Hot! The “six dollars for sweaters” dress

The Facts


Fabric: Sweaters from stash, bought 3 new for this project at $2 each
Pattern: My own but inspired by Katwise
Notions: 2 mondo brass hooks
Year: Contemporary
Time to complete: About 5 hours
First worn: September 2012
Wear again? Yes, when the weather calms down.

Total Cost: $6

Do you ever have some weeks where you really have to think, think, think about the challenge? Where it takes SO MUCH THOUGHT to just come up with one idea? That was not this week : ) I had SO MUCH STUFF to pick from that I almost cursed the over-abundance of ideas. I was drawn back to Katwise for several reasons:

1) I still haven’t cleaned up my mess from the last project.

2) I am making a couple of these coats as presents for Ariel and Elora, my little twin friends. Ari is the one with cancer, Elora is the one that my daughter took photos of shaving her head at St. Baldrick’s this year that won her the photo prize at the Marin County Fair.  I am in full-on sweater mode and that makes me happy and there isn’t quite enough “happy” right now.

3) The last couple weeks the weather has been cool, especially in the mornings. I thought we were into fall. Ha!

So I started with the pile in my living room. I loved the greys I didn’t use in the last coat and was really wanting to do something with the grey cashmere that Stuart kitty fell in love with. I had a purple wool sweater that someone gave me because they had smeared something on it they couldn’t remove.

My gain : ) I also had a grey wool sweater that I got at the last swap that was beautiful except for these:

So far we’re up to free. I called to take Elora shopping last Monday, when all clothing at Salvation Army is $2. She had been grounded (!?!) for texting a boy too much so I had to go it alone. It’s tough being 14…

I found the lovely dark purple sweater along with another medium grey wool/silk blend and a cotton light grey. Just as I was throwing everything into the washing machine I spied a grey floral-printed  wool sweater that I had set aside from another swap, I was wanting to replace the buttons and cut it down to a cardigan but what the heck, it joined the party!

Then I cut strips. The toughest part for me is cutting into these guys, I don’t know why. I once did a project for a friend of mine who did very high end wall coverings for very wealthy clients in the City. He brought me a bolt of Fortuny fabric to cut into panels and stitch together and that stuff was $1,000.00 per meter. No, I didn’t put the comma or period in the wrong spots. One thousand dollars. A meter. And the bolt had 100 meters on it. It was worth more than my house.

I cut into IT just fine so I’m not sure what my problem was this week.

The inspiration piece (above) was a garment Kat made to auction off, a fellow artisan by the name of Chopstix died suddenly of a brain aneurysm and Kat was trying to help the family raise money to settle the estate. Had I felt wealthier I would have been tempted to bid on it, it sold for the price of a meter of Fortuny fabric.

 Then I found this pic –

  In the end it really took about an hour to cut and sew the dress together, another couple to futz with the hood/cowel. I fussed over what band goes where more than I’d like to admit. I wanted the center purple band to define the waist and I’ll probably cut it off the dress, shorten the grey top and put it back on, I think its a little long.

I made a pretty cha-cha belt loosely based on an obi design. Of course I had this idea around 9pm Saturday night and I had set things up with my daughter to take pics first thing Sunday morning. For some reason I just didn’t want to pull out my sewing machine. Nothing is set up any more since puppies have the sewing room so hauling the thing out, finding the cords…ugh… I made the belt from a sleeve of each of the purple sweaters and just overlocked everything together. I didn’t mind hand stitching on the huge hooks I had in my drawer and was done around 9:45. I put everything on the mannequin, stood back and frowned. I didn’t care for the hood/capelet. I don’t know why. I played around briefly with another idea until the rational part of my brain said “This isn’t important, it looks fine. Go to bed.” I went.

The belt closures

Sunday morning we were all up early. As I was walking mama Chloe at 7 am my next door neighbor, who has not spoken to us in at least 9 years, opened her door and was passive/aggressive mean. Generally this kind of thing doesn’t throw me but I didn’t have my emotional Wonder Woman bracelets on. It was unexpected. Walking my other dog I just sat in front of the library downtown and cried. I came home and tried to put my make-up on. After my eyeliner washed down my face for the THIRD time I finally got it together and my daughter called “Are you going to be here soon? The fog is burning off”.

I pulled my outfit on, threw the rest of the makeup on, didn’t care about my hair and jammed. I wanted fog – big swirly cold blasts of it. Let me let you in on a little secret if you plan on visiting the Bay Area. Don’t come in the summer. Late September through mid-November is when weather in the City rocks. By 9am there not only wasn’t any fog but standing in the sun was H O T. Which means that by the time I’m typing this it is over 100 at home.

I’m a little warm, I’m a little unhappy. At least I stopped crying and my daughter did manage to tell a series of silly jokes that made me feel better.

But I’m afraid this is about as good as it got in the smile department. I really like the dress and in a few weeks it may be one of the best things in my wardrobe : )

These “benches” area actually HUGE trees that were cut down and left along Grizzly Peak. Someone cut out some seating for this view:

No fog : ) Well, there’s a little left at the coast but this, ladies, is Berkeley, the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, all at your feet. The ground drops off about 6 feet away from this bench/log, almost straight down into poison oak. My camera lens is nothing special so we couldn’t get a wide shot with the Golden Gate bridge but if it’s this clear it means it is WARM.

On our way home we decided to hit Bittersweet, a shop that practically guarantees you’ll feel better. Chocolate, they specialize in chocolate. Hot, cold, sticky, gooey, wonderful chocolate. Brittany discovered their Thai Iced Tea with chocolate, I indulged in a Coconut Chill. A little bit of heaven in a glass.

Happy girl : )

Can you believe we only have 12 challenges left?



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 : )


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  1. 1) I was wondering if you were going to do another Katwise inspired look for this challenge, since I liked your sweater coat so much. You have got to give us a bit of detail about the construction! Is it simply serged together with the seams exposed? It looks as if some of the colours are layered over each other, but maybe that’s just an illusion of shadows.

    2) $1000/m?!?! Was is woven from the hair of angels?

    3) Let us know where the passive agressive neighbour from hell lives, and we’ll dump a Sew Weekly year’s worth of wadders, UFOs, serger tails and thread clippings on her lawn. Then she’ll know what kind of bad-asses she’s dealing with ;)

    • Don’t mess with a seamstress, buddy! Doesn’t everybody know that? We have scissors and we know how to use them.

      • Can i just say how much I love you guys?! Vicki – just for you I’ll put a few more details on my personal blog with photos. Yes, the pieces are just serged together. You put the WRONG sides together and serge. All seams are exposed and I never touch the regular sewing machine. I actually sew these standing up at my kitchen island.
        No, the Fortuny fabric was COTTON albeit very nice, heavy cotton. It was printed with one of their “signature” prints in gold so that may be why it was so much. It’s also by Fortuny so the name alone lets you add several hundred dollars to the price : ) Ironincally it was a border print and the client didn’t want the border so I still have a bunch of it in a box some where.
        The passive/agressive neighbor lives in her own little world in her head. Every now and then she shares. With what’s been going on with my friend Ari and her cancer journey I was emotionally raw and just didn’t expect the neighborly verbal attack. Thank you for the suggestion of dumping our trash on her lawn, the mental picture alone gives me the giggles!!
        Jenn- Thanks for the “we have scissors and we know how to use them” comment, perhaps we should do a Sew Weekly bumper sticker? I’ll ask Mena what she thinks : )

  2. Everything Vicki said, plus:
    I love this look!!! I think you look beautiful in it and in these pictures, despite being sad. I’m so sorry that happened to you!! I know what you mean about those emotional Wonder Woman bracelets and being caught off guard. I really hate bitchy people!!!

    • Thank you Nettie : ) I read a fabulous piece yesterday about why we should love the haters, if I can find the link I’ll post it on my blog. It helps put life into perspective. People like YOU inspire me everyday : )

  3. I can’t wait for that fog to finally get over the hills where we can enjoy it. I love the cowl/ hood I may just have to try this or if nothing else go with you on $2 Monday and find some great things to wear, but once this weather is over, thrifting is just not fun when it is hot. B. did a great job with the pics and cheering you up. D is now going to get made at me when I tell him I want a baby.

    • We’ll go thrifting soon : ) And just borrow Brittany, kids are a LOT of work, you were there for most of it, remember? I have to say I am looking forward to fall and winter!

  4. Earlier today I revisited your coat made of sweaters and now here is an AWESOME dress! I love this even more than the coat. But here’s my question. Can one make one of these without a serger?

    • Technically you COULD but here’s the real deal – it would be SO MUCH WORK to finish off all those seams that in the end it would easily take three times as long. Katwise, the original genius behind these upthrifted sweater creations, put together a youtube video (I haven’t seen it, only refernce to it) that walks you through the actual construction process. You are essentially cutting out your pieces, putting WRONG sides together and serging them. That’s IT. No other finishing, no other stitching. The key is to use a 2-thread, 4 cone overlock. She sells the directions for making the coats for $9 on her etsy site, WELL worth it I think. She’s a very generous person, we’ve even traded emails! I think she touches on how to handle the no-serger issue but my advice would be to either borrow or rent one if you want to do a coat. I don’t know if you’ve got a sewing studio in your area, where you can rent space and machines? Then you could just take all your pieces in and put them together. Actual sewing time is minimal and that’s the best part! I’ve had so many people ask about my sweater remodels I’m going to give a class out here soon : )

  5. This is super cute on you Loran. I want to see a jumpsuit next though! I really have to start collecting my sweaters to make something like this. I just love it!

    • Thanks Jenn! I never thought of a jumpsuit, may have to consider how to update something I wore as a kid… Yes, collect sweaters, give this a go : )

  6. I love everything about this, the mix of colors and textures and the sense of layering without bulk. I could probably never pull off wearing it myself. You and your hourglass figure and fab legs. You’re going to give the fog a run for its money in a few months time.

  7. I love this too, just how it is. The colours all work so well together.

    • Thank you : ) I know we tend to get to detail oriented so I’ll probably just leave things well enough alone and love it.

  8. Handsdown – best legs on the Sew Weekly Loran! Great Dress – the colours just pop!

  9. So cool! I love that the cowl is a separate piece. The belt looks great and so do the colors on you. I think there’s something terrifying about cutting into a bunch of loops that can unravel, like steeks in handknitting. Hope the emotions of that morning are a distant memory. I hate the haters.

    • Thanks Lee : ) I still can’t figure out what the deal is, maybe it is the unraveling thing. I mean, seriously, it’s a two dollar sweater for pete’s sake. Maybe I just don’t like wasting pretty things…which explains my ONE bag of silk scraps. My daughter has strict instructions that if I start keeping garbage she is to immediately call “Hoarders” for an intervention! As for the haters, I read a great piece yesterday on why we should love our haters. It put everything into perspective especially since it was sent to me by a cancer survivor.

  10. I saw your picture yesterday and was blown away by how beautiful you are. Just read your post today and am sad that you had such a rough time on picture day.

    I love your dress! Wish I had a serger so I could make one too.

  11. THank you GIna, some days are just better than others : ) And you CAN make one of these, see if you can rent a serger to try it out. I’m going to teach a class out here but maybe I can do a series of pics as we go. I know Katwise has a video on youtube that shows the process and she may cover how to make a coat without an overlock (see my response to Erin). Maybe we could do a meetup in Chicago and I could teach a bunch of mid-west folks the art of cutting up sweaters. Or just sit and gab about life and sewing : )

  12. Loran, this is beautiful. I like it even better than the coat. Looks fantastic on you… Great job!!
    As for the neighbor.. I am so sorry.. There are mean/bad people in this world.. SO sad.. I know what you mean,some days [especially when it is unexpected] it is just harder to handle.. I want to say I admire your wanting to forgive.. That says so much for you. Most of the time, when you see a mean person ,like the neighbor, they are miserable people themselves. But I have to admit…when I read the comments, I really wanted to go and throw our scraps in their yard
    And the expensive fabric…… Oh Lord……. I would have been shaking too bad to cut into
    Hope you have a good day , and sending a big ole hug.

  13. This is gorgeous! I love it when you shock and amaze us all with your never ending talents. Sorry about your neighbor from hell. We will all take her down!

  14. Loran you really suit these Katwise designs and you chose the best colours for your skin tone. You look amazeballs.

    That $1000 fabric? bananas! did you manage to sneak any scraps? I too have a bag of silk scraps, I can’t let go.

    Be gone your menopausal neighbour. She’s not worth your tears, always smile and tell her to have a wonderful day, skip off into the distance then give her the finger. I hope your week gets better from here on.

  15. I’m a big fan of Katwise. She’s so cool! I love how she refashions old sweaters. I don’t know if I could ever wear one of her coats, but your sweater-dress is another story! It’s so cute! I want one. When’s your class scheduled? I’d love to learn from an expert.