTube channel, a ditty which includes footage of me actually moving and twirling in the dress, with closeups, courtesy of Rob "Shoots-From-The-Ground" Harriell himself! YES! We have not forgotten our YouTube promise! Our first bonafide, made-from-scratch video is live TODAY. In it, I climb a tree fort, battle some small children, tell some stories, terrify you with my lack of manicure, and maybe teach someone out there how to slipstitch a hem.

I hope it brings a smile to your face as we close out one of our last summer weekends (I'm finding it exceedingly hard to type that).

Happy Sunday, Sewists!