Meet Miss Mackrelmint 1942!

I wish I was sharing a garment today, but Jared has been sick & it’s getting in the way of me finishing & photographing new projects. Most of my sewing stuff is in our bedroom, & if he’s in there sleeping all day, that means I can’t sew. We’re moving at the end of July, & I will have a dedicated sewing space that I will be able to use any time. The new house is two stories. All the regular rooms–bedrooms, kitchen, living room, etc–are on the first floor. The second floor is just one big open loft space. It has a perfect little nook that is lined with windows, with wall space for my cutting table, pressing table, & machine cabinet…Plus my latest sewing room addition, which I will get to shortly.

But first! It looks like my medical mystery has been unraveled. I had an MRI of my cervical spine (ie, neck) the other day. It showed a badly damaged vertebrae that is compressing my spinal cord. It’s called cervical spondylotic myelopathy & its symptoms correspond to the lion’s share of my symptoms. It is most commonly treated with surgery, which is what my doctor recommended. Apparently they go in through the front of the neck & take out of jacked up vertebrae that are causing the problem. They fill in the empty space with metal plates & bone grafts. A permanent side effect is a diminished range of motion, but that’s a fair trade-off if it resolves my issues to some extent.

I’m meeting with the “Spine Center” at the hospital on Monday & I guess they’re going to fill me in on all the details? I’ll have to travel to Kansas City or Topeka for the surgery because apparently I never have a medical issue that can actually be treated in Lawrence. There will probably be a neck brace involved, & the timing is kind of a giant clusterfuck because, you know, we’re moving in two & a half months! I’m not sure exactly when I will have the surgery, but I don’t think I’ll be a whole lot of help loading & unloading a moving truck, you know? I’m not even sure how useful I will be with packing. As my friend Rebecca said when I told her, “Poor you, but also…poor Jared.”

I’m not feeling too sorry for myself though, because if this is the root of my health issues, I’m glad it’s something that can be treated, rather than it being an incurable degenerative disease, you know? Plus I got the news on the same day as I got something else…


Meet Miss Mackrelmint 1942, my new dress form!

I have found myself getting really interested in draping lately, but it’s difficult to drape without a dress form, you know? So I spent some time researching dress forms & thinking about what exactly I was after & what I was willing to spend. Our local antiques mall has used Dritz My Double forms for sale on the regular, but I really wanted something pinnable & uh…not totally janky. Preferably as close to my measurements as possible. Of course I daydreamed briefly about getting a Wolf, but even a used Wolf was beyond my means, especially because “vintage dress forms” are such a hot element of hipster home decor recently. All these nincompoops with more money than sense, buying $600 dress forms to store their necklace collections or whatever. Ugh.

So I was saving my pennies & hoping I’d be able to afford to buy something in maybe a year or two. In the meantime, I tortured myself by occasionally searching for “dress form” on my local Craig’s List. I did such a search last week & there was Mackrelmint! I could not believe my eyes. She was selling for a fraction of what I assumed my budget would be, & hundreds of dollars less than the average vintage Wolf I’ve seen online. She was right here in Lawrence (unlike the neurosurgeon I require), & craziest of all, she is almost exactly the same size as me. She’s broader through the shoulders & a little bit smaller in the waist, but our hip & full bust measurements are identical. It was just meant to be!

Obviously, she’s pretty stained (what’s known as a “patina” in the hipsters-buying-dress-forms game), & she’s missing the knob at the top of the stand. The cast iron base is pretty rusty, so it doesn’t roll very well & the foot pedal is sticky, but she’s otherwise in really good shape. I’ve seen vintage Wolf forms that are in literal tatters, rips everywhere & padding sticking out, that cost four times as much as Mackrelmint. So, I am just thrilled!

& she looks pretty good in my clothes.


Here she is wearing my most recently-finished project (which I will hopefully blog soon).

I do wonder how long it’s going to take me to stop startling a little every time I walk into my room. I’m not used to her being there yet, so I always jump & think she’s a real person. But man, what a score! I never thought I’d have a Wolf! & I can’t believe what great shape she’s in, considering that she’s 75 years old.

Incidentally, Mackrelmint is one of Pippi Longstocking’s middle names, & it is a name I briefly considered for Ramona while I was pregnant. Instead, we went with Ramona, obviously, & her middle name is Astrid, after Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the “Pippi Longstocking” books. I feel like Mackrelmint would also be a really good name for a cat.

In other news, Ramona had her preschool graduation last night. She’s not actually graduating. She still has one more year before she’s old enough to start public school. She’s the youngest kid in her class & the only one who wasn’t graduating, so she got a special mention in the program & a special certificate congratulating her on her first year of preschool. It was all pretty adorable. The kids sang some songs for us, & one kid played his ukulele. Tunelessly, I will add. But he was so serious about it, & kept “tuning” it, like a real musician. It was really cute. Ramona got all jacked up on cake afterward & proceeded to have an utterly predictable sugar crash bedtime meltdown.

I also started my assistant treasurer duties &, um…It’s really hard! Mostly just because I barely know how to use my email, let alone figure out all the spreadsheets I have to keep updated. It’s one of those situations where I don’t even know what questions to ask to help me learn what to do because I don’t even understand the basics. Luckily, Jared is familiar with the programs, & the previous assistant treasurer will be around in the summer to help me with the transition. & it still beats being on an actual committee!

Lastly, I gave Jared the other part of his birthday gift: a crepe pan. This was admittedly self-interested, because I love crepes. Last night I whipped up a batch of crepes with Nutella & whipped cream & had a delicious treat while watching the new season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” after I got Ramona to bed. If I can’t sew, this was definitely a fantastic consolation.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

11 thoughts on “Meet Miss Mackrelmint 1942!

  1. I couldn’t be without my dress form, really helps with fitting without running up and down the stairs to look in the mirror. Glad they got to the bottom of your health issues. My dad has the same condition ( they’re a right pair with mum’s ms as well). He’s had that op twice a few months apart and recovered well. X

    1. I need to update again because my health stuff is back to being a medical mystery. But I am loving my dress form! I’m feeling really inspired to sew now that I have Mackrelmint to keep me company. Unfortunately, my sewing stuff is all in the bedroom, & Jared has been sick for the last few days, so I haven’t been able to do much.

  2. I’m glad your health mystery was unraveled! Best wishes for the surgery, hopefully it will resolve things for good.

    What luck with Mackrelmint! My dress form is just a mannequin from a shop that closed down. I’m not quite as creative as you – she’s just called Dolly.

    1. My health mystery is actually back to being raveled again. The spinal surgeon says he doesn’t think my issues are being caused by the cord compression, & that the compression isn’t severe enough to warrant a surgery that is unlikely to resolve my issues.

      I have a lot of experience coming up with creative names because I’ve spent a few years thinking about baby names. Jared & I planned to have another baby before the whole cancer thing happened. I actually got pregnant two years ago, but miscarried at 10 weeks. But since I’ve had a hysterectomy, I now have to save all my weird name ideas for dress forms & cats.

  3. Your Tetris dress is awesome. Can’t wait to read all about it, especially the fabric.

    I’m glad you have answers to your health. Good luck on the next venture.

    1. Thanks! My partner has been sick, so I haven’t had much a chance to get the photos I need to blog the dress. Soon, I hope!

      My health is also back to being mysterious, thanks to a consult with the spinal surgeon. Oh well!

  4. Things are looking up, it’s a relief that you’ve got a diagnosis at last and that it’s fixable and that dress form had your name on it for sure, it was meant to be, I wondered about the name, I never read Pippy Longstocking, in my heyday it was The Famous Five. Although I’m not above reading teenage fiction. Manchee is a great name for a dog. 🤔

    1. Well, the Pippi Longstocking books were published in the 40s, so that means they have been classics of children’s literature for the last 70 years! But since they were originally published in Swedish, it’s certainly possible that some people may have missed them. Pippi had a return to prominence in the 80s, when I was a kid.

      & yes, I am loving my dress form! So much!

  5. I’m so glad to hear you have a mystery solved! Not that the fix sounds like a walk in the park but at least there IS a fix. I hope it is effective for you!

    Man I love crepes so so SO much. Mmmm crepes.

    1. I met with the spinal surgeon yesterday & he said he doesn’t think the cord compression is causing my issues or that I would be helped by surgery. I have like zero reflexes on the right side of my body, & he said he would expect a person with spinal cord issues to have over-active reflexes. The location of the compression also doesn’t tally with my lower body symptoms. So MS is now back on the table. Or maybe I’ll just remain a medical mystery forever. Maybe I have some new disorder they will name after me! That would be kind of cool. & then the world would finally learn how to pronounce my name. (The preschool director flubbed it at the graduation ceremony last week. Par for the course.)

      I have been soothing myself with crepes, crepes, & more crepes. Seriously, get a crepe pan, if you don’t have one already. I’ve tried to make crepes in a regular frying pan, but the crepe pan makes it SO much easier.

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