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 💗


The Handmade Harriells

As I was lamenting for the seventeenth? Seventieth? Uncountable-eth time about the slipping away of hours and months and days, a wise friend said to me: Time is an accordion.

Ain’t it the truth! I yelped back. TIME IS AN ACCORDION AND LIFE IS A GAME OF JENGA.

And we all know I'm not talking 'bout a breezy cocktail hour game of Jenga either.

It’s been a year since we started creating technicolor content for the channel, and in that year, The Handmade Harriells have gained 33,500 friends. HI FRIENDS. Are you one of them? If you’re not, and you’re wondering where we went, well, it’s been a handful being the actor/writer/editor/sound engineer/art director/best boy/pa/grip/wardrobe supervisor (see: lament). I didn’t even holler about my birthday over here!

But I did over there. So come on over and see us. 

The latest video up is all about pattern hacking, and yeah I call it hacking. A lot. 

If you like your content written, lament not, I like words, even words used improperly like hacking, and I have purchased a whiteboard calendar to try and get a circle of life thing going on with all this content. It’s got a lovely space for the blog. My plan is to get full shots of the hacked dress up in this lonely space...and maybe I can talk Rob into wearing his handmade, matching wax print pants. OH YEAH I SAID MATCHING PANTS! I'm finding I can talk Rob into all manner of adventures for the channel! Even if you aren't a video person, I highly suggest peeping evidence of matching outfits at the end

How bout y’all? Finding any game metaphors in life now? Chutes and Ladders? Jumanji? Hopefully not Sorry. I think we all need a break in Candyland. Meet you there at six.


Threads Magazine, Diana Vreeland, 'n Me

It's been six months since I joined the Threads Digital Ambassador team. What? You didn't hear? You mean to tell me I just threw that little blue badge up on the sidebar and never properly hollered about it RIGHT HERE IN MY OWN LIVING ROOM? 

Like most of us, my hold on reality has been screwed on about as tight as it will go, so, I'll save you that sob story of a full plate and no time. I have, however, been hollering about it over on Ye Olde Instagram, in the middle of slam sewing, zooms, shooting videos for The Handmade Harriells, and the usual slew of auditions. Oh, and moving our lives back to New York.

(What? You didn't hear? We're back in New York! Evidence here and here.)

Since joining the ambassadors in December, I've been taking the words of one of my favorite fashion icons, Diana Vreeland, and morphing them into a monthly sewing challenge. It's jumpstarted my sewing more than once, in a time when inspiration can be easily engulfed by any number of world traumas. As I brush the cobwebs off this space, if you're in need of a colorful break, have a look at six months' worth of content over at Threads, as collaged above ;) If you're an Insider, the digital content is yours for the peeping--if not, the first post is free, and showcases my very favorite Vogue jacket pattern in some scrumptious yardage from the Nina Ramel Fabric Box.

I've read Threads since I taught myself to stitch over thirteen years ago, and had an out-of-body experience when I wrote my first article for the magazine in April of 2019. The pages of Threads, and Burdastyle, and the blogs of so many newbie and advanced sewists were (and are!) my teachers. I'm still surprised whenever I find myself in the role of "teacher." And, I still look to those same magazines and blogs, though my own upkeep has been spotty...

I intend ONCE AGAIN to rectify that--we're adjusting to being back in the city and getting reality set right again. I hope you & yours are staying safe, or venturing out, as this upside-down world permits!


Remember Water Cooler Chats?

Remember Water Cooler Chats? | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

My subconscious obviously knew my somber-hued mood wouldn't last forever, and with a great amount of foresight, chose this FANTABULOUS TECHNICOLOR PALM TREE BIG CAT IN THE JUNGLE PRINT. I have been LIVING in this longline sweatshirt slash turtleneck since I whipped it up a couple weeks back. And I do mean whipped it up, in an absolute frenzy of sewing, brought on by two fully filmed, fully BOTCHED, attempts at a coffee video tutorial. The sound engineer, she was *not* on her A-game. In fact, I'm in the middle of editing our third attempt at bringing Rob's black gold to the masses, so I'm just here for a hot second.

Remember Water Cooler Chats? | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

Side hustles notwithstanding, have you noticed that working from home means you're ALWAYS AT THE OFFICE? And the boss can't tell you're on lunch, or your pipes are frozen, or your kids are starting a dumpster fire (I'd be the kid in that situation). 

Hey. Let's take a quick coffee break together: we're out back in the employee parking lot, jackets on, but I'm just stomping around in this here sweatshirt thingamajig. Extremely caffeinated. Assuring everyone that I am totally warm enough, encased in the softest organic fleece ever...

Remember Water Cooler Chats? | oonaballoona by marcy harriell

George asks me where I got it, to which I reply I MADE IT (George is new to the office, I love new hires, they haven't been bombarded by my coffee break sewing yammering yet). His eyes widen, maybe from the newly acquired information, maybe from the volume at which I have given him the newly acquired information.

I tell him all about how I DIDN'T NEED NO STINKING RIBBING!!!!! I used the fashion fabric to attach bands at the hem, and at the cuffs! (Blinking, he wonders what "ribbing" is.)

And then Delilah from accounting says, LIKE SHE ALWAYS DOES, When are you making me one? And I laugh and laugh, and as usual she doesn't get that my laughter does not mean what she thinks it means, and yeah, eventually I'm going to have to tell her my rates so she can get offended and avoid me at conference room birthdays, it's inevitable.  

But y'all, I assure, when a few of the folks from HR say they wish they could sew...Y'all! You can totally make something like this, you really can (I've said this maybe a thousand times, much like Delilah, I'm hard-headed). I didn't even use a pattern for this! For real! I've got a video on it. 

Some eyes roll a little bit...they know allllllll about my YouTube channel that I mess around with on the weekends. A few of them watch the videos and laugh, a few of them never watch the videos, and laugh. The few of us that count sewing as a superpower give each other a knowing look, and make a mental note to gab WAY more about what handmade goodness we're wearing today, when we go out for margaritas later. 

So, my homebound office mates, there's ten minutes of warp speed, music video sewing up on the channel, if you want to see me make this from stitch to finish. It's copied from an old, worn-out RTW cropped sweatshirt. No instruction...purely for inspiration!

And, laughs.

Okay, break's over. I'm off to record a voiceover audition, upload a self-tape, edit an article, and get on that coffee video. I hope you're safe and warm, wherever you are, and taking a break when you need one.

I immediately turned my honorarium into fabric when I collaborated with The Fabric Godmother for my last post. I've got three decidedly neon animal prints to play with--well, two, now that I've sewn up every bit of this bad boy, which sadly is out of stock, or I'd buy it all. Might have a scrap or two for a headband. MAYBE A MINI TURBAN!!!


Fabric Godmother: Silhouette Vs Sewist

Fabric Godmother: Silhouette Vs Sewist

What happens when you choose a beautiful fabric when you're not in the *best* frame of mind? If you're like me, you probably rage sew it up, ending up with something that goes in a bag until you're ready to revisit.

I chose this absolutely gorgeous viscose sateen from Fabric Godmother last year, in the middle of the upside-down whirlwind of packing up for a break from NYC, and by the time it arrived on our new and temporary doorstep, I was in a better frame of mind...with very little idea of why I picked such a somber print out of all the eye-popping, technicolor offerings Josie has in her viscose collection. But, I couldn't slam sew this one. This luscious fabric was intended for a collaboration, so I had to sew something up, and, I had to do this elegant (though out of my color wheelhouse) fabric justice. 

So basically I had to squelch all my usual impulsive tendencies. Which maybe is not a bad thing to do every once in a while.

Fabric Godmother: Silhouette Vs Sewist

Fabric Godmother: Silhouette Vs Sewist

Justice is not served *just* yet. 

I was intending on making another one of these beauties, then realized I hadn't packed that particular pattern in my suitcase. Whomp whomp. So, I decided that I'd jog myself into stitching by choosing an out-of-the-ordinary silhouette for this out-of-my-ordinary print, with McCall's 8104.

I was pretty stoked at the fit of the bodice, and the fluttery sleeves. But I was determined to use all 5 yards of this watery, supple yardage, so I maxi-fied the dress, and added a gathered tier.

And then came the front band. Which tried to kill me. And when I say it tried to kill me, I *might* mean I tried to do myself in, because I'm not sure if it was the fault of the pattern instructions, or my own battle to sew sans rage. But it most certainly was NOT the fabric, which handled like a dream. I'm talking Lamborghini dream.

I think the combo of silhouette and color is where things went south...although, looking at these pictures, I think the silhouette is pretty great! Probably because the smile on my face is real. But, somehow when I walk around in it, or catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I just don't feel like me. 

So, that said: if you squint at these pictures, you'll see a few staged bits underneath that smile. The hemline is just the raw selvedge edge (which actually is a lovely edge, I don't mind that bit), the center back waist is pinched with a safety pin, and that rebellious front band is pinned shut. Putting buttonholes in this gal was where I drew the line. 

But I think it's important to share the things that don't turn out the way we want, and admit that whether it looks great or not, it might need to change! I decided this dress needs to be a memory changer. I want to be able to look back on photographic evidence of what this 2020 sew was, once I do reconfigure it in a better mindset. Maybe a jumpsuit! Who knows when it'll happen. But it WILL be restitched. Because honest to 2021, this fabric really is beautiful. In case I've buried the lead there, imma put that in all caps:


On top of that, Josie is one of those rare birds who's on board with valuing her collaborator's time and effort, and this is a compensated collaboration (although I did immediately exchange my payment for more fabric from her shop. And I chose technicolor fabric! Go past me!). I truly appreciate her doing what she can, so that creators and shops support each other.

Go check out her collection, you really won't be disappointed, I love every bit of what I got, even if I did make a somber color choice on this soon-to-be reborn baby. (And, if you have any ideas on what that rebirth might be, go on ahead and holler at me!)