The “Five easy black and white pieces” challenge

The Facts
: Three different black/white fabrics from stash; black and white stretch cottons, white lining
Pattern: Dress loosely based on Simplicity 2648; skirt #1 based on Simplicity 2928; skirt # 2 Simplicity 2723; skirt #3 self drafted; sweater re-fashioned
Notions: 7 covered buttons, miscellaneous bits of interfacing, 3 sets hooks-n-eyes, 3 zippers all from stash
Year: 1940s and 1950’s
Time to complete
: For all 5 pieces, 7 hours
First worn: November 2012
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: ~$23.00

Hang on to your hats, I was busy this week! I’ll start with my ORIGINAL inspiration. I’ve had this dress on one of my Pinterest boards for a while now and it keeps getting re-pinned. I didn’t design it, I just liked the graphic quality of it so why not make it?

I did : )

How CUTE is this?!

I used Simplicity 2648 for the jumping off point. The skirt, sleeves and back bodice are all cut straight from the pattern but I re-drafted the front to include that v-shaped center bodice piece, cut the neckline higher and gathered the fullness over the boobies. The collar is a long bias cut rectangle that I cut in half lengthwise and sewed white piping down the center. It folds over and is tacked with three covered buttons, the middle one holding on that little bow/flap piece. You can see the original dress here but I will warn you, they have a picture of one useless socialite wearing a version that made me nearly spit out my tea.

This is a sort-of outtake shot but what you can see nicely is the engraved bumper of this amazing motor vehicle : )

I am channeling my best Bonnie Parker here –

This MOST AMAZING car is a 1940 Packard that is BEAUTIFULLY restored! I’ve been “saving” the opportunity to use this for something really special and this is it : ) And because I’m such a lucky girl I couldn’t just do ONE outfit this week, could I?

OK, seriously…I didn’t plan on making the “extras”. This is what happened – digging through my sweater collection I came across a black cashmere that I set aside because other than it being an icky turtle neck ( I can’t stand turtle necks) it didn’t have any holes or issues. I had been wanting a lower cut sweater just to wear to work and when I found this I knew what I was going to do:

It took me a whole 20 minutes to cut the neck off and then down, cut the nice ribbing off the hem and overlock it around the neck edge, finishing it off beautifully. 20 minutes, $2 sweater, now something I will wear at least once a week. AND because I had processed this as if I were going to make a Katwise coat with it it went through the washer and dryer so it will never need to go to the dry cleaners and I won’t worry about who does the laundry : )

That became the basis for the next three skirt outfits. Why? Because I went through my box of black fabrics around Wednesday night and pulled out a poly plaid, a black cotton with white polka dots and a piece of wool houndstooth. I “save” things to make something “special” with “one day”.

Special Number One:

The plaid was in the half-off section at Joann’s last year, I paid $1.50 a yard and had three yards. I love the way the plaid looks here:

So I used the skirt pieces to cut out my skirt. I didn’t pleat the waist, I like basic gathers. The good news is I may have enough scraps left over to make a top to go with this and have a pretty party outfit.

In the future I’m going to try a petticoat under it, I just didn’t have enough time today to think about it. We were moving things along pretty quickly trying to beat both the rain and the setting sun : )

Not only did my friend John pull out his Packard and take pictures for me but he also pulled out the fabulous hat I’ve got on as well as many pairs of vintage earrings that he then threw into a bag when we were done and insisted I take home. I had a great time with someone telling me where to put my hands, what to not worry about and that I was pretty. It never hurts to hear, and at the very bottom of this post I’ll add a pic that I took BEFORE I brushed my hair and did my make-up, just after my girl friend and I planted 5 35-gallon blueberry bushes and a new locust tree in my yard. It’s never dull around here that’s for sure!


So now I run into the house, change my skirt and nylons, find a new hat and toss the bracelets. We have outfit/skirt number 2:

The houndstooth wool has been sitting in various boxes for at least 14 years, maybe longer. When we had the flood at school in 1996 I lost almost everything but I’m guessing, since there is a slight blue dye transfer here and there, that this piece might have been one of the few things that survived. It’s black and white, time to come play! I used the same pattern I used for my Autumn challenge outfit. I like the fact that the front is perfectly flat, there are no darts, and the side seams are set slightly back instead of right at the sides. There are two darts in back to help fit and instead of the side slit I moved it to the center back. I was sewing happily along Saturday night, patting myself on the back for keeping within my “If it can be done in an hour then you can make one more item” agenda, when THIS happened:

What you are looking at is the center back, with the zipper and back seam sewn on the WRONG side of the fabric! It was time to go to bed at that point. It only took me 15 minutes to pull out the zipper, un-stitch and re-stitch that back seam but it was a real head shaking moment.

Fortunately it all worked out well : ) Isn’t that car STUNNING??

Back into the house for skirt/outfit number 3:

John has an antique silk top hat. He shared : ) I’m told ankle boots are the hot trend this year, I’m not so sure but I’ll give it a go.

The black/white polka dot fabric is cotton/lycra and been in my box for a while. I didn’t realize it had lycra in it when I bought it to make a tie so I set it aside. Again saving it for “some day”. I used no pattern, just measured around my hips and cut a piece big enough to go ’round. Then I wrapped it around me, marked and stitched four darts and the center back seam which includes a kick pleat. Instead of a waistband I threw on a piece of 3″ wide elastic, no zipper and hemmed it. Took an hour. (I used the same ‘pattern’ for my Location challenge skirt, not that you could see much of it!)

And because this is the Black and White challenge I transferred a couple of the photos to black and white –

The hood ornament of the Packard is a cormorant. And as Steve said “Be careful around that thing, it’s sharp!” Yes indeedy it is, every one of those feather tips is sharp enough to cause some decent damage.

Playing around with photoshop we made a watercolor of this pic:

Finally, here is my “Driving Miss Daisy” shot:

And because I promised at the beginning of the post, here is me without ANY make-up, hair askew and dirty:

FIVE challenges to go!! What on EARTH are we going to do in 5 weeks?!



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. Amazing collection! You HAVE been busy. Alas, my skirt did not get made. It started to, but some low-grade idiocy crept in and I cut it out ALL WRONG and now there is not enough to salvage it. Oh, well. :)

    • Oh, that’s too bad but I get the low-grade idiocy. I’ve got a whole stack of “idiotic mistakes to look into fixing later”. One of these days I may get back to them but right now I’m too busy with all this fun stuff!

  2. Oh my goodness! FIVE outfits! I feel so insufficient! You are just so darn impressive! My favourite is the plaid skirt – I’m always going to be a sucker for plaid! And the sweater, because it’s so classic and versatile.

    • Five pieces, only four outfits : ) Yeah, it was one of those weeks, just seemed like once I got going I just kept running with it, like Forrest Gump. I wore the plaid skirt to work and it got lots of comments. I may have to make another one or two if I can find more plaid taffeta!

  3. You are AMAZING!!!!!! I love your version of the Stop Staring dress you had pinned. You did a fantastic job at recreating it. And WOW! You were certainly busy making all those outfits. A job well done.

    • Thank you Bethany : ) It did get a “little” out of hand but I’m glad I did it. It will mean I have room to buy more fabric from Michael Levine when I get to LA!!

  4. I’m so impressed! I love the dress you created, it’s so pretty, and to have the opportunity to pose in front of that Packard with such an enthusiastic photographer, that’s awesome. What fun you must have had. But to make all those other adorable pieces, and then do massive gardening, is just unbelievable. You are my super hero this week. I put away all of my sewing gear, stored my bags of material in a big bin in the garage in preparation for Thanksgiving. I miss it already! Luckily I made my 60’s look early.

    • Thanks Barbara, the dress is a lot of fun. I just need to remember to wear a slip! And the key to massive gardening is having help : ) I can’t wait to see your 60’s look!!

  5. Loran stop it already! you are my sewing super hero too this week. You did a smashing job on that Stop Staring dress, I too have copied some of their dresses, aren’t we lucky to be able to do so? and you only spent $23? you are pretty damn impressive lady.

  6. It’s really fun to see how the game is being upped! How many garments next week??!!! I’ll be interested to see what develops next year too …

    • No, I’m only doing ONE garment for next week : ) I only have so much time and energy believe it or not! Yes, I’m VERY curious to see what next year brings as well.

  7. So impressive! 5 easy pieces that you made in a few hours… most would take me at least a day to ponder after cutting pieces. I am so impressed with the beauty and simplicity of all your creations in this challenge. From the art-deco-like dress to the refashioned sweater (my fave!) to the wonderful skirts. Awesome job!

    • Thank you very much!! My favorite is the sweater and I’m keeping my eyes open for more sweaters to re-fashion like that one. I’ve worn it twice since then : ) Nothing like cashmere for a few bucks…

  8. Seriously?! While that car IS stunning, you steal its thunder in every single outfit. I just love the dress you copied. When I grow up, I hope I can do that. Nice try trying to humanize yourself with the “before” shot; we all know you’re a superhero (and not just in sewing).

    • Thanks Lee, of COURSE you can do that! Look at all you’ve done this year!! Thank you for the superhero vote : ) I just do what I can. And that before shot is COMPLETELY untouched-up! Might as well be completely truthful since it does take some work to get these posts up and out : )

  9. Where do you find the time??? That dress is a traffic stopper. Simply gorgeous, as are the rest of your pieces. And that car! I dream of such a car!

    • Thank you Jen. Finding the time wasn’t so much the issue, I was just trying to re-direct my attention to something positive and this ended up being the best way to do it. Yeah, that car is pretty special AND they’ve got a 60-something gold Cadillac convertible that is crying out to be used : )

  10. i agree with everyone-especially the superhero part and the part about you being beautiful no matter what! Like Lee-I hope to grow up and be like you someday!

    • Thank you Gina : ) We’re probably quite a bit alike, and you can CERTAINLY sew!! One of these days I’ll have to get out your way, it would be fun to do a meet-up in your area, maybe on my way to New York. Hmmmm…..

  11. You’ve inspired us: I think I need to take a few weeks off work so that I can get some gardening and sewing and photographing done! (well, scratch the gardening part. We’re looking down the barrel at 6 months of snow and cold, so I’ll just plant some pots of herbs for my kitchen.)

    I’m not sure which one I like best, but I’m leaning toward the plaid skirt and “sweater girl” cashmere. You do steal the show, Packard be damned!

    • Thanks Vicki : ) I wish I could take some time off to do more around the house and yard, guess it will have to wait until after Christmas. I’m sorry you’ve got 6 months of snow and cold coming up, we are certainly blessed here in this part of California to get only rain and the occasional earthquake . I’ve been known to complain when I walk the dogs and it’s 40 degrees out but then I remember parts of the world would LOVE it at 40 degrees ABOVE freezing! I’m glad I’ve inspired you, you’ve certainly given me some inspirational moments.

  12. Wow, you are a machine, a sewing machine! Ha ha! Love the Stop Staring dress – looks amazing on you and the plaid skirt – I want one, wish I could find some decent tartain taffetta like you could in the 80’s – that stuff used to be everywhere.

    I also received your very thoughtful card, love botanical art and the cherries are divine! Also the very special teatowel – thanks so much I have never seen one like that – so that will be treasured I would love to cover an old armchair in tourist teatowels – have you seen the fashion for this? Looks amazing! – thanks Loran!

  13. Guess what I just found at Joann’s this last weekend? PLAID taffeta like we used to get in the 80’s!!! I found about a dozen different patterns and colors, all 60″ wide and brand new bolts, which means they JUST got it in! I’ll poke around the Joann’s website soon and see if it’s there.
    I’m glad you got the little package : ) I haven’t seen an armchair covered with teatowels but will look for it, sounds like a lot of fun. It would be easy to do, especailly since you made that amazing skirt earlier this year. I’ll keep my eyes open for more tea towels and see if we can’t make your dream come true : )