My “Prydain” coat

The Facts

Fabric: A whole pile of sweaters from Salvation Army
Pattern: Katwise coat pattern
Year: Current
Notions: Not a one!
Time to complete:  11 hours?
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes !!!
Total Cost:
Pattern $9.00 Sweaters – didn’t keep track. Around 14 sweaters, a couple were free, some were $3 each, some less…best guess would be around $30.00 or so.

Originally I didn’t even consider the Prydain series by Llyod Alexander although that was one of THE most influential sets of books I read as a kid. A close family friend was very into kids books so I had a steady supply of the best of the best. I was a voracious reader, I’d read anything in front of me even at an early age I remember reading Life magazine and the newspaper just because they were there…doesn’t mean I always understood what I read but I read : ) And if it had won a Caldecott or Newberry award we owned it thanks to Jerry. There were LOTS of books that I remember, most of which I still own like “Harriet the Spy”, “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret”, “Caddie Woodlawn”, most everything by Roald Dahl and the Oz books (my dad owns ALL 80 some-odd of them!). Of course there was also my beloved Judy Bolton mystery series but I already channeled her in the button challenge.

So what to choose? Harriet and Margaret wore red hoodies and jeans and t-shirts respectively. Blah. I briefly considered making a Professor Diggins outfit from “Professor Diggins Dragons” but that was striped pants and a blue suit coat and that seemed only slightly more exciting than a red hoodie. I kept coming back to the works by Lloyd Alexander – he not only wrote the Prydain series but also “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” and was a regular contributor to the children’s periodical “Cricket”. I immersed myself in his written world of the land of Prydain (most likely Wales) in the Dark Ages. Gwydion, Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy became my second family. Keep in mind that this was 1969, YEARS before Harry Potter, this was my equivalent. I wanted to be like Eilonwy and at one point I convinced my mother to make me a “princess dress” (in pink and white since princesses wear pink…right? What princess, in her right mind, who tromps about the kingdom fighting evil wears PINK??) but she was HORRIFIED at my desire for a pair of “waffle stompers” to complete the outfit (hiking boots!). She MADE me wear patent leather shoes and as far as I know ONE picture exists of me in my outfit, on a slide that is in a box somewhere in a closet and if I have any say in the matter it will never ever see the light of day again…ever…

So what would my 10-year-old self LOVED to have worn back then? I may be a girl but I’m a fairly tough girl so I’d want something pretty but ultra cool and not fussy. At a small get-together at Sue’s a couple months ago Barbara said to me “Have you heard of Katwise?” No….. “Oh, you should check her etsy store out. She does really cool stuff with old sweaters”. So I came home, typed in “Katwise” and as the images scrolled across my screen I fell in love : ) I decided to buy her “pattern” just because she is SO COOL and I wanted to see how she works her particular form of magic. Her “pattern” is a 71 page document that made me smile from one end to the other. When she puts items up for sale on her etsy store, about once a month, the 50 or so items sell out in 12 minutes. THIS is what my younger self would have DROOOLED over because my older self is smiling from ear to ear : )

And that’s what I did. I made an Elf Coat.

I’ve tried to make note of how long each step took in case anyone else wants to try this. It took me about 40 minutes to find the sweaters, I may have lucked out, and then I spent the next 4 hours washing and drying everything! When Kat says she strongly recommends using wool she’s not kidding. She says things like cashmere can be fine, cotton isn’t bad, silk maybe and never, never EVER use Acrylic. LISTEN to the woman for she is wise : )

Most of my sweaters are wool. There are a few cashmere and a couple cotton thrown in because I liked the stripes or the color (red). All are prewashed and thrown into the dryer for two reasons. First, washing and drying felt the wool, which makes it nicely stuck together. Second, unless you’re single and living alone, at some point someone else may grab your clothing to wash trying to be “helpful” so you might as well shrink that crap out of everything now. I washed everything together and it all came out GREAT! The base of the coat, the “top”, is a felted Merino wool sweater with a designer label. I cut up Ralph Lauren sweaters, Banana Republic, Valentino, Dana Buchman, Calvin Klein…

HALF the pile of sweaters!

Everything was overlocked together, no machine sewing at all! The skirt panels are made from the sleeves, the bottom bands took 2 sweaters each for the black and grey and one enormous men’s sweater for the red band. There are 31 skirt panels, because I followed her instructions to the letter! Next time I make one of these, and there WILL be a next time, I’ll cut that down to about 25 or so.

And I have a pixie hood : )

It’s a *little* longer than I originally planned because I decided I liked that long striped panel. I REALLY wanted to make some Kazz pompoms, one for the bottom of the hood and another few to do a headpiece but I had no yarn of the right color : (

It took about 2 hours to cut everything out and another 2 hours to overlock the skirt pieces together. I giggled the whole time. The top took a whopping 10 minutes to cut and add the striped button panel. At the time I thought I was being clever but it’s really one of the few elements I’m not crazy about. It looks like some yuppie sweater trying to escape. Meh. In the future I’ll do a couple things different with the waistband that the skirt attaches to. First, I’ll underline it in canvas. It’s carrying a lot of weight and needs reinforcement. Second, I’ll make it smaller, and not add as many panels to the skirt to cut down on the weight. Third, I’ll add ties to the back so I can cinch it in. It “grew” to be about 6″ too big. And the red cashmere sweater that I so carefully saved to be the base of a red/orange sun coat? I’ll use it for skirt panels. It just wont be strong enough to hold the skirt. I also want pockets. I’m going to add a pixie pocket this week but next time I’ll insert pockets in the skirt as I sew the panels together.

The skirt does swirl well -

I really wanted to put together a gif with showing the swirls but didn’t have time. My daughter did do a short instagram video that, when she’s back from canoeing, I’ll see if I can post on my blog. As long as I don’t look like a dork I’m happy to share.

We took a little trip into the Berkeley hills for the photos this week. I wanted foggy/woodsy/magic and we got it, although my daughter had a brush with poison oak a few weeks ago so anytime we saw it she’d jump back like it was a striking snake : ) The misty quality to this pic is real fog -

Some of the flora around this log is poison oak, the really pretty red leaves : ) My daughter was horrified I went down there but gamely took pics! I just wanted to play in the trees…

I found a better tree to climb. And you’ll notice that I’m once again wearing the red and black patent leather Doc Martins. I finally got my boots : )

Now I can be Princess Eilonwy with my kick-butt cape/jacket. Here is one of my prized possessions:

Jerry got my copy of “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” autographed by the King himself : )

Author

Loran

Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )

50 Comments

  1. Absolutely incredible! I love it so, so much. Tucking this away in my mental vault for a future project.

    • Oh Erin, you MUST! It was more fun than any other recent project : ) Even if you make it for a gift, or a small one for a small one, it is bound to make you smile.

  2. This is fantastic, striking, lively, kick-ass! Well done.

  3. Wonderful gorgeous magical coat! A great tribute to one of my favorite authors!

  4. Really not my style at all, but I googled those jackets… I want one! I don’t know what for, I would never leave the house in it…Also, I almost cried when I read that you cut up Valentino, et al.

    • I’m tempted not to leave the house either, it just feels like the kind of thing to curl up in and read a book. Don’t despair over cut up designer sweaters, they were at Salvation Army for a reason : ) The Valentino had shrunk to about half its size BEFORE I got my hands on it AND had a couple sizable holes in it. Most of them either had holes or stains, it’s not like I could have pulled it on and worn it as is. If I could I wouldn’t cut it : ) I did have to take a deep breath for the first sweater but after that it was all good.

  5. I’m sooooo bookmarking this post and making one of these next year. I’ve been in love with a similar maker Enlightened Platypus for some years now but moving to Arizona made the ‘need’ (OK, want) for one of these pretty much gone. Thank you for introducing me to Katwise. Love the pics in the wood, especially the one with you in the fog looking as if you’re hovering off the floor. I used to have a wood at the end of our road…..damn you desert, homesick again now :( Quick Tempest look back on the beauty of the elf coat….ahhh that’s better.

    • I know it gets cool down there in the winter, you could get away with it then. Sorry about the homesick moment, but if you ever get up to the Bay Area I’d be glad to take you into the woods : ) Then we could go buy some sweaters and make some coats!

  6. Wow! Love how the coat twirls! I’m making one for next winter for sure. First day of Spring here tomorrow though. Maybe they’ll be selling sweaters cheap in the op shops soon.

    • Thank you Sarah : ) The coat DOES twirl nicely and yes, do make one! Let us know what type of sweaters you find in your area, I’d love to see your treasures!

  7. I read and loved all those wonderful children’s books you mention and I loved everything by Lloyd Alexander. What a fabulous coat you’ve made! I love it.

    • Isn’t he just fabulous? I was sorry when he died but he produced an amazing body of work. I found out that he liked to read and eat as did I. He would eat a roast beef sandwich when the characters in whatever book he was reading were having a feast. I loved doing the same thing, made me feel like we were kindred spirits : ) Thank you for the coat love, it will be well loved and worn this winter.

  8. W-O-W
    that
    is
    one
    inspiring
    endeavor! And no finishing required?! Awesome.
    P.S. Are you on Ravelry? If so, there’s always someone with some scrap yarn if you ask nice.

    • Thank you Adri! No, I’m not on Ravelry. I’ll have to check that out. By the time I figured out what I’d really want to do I just didn’t have time to either get to a store or call friends who are avid knitters. The coat is overlocked, completely, so there is no other finishing required. It’s pretty awesome all things considered : )

  9. I looooved these books. And this coat…that’s it! SOOOOooOO gorgeous!!

  10. GASP!! Loran, this is just stellar! I’ve been looking at Katwise’s creations and drooling for a long time now, and have often thought about trying to make one, I had no idea she had a pattern available. You look ethereal. Beautifully done.

    • Thank you Jenn! Give it a shot, you can download the pattern and have a good read. It can take some time to find the sweaters you like but the whole project from beginning to end was a blast. Just make sure you use a 4-thread overlock or find a friend who will let you use theirs. Then jump right in!

  11. AMAZING job Loran, just brilliant! I think Katwise would be blown away with your coat.

    My friend makes these coats and has a thriving little business on Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/sweetandblue so I know how much time and effort goes into making just one of them. From memory I think Katwise released her pattern because everyone started jumping on the bandwagon, a wise decision if you ask me.

    What an epic job you’ve done just love it!

    • Thank you Kazz! I wrote to Kat of Katwise and let her know the post was up and where to see it. We’ll see if she writes back, I do believe she is on vacation at the moment. And you are also correct about the pattern. She did release it for that very reason and she is a smart, smart woman. She asks that when people make her coats, whether for personal use or to sell, that they credit her as well they should : ) I checked out your friends site and she does say that she was influenced by Katwise. Your friends tiny versions are ADORABLE and so well priced! I’m tempted to buy a couple from her for my nieces rather than make them…thank you for the info!

  12. This is INSANE. I adore it, and I adore Lloyd Alexander, he went to my high school, Friends’ Central! I loved the Prydain novels, and all his books, and this is just amazing! Crunchings and munchings indeed.

  13. YES…crunchings and munchings!!! Gurgi : ) I’m so glad some people know who I’m talking about, I was afraid I was being too obtuse or “old fashioned”. I was also channeling Ordu, Orwen and Orgoch just a little…never could make up my mind whether to be the princess or some kick-ass witches.

  14. I don’t think I’ll ever look at an old sweater in the same way again…

  15. OMG!!!!! yes! I love all of his books :) I have hunted down ones that my local bookstore didnt have and added them to my collection. And now I want to re-read the Prydian series :) Also awesome jacket! I have drooled over Katwise’s ones for a while now. I think I may have to make this. Eilonwy would deff. have worn this.

    • Thanks Becky! I’m going to have to make a couple more just because they’re so cool, maybe a fall one that Eilonwy or even Achren might have worn, all greens and red and golds. I loved all his books but the Prydain is hands down my favorite.

  16. It looks beautiful! I love the Prydain series too, especially The Black Cauldron.

    • Thank you Janice. I loved them all : ) I was so excited when they made “The Black Cauldron” into a movie but compared to the books I was hugely disappointed. I wish someone would make them in the style of the fantasies being done today, THAT would be awesome! And didn’t you want a bauble like Eilonwy’s? I did : )

  17. Incredible! Really amazing work, love the finished coat and loved reading the story. And with all that quality wool must be super-warm too. I would love in it! Love the colors, love how it looks with the boots, you did a fantastic job here for sure. And bonus for the twirling qualities of this coat.

    • It IS quite warm, I tried weighing it and it’s over 10 pounds (because my small scale only weighs up to 10 lbs and then error messages me!) but as I was walking around the hills in it it was good. It will be great in the middle of winter! The twirling is a bonus : )

  18. Wow! This is stunning! Up there with your Klimt coat, which is possibly the most amazing project I’ve ever seen. Makes me want to read the books too!

    • Thank you Rachel! How sweet of you to remember my Klimt coat, I love that coat : ) I started to see a trend with piece-work coats that makes me happy… Read the books, I think you’ll really enjoy them. There are also several kids books that use the same characters that younger kids can understand. He really was a wonderful children’s author.

  19. Omg, that’s pure fabulosity

  20. Hi Loran. Love the photos, they have a very avante grade high fashion feel. Gorgeous!

  21. I don’t even know what to say about this coat. I just keep looking at the photos in amazement!

    And thanks for the link to Katwise. I’ve been looking all over her website too, and was astounded to read that she hitchhiked Africa with Kinga Freespirit (whose travels I followed for a long time until her early death). Amazing woman.

    • Aren’t they amazing? The women, as well as the coats…Yes, I read all Kat’s adventures, she’s hitchhiked from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu to Katmandu. I had to find out what happened to Kinga when I saw that she had died, it made me sad but these women lived life in ways I couldn’t even imagine. They give me the inspiration to step out of my “boxes” and just do more.

  22. I freakin’ LOVE this!

  23. This elf coat is the coolest thing I have ever seen! It is mesmerizing and beautiful You did an amazing job.

  24. Thank you so much Bethany : ) It was GREAT fun to do. I can’t wait to see you join us again next week : )

  25. Love! This is amazing and I am now a fan of Katwise- the short jackets she has look like somethign I would wear- I think my sewing skills may need a little more work before then though. It would be well worth the effort I think!

  26. Wow! I love what you did by upcyling thrifted sweaters! Your coat is awesome and I love that you could just serge the whole thing. What is that thin red trim between the layers? Don’t tell me that came from a sweater too! It’s soo soo cooool. Thanks for all the good info on Katwise. I must check her out.

    BTW: Your Photoshoot is suitable for a book cover. I bet I’ll see it in the bookstore someday. ;)

  27. Loran-I absolutely love this this! Wish I had the words. It made me smile the whole way through. You look so beautiful in it too-very much like the tough girl you are. I love the way it looks when you twirl and the hood is so cool. You really have a gift. Thanks for sharing it!

  28. Oh, this is wonderful. This is my favorite creation of yours ever. Wonderful, wonderful coat! I so wanna make one for myself! The photos are so pretty and you look really great in them. Goota check out Katwise right now.

  29. SO awesome. I hope you wear this all the time. And thanks for reminding me of the Prydian books–I’ll be rereading now soon.

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