Colette Peony – I haven’t quite decided whether it’s a weed or a blossom in my pattern stash. Should it stay or should it go? (This dress is also appearing over at Rhinestones and Telephones right now).
Colette Peony was my first indie patterns purchases when I started sewing again. I bought it direct from Colette, waited weeks for it to arrive – in the meantime I made my Frolicking Frock and my beloved Tardis Skirt, which have all been major wardrobe winners. If I had started with this pattern, I might have given up sewing before I even got started again.
I made this as this dress for Sew Colette 2.0 which is hosted by Sarah, Erin and Rochelle. I was not thrilled when Peony was voted as the October project – I was desperately wanting it to be Oolong – I even have the pattern – thank you Sew Squirrel! I didn’t intend to participate but when Sarah was tweeting about needing a guest blogger I thought ‘hey I’ve just made a smokin’ boned, lined and underlined Gertie wiggle dress - how hard can Peony be?‘ hmmmmm, HARD!
Peony is rated as an easy project. It’s not hard to sew together. However, it is difficult to fit. This pattern has clearly been designed for someone with a completely different build than me (and most people it seems) and modifying the pattern can be hard work for some of us. So here is a little story about my battle with the Peony…
MAKE A MUSLIN!!!!!
If you make this pattern, you absolutely must make at least a bodice muslin. I consider myself a base jumper in the sewing world and rarely muslin anything (a small benefit of being built like a coathanger I guess). I had seen enough of this pattern in blogworld to know that it might be a tough customer – it needed more than courage and a parachute to prevent a crash landing. I think the biggest issue is the position of the waist and bust darts. I re-drew and re-stitched the darts five times on my muslin. I drew lines all over it and eventually created something that kinda sorta fits.
FRONT BODICE SOLUTION
What did I do? After four unsuccessful dart moves, I looked at my made-by-me dresses that do fit well and looked at their bodice darts. My Passport dress and Simplicity 2444 have waist darts however instead of running at a 90 degree angle to the waistline, they start closer to the centre of the waistline and are slightly angled outwards from the waist and towards the side seams. I transferred this dart rotation to my muslin. I simply dropped the waist darts down a little and rotated them outwards a little. I also raised the bust seams a little. Hey presto – a much better fitting bodice.
DON’T FORGET THE BACK BODICE
In my excessive excitement I did not spend enough time fussing over the back. Once I sewed up the dress I found that the back is still too wide. Alas. If you are having this problem I did google this problem and found a very helpful post from Symon Sez referring to Madalynne’s post explaining the relationship between the back and front neckline width. Next time (if there is a next time) I’m going to modify the back piece using this theory.
MY SUMMER PEONY
I think with any seasonal dress colour choice is important. I’ve never felt very summery in grey or black. Nor do I feel wintery and cosy in minty greens and vibrant blues (I must admit I am not a fan of the colder months – and we don’t even get a frost where I live).
It’s interesting but I’ve never worn yellow – ever. Thanks Kat for encouraging me to give this hue a try via Twitter – this fabric has been intended for a Cambie but there is always another Cambie somewhere… I confess there may be a little more left in my stash…
My fabric is a butter yellow cotton eyelet. Obviously Peony wasn’t giving me enough grief so I picked a fabric that required lining and underlining.
Lining and Underlining
Using the skills I picked up making the wiggle dress and reading Gertie’s book, I underlined the yellow eyelet with some white broadcloth from the stash. Underlining is quite easy. You do need patience! Rather than paraphrase someone else – why not check out Gertie’s blog and see how she underlined the Colette Crepe bodice. In a nutshell you baste the fabrics together around the edges and baste along the dart lines. This is a very imprecise description. I think pictures work better!
I guess some people may be wondering why I chose broadcloth to underline, rather than silk organza or cotton batiste? I was planning to omit the sleeves as I wanted a Summer Peony and thought if the bodice had more structure the neckline and armholes would sit better.
The bodice is underlined – so the two fabrics are treated as one. I lined the skirt – so the lining is attached at the waist and then hangs free.
People complain about the Peony skirt gathers – but I love the skirt. It’s a gentle a-line and I think if you pick a a fabric with some drape, not too much, it hangs beautifully. I can see that a poplin, sateen, quilting cotton etc might not be so flattering. I added a full 2 inches to the skirt length. I think it compliments the wide boat neckline better than the shorter skirt. The extra weight might also help the gathers hang better I suspect.
The Sleeves – or not!
In an email discussion with Sarah I planned on writing a post about ‘summerising’ Peony – after seeing Lladybird’s rockin’ gingham summer Peony in February this idea has been sitting in the back of my mind.
I’ve always felt a little left-out of the sewalongs as everyone else always seems to be in a different season to me! So this was to be my southern hemisphere version of the Peony – if you are feeling miserable as the temperature descends on the other side of the world, I’m happy to channel summer over here on my blog for you! Free of charge!
I had planned to create armhole facings and write a post about them. While I was making up this pattern, I decided that as the shoulders are quite narrow that it would be better to use bias binding instead – otherwise the shoulder would become quite bulky with layers of fabric. I did add the neckline facing as the pattern directs but ripped it out. The underlining, shell fabric and facings make the neckline at the shoulders very bulky and unattractive. So I unpicked it and replaced it with binding that I cut from the un-eyeletted (yes of course that’s a word) fabric along the eyelet fabric’s edges.
My shoulders did get a touch sunburnt at the beach when we took photos – so I missed the sleeves! Leaving off the sleeves makes the dress much cooler and better for my climate – which features hot and humid summers! Not good weather for growing Peonies :-)
I simply stitched bias binding to the outside of the armholes on the right side, turned the binding to the inside, concealing the raw edges and slip stitched it down to the underlining.
I decided to highlight the white underlining/lining that is peek-a-booing through the eyelet by adding a piped white waistband. I’ve never inserted piping before – and had always thought it was waaaay tooooo hard. Not true. Check out Colette’s online tutorial about how to add piping to your projects…
Verdict – does my dress fit perfectly? No. Do I mind? Actually no. I love it with my belt to cinch in the waist – even if it does hide the lovely piping! I don’t really like close fitting summer frocks, they get sticky and clingy. I put this on this morning, took the kids and dog to the beach, splashed in the water, dug some holes, we took the blog photos – and I’ve worn it all day. It’s a lovely comfortable dress. No it’s not perfect… but neither am I…
I always think about how I am going to wear my project as I sew it. What necklaces, shoes, earrings, hats will work with it. I find this really helps inspire the process and makes finishing it all the more fun.
I’ve just paired mine with a belt from a bargan bin ($5 – I love it!), some wooden beads from a hippy shop which cost me a huge $2.50 and a straw hat which was a birthday gift from a friend. Accessories really finish any outfit – made-by-me or otherwise. Think about the people whose dress sense you admire – often it’s those little touches that really make them stand out in a crowd. Think beyond your dress, your can take a simple shape or fabric and make it sing with a well placed or chosen accessory.
This soft yellow it is easy to wear and I feel like a little dish of lemon sorbet! It’s a girly dressy summer dress.
I think yellow may appear in my wardrobe more regularly – thanks Kat!
There has been some hearty comment in blogland about how we put together our images, Catherine Daze and ::Paunnet::, wearing footwear we usually don’t, make-up and colour editing our images… So for the record, there photographs have just been cropped a little so I’m not so lost in the frame, no colour changes have been made, I’m not made-up, I did wash my hair that morning but I wash my hair every day – so this is me, untouched and barefoot on my beach – untouched.
I don’t tend to take a lot of photos with my mug (Aussie slang for face) in it. Like most people I’m not a huge fan of pictures of myself and… well I’m blogging about the clothes, I’m no oil painting, it’s all about the dress!
Why would you bother with photo editing when you are as handsome as this chap who was busy today giving tourists beach rides! Look at those lashes!
I know you love my little neighbours… so when we spotted this chap in a tree across the road one morning last week and we took a picture for you!
I had been stuck in a bit of a sewing/life rut for a few weeks- for a whole lot of reasons that don’t deserve precious sewing blogging space. Good news: I’m feeling like I’m getting back on my feet… I’ve got two Maria Denmark skirts to share… some treasures from my Tasmanian trip… a wonderful package from Pretty Grievances… a magazine that I won from The Perfect Nose’s blog. So I’m back :-) Thank you for your encouragement and comments…
Pattern: Colette Peony, size 0. Purchased form Colette Patterns (now I purchase all my indie patterns from Sew Squirrel – a much better option if you live in Australia!! Thank you Sarah!!)
Shell fabric: Butter yellow cotton eyelet from Spotlight, reduced form $32/m to $6 on the bargain table!
Bodice underlining: white broadcloth. Skirt lining: White bemsilk.
hmmmm and I really need to fix up that back hem…