The “Snow Queen” outfit and special guest!

The Facts
: 14 sweaters, all thrifted
Pattern: The amazing Katwise, as well as my own
Notions: Not a single blessed one except for thread (because I forgot to sew the buttons on!)
Year: Fantasy is timeless : )
Time to complete
: 6 hours, give or take
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Yes, and soon!!

Total Cost: ~$23.00

Oh winter…I know you’re a necessary season but you’re just not my favorite season. It’s okay, it’s not you, it’s me : ) I just don’t like the sadness of the bare trees but I console myself with the fact that they, too, need a break and they’ll have a brand new outfit in a few months. I know it gives me a chance to get things like hard-scaping in my yard and plant bulbs but right now I’m envying the beach-going ways of our southern hemisphere sisters!

That being said, I wanted to make the most of “Winter”. Winter is cold, wet and tends towards monochromatic. I grew up with my mother referring to a certain shade of off-white as “winter white” and that was at the forefront of my brain this whole challenge. Since discovering Katwise’s designs I have been intrigued by her snowy photoshoot, she in all creams and greys. It just so happened that a trip to Salvation Army one Monday night they were having a “$2 each or 10 for $10” sale on clothing with a certain tag color. What did I find? 10 sweaters, all in shades of off white : ) Seemed like a sign. (I did indulge in 10 more colored sweaters and am seriously contemplating a coat based on a peacock.) When I spread them out at home I realized I didn’t quite have enough so a trip into Thrift Town in the Mission in San Francisco produced another 4, including the base sweater, that made this project come together. As usual, everything was thrown into the washing machine on almost-hot and then the dryer so there are no cleaning worries in the future!

I wanted something with some kind of embroidery or trimming for the body of the jacket and I splurged on a $5 wool/nylon sweater at Thrift Town. It was perfect, except for the shape:

It was originally a dreaded turtle neck so that was the first to go, then I cut it up the center front and threw it over my Peggy dress on the mannequin and cringed. Lovely embroidery, drop shoulders, large sleeves…hello? The nineties are calling and want their sweater back! I yanked it back off, cut the sleeves off at the shoulders and re-cut the top:

Chunk kitty helped. You never know, it might try to run away… You can see I took an inch off the shoulders, cut a standard armhole and narrowed the sides. Then I re-cut the sleeves:

I shortened the sleeve about 6″ getting rid of the cuff, re-cut the sleeve in a standard set-in sleeve shape and got rid of that excess under the arm. Then I re-set the sleeves and made the skirt. I learned from my last coat that 30-some odd panels are too much, this time I made 25. The center back panel is white and the rest go from the lightest winter white to the darkest beige. I used a variety of fibers; silk, cotton, wool and a couple silk/cashmere blends. I also wanted a dress to wear under it so the base is one cotton/cashmere sweater cut diagonally (to get rid of the lunch stains that sent this to Salvation Army!) and then integrated with a couple light-weight wool sweaters into a cohesive slip-on dress, inspired by the dress Erin made. It’s warm, it’s cuddly and it demands some rockin’ accessories!

While looking through photos on Google of different versions of “Snow Queens” I noticed the one thing I like about each version, no matter the dress, were the crowns : ) I especially liked the beaded tiara a ballerina might wear:

But seriously, I’m not really a “tiara” girl. Crown maybe,  but my younger sister is the tiara girl : ) Then I remembered a little “crown” I had made for a version of “Midsummer Nights Dream” I did many years ago. The director was from Louisiana so he set the show in the south in the 50’s. Tatiana was supposed to be more like a Voodoo Priestess and her court were earthly elements. I made Tatiana a gown out of a specially dyed cotton in reds and greens with a big red macrame’d collar and a rustic crown. I still have these pieces along with the collars I made for the courtiers and Oberon’s large chest piece. While helping go through the costume collection of my friend who died a few months ago I found the chenille wig I had made for Oberon! How Barbara came to have it I have NO idea but it’s back “home” and one of these days I’ll take photos of the complete outfit.

So I had the crown and collar, all I needed to do was pull out my red suede boots, a pair of red gloves, some earrings and we were set! I also decided that since my outfit was all shades of white a certain white creature needed to be included. The morning of the photoshoot it POURED. It hasn’t rained like this in years and this was the FOURTH storm in less than a week. We took off for the Berkeley hills. I figured with the rain we’d have no fog but I was wrong : )

It rained a little but we had swirling, wonderful fog! And Miss Chloe came along because she seemed to be the perfect companion to my “Queen”.

Here we are surveying the forest, making sure all is well.

I’m feeling rather good about the weather, and since this series of storms originated in Hawaii rather than Alaska it’s 58 degrees out here. Not bad, not bad at all…

And of course there was swirling…

AND a hood:

Angie took a long shot of the two of us walking into the woods:

But of all the shots of the day this is my absolute favorite. I think it’s going to be my Christmas card this year:

You can see how wet my feet are here, and I’ve got dirt and mud all over my coat but I’ll just throw it into the wash and it’ll look great! We had one pooped pup when we got back to the car –

And just because, Angie took a picture of me picking up poop : )

For Vicki, an outtake, with me putting my heel down into a tree stump that was hollow in the center:

That’s a face : )

While winter may not be my favorite season this outfit makes it SO much better! It rarely snows here but it doesn’t sound as romantic to say “Soggy Foggy Queen” now does it?

Chloe is the dog we’re fostering, she had the eight puppies that ate my patterns and all but two have found their forever homes. When she arrived she weighed almost 20 pounds less, had lost all her fur and you could count every single one of her vertebrate and ribs.She had been bred so many times her nipples were nearly on the ground and had given everything she had to take care of her puppies. Now it’s her turn : ) Her weight is good, her fur has grown back and this was her FIRST outing to somewhere not in our neighborhood. It was a good adventure for both of us : )

The end



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. Fantastic outfit as always! The winter white is gorgeous (’cause I’m a sucker for white), but it’s the pops of red that really make it. I’m just gobsmacked that you can go into one or two op-shops and find all this stuff. It would take me a year of searching to accumulate a pile of similar enough items to make something like this. Is the shift wearable without the over-garment?

    And Chloe is gorgeous and goes perfectly with it. Bless you for taking care of her.

    Whenever you blog about your theatre stuff I wonder how it is that I never met you when I was in the Bay Area sewing for theatre companies. Or perhaps I did!

    • I have to admit I’m almost always surprised at the stuff I find thrifting, I don’t know if I just haven’t looked as closely as I do now or what the deal is. I even took a friend one night and SHE was able to find stuff she wanted. What surprises me even more is the amount of CASHMERE I come across.
      Yes, the dress is completely wearble on its own and I will, as soon as I wash the puppy paw prints and mud splatters off : ) We had a little flood in our garage/basement Sunday (that I discovered after I got back) so all subsequent machine use has been for clean-up. We’re supposed to have another storm through tomorrow and again on Friday so I hope I can wear this WHOLE outfit one of those days.
      I will admit I’m having a hard time thinking about Chloe moving on, maybe not such a good foster mommy as I hoped : )
      I’m guessing you were sewing for theate companies in the Berkeley/Oakland or San Francisco area, I was mainly East Bay (Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill/Concord). We probably know some of the same people since this is a very small community.

  2. Oh my gosh I love your post!! You make a GORGEOUS snow queen even while picking up after the puppy!! :D

  3. (OK, so this is the 3rd time I’ve tried to comment – let’s hope that this one goes through and the other two don’t!)

    I love love love the winter whites version of your growing Katwise inspired collection. What a ghostly snow queen you are in these beautiful foggy photos. There must be a lot of weight on the bodice from that full skirt – did you use twill on the seams?

    And Chloe is the perfect, healthy and fat looking accessory (the breadth of human cruelty is sometimes astounding, isn’t it? But I like to believe that it is usually countered by kindness like yours.)

    • I feel your pain with trying to comment so thank you for taking the time : ) I’m learning more about how to “engineer” these coats so the weight it much less than my first coat. I’m using fewer panels but still to good effect, and lighter weight sweaters. The enitre coat is serged except for the ties at the waist (stitched onto waistband) and the skirt (it is serged but there is a row of regular stitching to make sure.) I’m debating about adding a row of twill in there for reinforcement but I want to see how this does first. I’ll also, eventually, add some buttons so I can button the front closed.
      Chloe is amazing. She was probably treated pretty roughly and yet she trusts and forgives. Yes, the breadth of human cruelty and stupidity is astounding. Last night we gave chase to a dog that had gotten lost. She wove in and out of traffic, had no collar on but was clearly confused. One guy stopped and offered to help get her, one guy sat in his truck and yelled at me. 50/50 I guess : ) It all worked out in the end, we got her re-united with her mommy.

  4. This is utterly gorgeous!! I love it!!! And the location is utterly gorgeous with the mist swirling around.

  5. Wow Loran, this is just beautiful, the photos, the scenery, your garments and the dog. You would fit right into a scene from the Hobbit. It was so hot here on the weekend – on Saturday it was 36 which is about 96 degrees – I had to have three swims to make it through! I am sitting this one out this week! Wonderful work as always x

    • Thanks Trish, I was thinking about you this weekend, with your summer weather and all : ) I have yet to see any of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies even though my father gave me copies of them all. I had one pic of me with some tree roots that I didn’t like as much as the others but maybe I’ll stick in it with the rest in my blog.

  6. I think you’ve excelled yourself there … what are you going to do for Christmas?? I absolutely love how something so fabulous has been made from a pile of thrifted sweaters.

    • Thank you : ) I have NO IDEA about Christmas yet!! I’m tempted to just pull out the pile of sweaters I’ve accumulated and crawl into them : ) All the animals love my Katwise coats, I can’t even leave one hanging on the back of a chair. I do feel good about making something new and pretty and not buying “new”.

  7. Wow, amazing photo shoot! Love the whole ensemble and your crew-mate on the the Ice Queen Express! These Katwise projects make me want to buy a serger!!

    • Thanks Adri! We had a good time. Yes, get a serger!! I now own three, but my older ones won’t do the Katwise coats (they’re only three-thread sergers, not 4 which is what you need to do the sweater thing). I used to liken a serger to having a microwave – you don’t necessarily “need” one but once you’ve had one they’re very useful. Now I rarely use a microwave but I’m doing more with my sergers : )

  8. Loren, you are so awesome! I love everything about your Katwise sweatercoat, the dress to match, and the sweet little dog that complements each photo. All of the photos are a joy to look at (which I have done over and over). You really matched the coat with a fantastic setting. The woods and the fog take us to a very mystical place, the land of the Snow Queen. Thank you so much for sharing your art, and yourself with us.

    • Thank you so much Barbara! I really love this outfit and plan to wear it to work this week : ) Chole loved exploring the woods so we may have to go on more “adventures” while we still have her (technically we’re only fostering her). I was so happy to see the rain clear and the fog swirling, I think Angie thought I had gone a little kooky. Ah well, it was fun : )

  9. Another fantastic Katwise coat, you are on a roll Loran soon you will have one in every shade!! You suit this look very much and your photo’s set the scene perfectly.

  10. You don’t even know… : ) I’ve now got boxes of sweaters in the garage and barn and am working on a peacock design. This journey is leading somewhere, I just have to figure out where and what I want to do with it.