My Handmade Style: Oonaballoona

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

I know I say this every time I put up a new one but this series just gets better and better! This week we have a humdinger, nay, a GRAND SLAMMER of a guest on Handmade Style. It’s the delicious, the eloquent, the beautiful, glass-always-full (except when she’s downed it) darling of the blog world Oonaballoona! Need I say more? I don’t think so. Oona – over to you.

Oona, you must have one of the most distinctive blogging styles in our corner of the internet! But how would you describe your handmade style, if you had to sum it up?


if by distinctive you mean drunken, I’M YOUR GAL.

i thought a moment on this, and came up with “schizophrenic”.  so i asked ruggy.  he said “funkariffic”.  i approve wholeheartedly of both summations of my handmade style, and kind of want to put the two of them together and travel around the world singing al green covers and coloratura arias.  i think it would be appropriate to open the show in my purple space alien burdastyle dress.

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me made wardrobe


a heeeouge portion of my style inspiration absolutely comes from all the wonderful blogs in our community.  no question.  i’m either fueled by admiration or overwhelming jealousy.  they are both excellent motivators!

i also love to look at what other women are wearing when i’m at auditions (for those of you that might not know, in my secret double agent life i am not a secret double agent.  unless i’m asked to play one).  it’s interesting to see how a waiting room full of women interpret the same character, clothing wise.  there’s a casting director in town who knows i like to come in dressed exactly as i think the part should be–as you can imagine, i love her for knowing that.

and the waiting room is soooo much more fun as a fashion experiment.  i’ll sketch on my generously gifted ipad or jot notes on my script.  i always come away with ideas… and the occasional odd glare from a competitor who’s wondering why i’m staring at her waistline pleats with such insane focus.  they usually think i’m trying a mind game on them. they brighten up considerably when i chirp about their ensemble.

i try my best to channel those sketches into my wardrobe, but they often change along the way.

What’s your creative process in deciding what to make?  Is it a fabric based decision or a pattern that inspires you?


again, schizophrenic!  whatever i say it is, the next day it will change up totally.  it’s like the chicken or the egg for me when it comes to patterns and fabric– although i will say i’ve gotten better at knowing if a fabric has to come home with me.  although, this gold craziness was a home dec fabric on sale at joann’s.  there was no question in my mind, yet the itch factor?  is RIDONKULOUS.   hopefully today, i’d at least line this sort of thing…but patterns, i can easily grab a dozen and leave them untouched for years till inspiration strikes. most times, my problem with both is that i have too many ideas, and don’t know which one idea to start on.

Who are your style icons and why?


i’m not sure i have icons. if we’re talking people who constantly inspire me, i’m going to go with mokosha, kazz, and david bowie.  now THAT’S a party.

music is a huge source of inspiration for me.  i sort of can’t move without it, i have to have it on to function.  the bad plus, radiohead, classic r&b, led zeppelin, fun, phoebe snow, seu jorge…

Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?

sadly i don’t keep up with designers… i rely on pretty grievances to do that for me!! i’ll pin things here and there through other’s links and surfing and such.  store wise, i “dressing room shop” at those beasts h&m and F21, with the intent of getting ideas and looking at construction.  but now that you’ve asked, why in blazes aren’t i doing that at neiman marcus and the designer floor at saks?  THEY’RE WALKING DISTANCE AWAY!  okay.  be on the lookout for spyoona…

If you had to select one self stitched garment that really encapsulates your style, what would it be and why?



if forced at empty bottle point, i would say my anna sui silk maxi print dress…i draped it myself, which i’m insanely proud of…and the print is sufficiently loud… but there’s so much color amiss here…come to think of it, that’s probably why i shot it against this hyper blue wall!

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill?


here i can give you a resounding and definitive no, i do not fill vital gaps in my wardrobe.  unless you count the fact that i have nothing to wear for every new occasion that fills up our calendar and therefore Must.  Sew.  Something.  i sew what i sew because it makes me happy.  sewing “gaps” in my wardrobe (that really, i do need, i have no business casual whatsoever) just isn’t fun to me.  when i try to fill the gaps, i come up with things like this technicolor top.  tres business casual, non?

i’ve always been creative in some way, to varying degrees of success (read: and failure).  i started sewing in los angeles, as a way to keep creatively sane and happy in a very unhappy town.  so, the happy rule became part of it by practice.

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

interesting… i wonder if those who know me think i experiment with my look, or i’m just sort of crazy all the time?  risk for me is dressing more conservatively, ooh, or matching, i truly hate matching.  (unless it’s gold with gold with gold.)  these looks work great on others and i can appreciate that, i do appreciate that.  i don’t think either of these looks work for me–mostly because when i look in the mirror, i don’t feel good and happy.  and again, what’s the point of that?

i do think my last jacket was a big risk for me.   in fact, it was such a departure i ended up giving it to my mom!  it’s not the sort of style i go for on myself, and it took everything in my power to keep myself from making it into a ballgown.  i am, however, glad i made it, and i just love that mommaballoona rocks it now.

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off…do you have a style bugbear?


i often wish, especially during summer months, that i could dress in that romantic sort of look– flowery chiffon in faded hues, fronds of lavender, tattered lace in a field sort of thing.  doesn’t work on me.  for example, this maxi crochet dress with serious facing issues has been long since hacked to bits. i think you have to be quite graceful to pull the romantic look off. i can play graceful. but i’ll holler my head off for rye the second five o’clock hits, fragile sunset fading against weeping willow trees or no.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

gold lame suit. boucle ballgown.  peacock feather maxi skirt. the inside of my brain is a drunken dreamscape of a closet with twenty foot high ceilings. at least to me it is, to others i guess it could certainly be a nightmare…

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

i really feel that every blog i read has great personal style, otherwise i wouldn’t be interested enough to read them!

looking at my blogroll, what jumps out at me are the sewing bloggers that took their personal style and feel so strongly about it, they’ve turned it into patterns. seeing the journey from blogging about it to holding the paper baby of their style?  AMAZING.  and their offspring truly reflects their style: christine haynes, by hand london, dixie diy, madalynne, and megan nielsen, to name a few.  i bet by the time this post goes up, there will be twenty more to add to that list.  volcanic activity, yo.  i love it.

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

there are always several works in progress at a time on my table, so: a top secret chiffon and velvet top, a taffeta ballgown, a lace and georgette party dress, and new arm slipcovers for the couch.  guess which one i want off my table…

oh, and a glass of cocchin vermouth, neat. naturally.

cheers to you, mama stitch and witter!

Gawd blimey guvnor – cheers to you Madame Oona. I’ve come over all giddy and think I may just be a teeny tiny bit in love with this dame. Clink clink and hiccup..!


18 thoughts on “My Handmade Style: Oonaballoona

  1. I love this woman so much that reading this little interview was like getting an almond croissant to eat with my coffee this morning (instead of the banana I really ate).

  2. Ughhhh I love Oona, she’s my favorite. Everything she makes reminds me of Willy Wonka’s candy factory, and I mean that as the highest praise possible ♥

  3. I LOVED reading this interview. And I love hearing about the sketching in the audition waiting rooms! I want to see more sketches, Oona! Fun lady, fun series!

  4. another great post in this series, S&W!
    Love the ‘glass-always-full (except when she’s downed it)’ 🙂 and Lladybird;s willy wonka reference 🙂
    also It’s really interesting thinking about having started sewing as a way to keep happy in an unhappy town and developing a happy rule out of that. Sometimes we stick with the motivation that urged us to begin sewing in the first place, and other times that outlook changes. Either way, we have to keep with whatever makes us tick!

  5. Of course you are in love with this dame, Joanne. None of us have a choice – we are all born to love her and it is rightful and proper that we do so!!!! Great interview! Love seeing the notebook of sketches. I wish I could do that! If someone found my doodles they’d phone the pre-school nursery and tell them they’d lost something.

  6. Love Oona to the hem and back! so glad to see her featured here, totally awesome interview. and just quietly I’m *blushing* over here. Way to go lady of awesome.

  7. Reading down the list of commenters, I seem like the odd man out – the old lady sneaking in – but I love Oona and her style too! Actually getting to see her on the streets of NYC, her style works for her and speaks to the awesomeness of who she is! She understands and knows what works for her and her sewing reflects it. Happy is the appropriate adjective to describe her and her sewing!

  8. thank you everyone for the magnificently lovely words (TEE HEE!!!) and thank you joanne for including me in your awesome handmade roster!!!

    (and carolyn. old lady? you’re crazy.)

    i’m willy wonkaing it over here with a nightcap of gin and a nice paw through my technicolor stash. to your happy sewing health, all!

  9. I love Oona’s space alien dress! She is such an inspiration for style and making things that fit into her aesthetic and that fit her so well! What a happy interview 🙂

  10. Pingback: Teist korda õmblemisblogidest | Kohustuslik tegevusvabadus

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