Colette Peony – weed or blossom?

Colette Peony - a summer frock

Colette Peony – a summer frock

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…


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.


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.


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.

Colette Peony: back view

Colette Peony: back view



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!

Colette Peony underlining the bodice

Colette Peony underlining the bodice

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.

Skirt Length

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.

Colette Peony: lengthening the skirt

Colette Peony: lengthening the skirt

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…

Colette Peony, inserting the waist piping

Colette Peony, inserting the waist piping, it’s so much easier than you think!

Colette Peony: with a piped waistband, back view

Colette Peony: with a piped waistband, back view

The Fit

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.

Lladybird created a gorgeous crochet rose brooch for her Gingham Peony. Stitch & Witter paired her’s with a bow belt.

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!

Colette Peony, a piped wiastband

Colette Peony, a piped wiastband

The Images

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!

Camel rides on Lighthouse Beach

Camel rides on Lighthouse Beach

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!

Koala, Australia

Koala – how do they sleep on such tiny branches with such bootilicous backsides?????

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…

68 thoughts on “Colette Peony – weed or blossom?

  1. Lizzy, despite all the fitting and alteration trials that you had with this pattern (and actually, possibly because of them) you have completed a BEAUTIFUL dress! It looks absolutely lovely on you. The fabric and colour are divine! Actually, when I opened your blog page the first thing that I thought was “oh, what a gorgeous new photo in the header”! Thanks for sharing all the details too – I think that they will help loads of people. And I’d be with you for an Oolong sewalong, by the way!

    • Thank you so much, it was one of those project where you start out super excited and along the way you start to think… “wow is this turning into a ‘hot mess’?? What happened to my vision!”.
      Perhaps we should have a little downunder Oolong sewalong. I just think if we can win the bias battle it would be a lovely summer dress. Bias has a since way of just ‘skimming’. What do you think?

      • I’m keen! Shall start thinking about what fabric from my stash might be good for an Oolong. Bias is either really flattering or really revealing – I love the way it highlights the curves of boobs and bum but not the way it highlights the curves/rolls of stomach and spare tyre! It’s so important to get the sizing right with bias cut garments. I think that the Oolong will be quite easy to construct though – no fastenings and fully lined. Looking forward to it!

        • Awesome – let’s see what other downunder stitchers will join in. Sew Squirrel watch out!
          I’ve got the pattern and the perfect fabric – but I might do a muslin though as I would hate to ruin the fabric – it’s the same as I used for my Vogue 1247 top.
          Shall I do up a little calendar so we have a goal to muddle along towards?
          Off to do kids parties, farewell drinks, Ironman, father’s birthday – but I will email this weekend 🙂

          • I’d be interested, but I’m not sure I could really manage to fit Oolong properly. When the model has wrinkles at the back waist, it isn’t looking good for me. I’ve got an extremely short flat back-neck-waist that is always difficult to fit without those wrinkles
            Then again maybe I should just try it as a challenge. I love the old-fashioned look of it. (ok ok I know you are supposed to say “retro” or “vintage” but old-fashioned (in a good way) sounds more accurate to me.

            Did you guys see “The Midwives” on the ABC recently? The Oolong reminds me of the kind of dresses they were wearing in that.


          • Everyone told me to watch that show but I never seem to sit down long enough to watch anything it seems!
            Hmmmm the oolong could be tricky but I’m up for anything. I sometimes think the stitches versions of Colette are better than the Colette ones (cheeky I know). I don’t like Ceylon on the Colette site but I’ve seen loads of fabulous versions of it.

  2. I think its quite pretty on you, the fabric is just divine and it looks just like a pretty summer dress on you. Its funny how we start to pick on fit after we start sewing, but I can’t see anything wrong with it on you.

    About the edit photos thing – I can honestly say I never edit my photos other than cropping them and my hair/makeup is what I always have in real life, but the shoes, well I haven’t worn high heels other than in blog photos, for years! So I am guilty of that!

    • I think you are absolutely right Suzy we go get hard on ourselves once we start to sew, I often stop and think ‘now would I buy the dress if it fitted like this?’ which helps keep things in perspective. Equally ask myself the same question of RTW – would I accept this if I had made it. It’s a handy guideline to decide what is acceptable.
      I wear high heels every day to work. However weekends I am barefoot, thongs (flip flops!) or flats.

    • I often think about cropping in some some details – but I have been put off doing that as I have seen some commenters be quite cutting on other blogs when they spot something less than perfect – or they think the blogger should not be posting anything unless they are a professor of couture sewing. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so cautious or lacking in confidence about my skills – thanks Sarah!

  3. Lovely dress Lizzy… and you wouldn’t need to edit your pics in that AWESOME location…. but if you lived in overcast, humdrum Melbourne though…… hehehe.
    I agree about the Colette Patterns…. I don’t think they were designed for bodies like yours or mine…. that’s why I’ve been hesitate to buy them…. I did buy the Sencha blouse way at the start when I wasn’t thinking but at least it is just a blouse and not a whole dress to try and modify!!
    And I don’t really edit my pics either …. crop, lighten it overall but that is the extent of my editing…
    …. say hi to the hot camel fella for me * wink *

    • With Colette I seem to need to take a lot of the back. I found Macaron needed very little modification but Peony and Hazel are a different matter! I do love the style of Colette, they are a little different without being odd. They are also lots of fun to play with, modify and dress up.
      I’m definitely going to try Oolong. I think the bias nature of the design ‘may’ work well… Do you get your Colette/Sewaholic patterns from Sew Squirrel? That’s the best way to buy them in Australia.

    • Thanks Ginger! Despite all the trials and tributlations I keep thinking I might try a couple of versions – I’ve got a white short-sleeved top with a black gingham skirt and a red sash trapped in my head… Colette are always fun to play with.

  4. I just typed a huge response to this only to have it disappear..grrrrr!

    Love the dress
    Love the fabric
    Do wear heels
    Sometimes wear make up
    Don’t edit photos other than cropping and resizing
    Do think a downunder sew along is a great idea

    There you are I just summarised it for you.

  5. Thanks so much for the Sew Squirrel link! I’m in Australia too – I’ve been eyeing off a couple of Colette patterns for a while now, but can’t quite justify $18 + $10 postage. Thank you! This is the best.

    Love the dress, the colour looks amazing on you.

    • Sew Squirrel is largely responsible for my rather large indie pattern collection. I never would have bought Sewaholic but for Sew Squirrel – and the Cambie pattern tripped me over into a Sewaholic addiction! Sarah has great service and is also on Twitter!

  6. Heya! Thanks for the shout out! 🙂 I feel the need to mention that while I managed to fix the back gape mostly, the result was that the front neckline on the final bodice projected outwards, and I had to open up the shoulder seams, smooth the excess fabric outwards from the center, and remove it there. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it did the trick.

    This wasn’t an issue i noticed on my muslin so it could be because I used a medium weight fabric but, like you, I highly recommend muslin-ing the bodice as many times as needed on this dress.

    That said, your version is just beautiful; a really lovely fabric & colour on you, and it suits your frame well 🙂 It looks like you got a really nice fit too, and all the effort was well worth it ^_^

    • Peony appears to be the cryptic puzzle of the sewing world. Thanks for the update on your Peony puzzle, will we ever crack the code?
      I do love this shape, the wide neckline, waistline and flared skirts creates a gentle feminine shape, really classic. I might yet make another…

  7. I love that colour on you. So subtle I almost think I could give yellow a try…
    Re: photo editing: I usually crop if needed and also adjust exposure and colours in some cases and often need to add a little sharpening. I wear my usual make-up (but I do try to get my hair away from my eyes, something I’m not really good at in real life) and my own shoes etc..

  8. Great write up lizzy, really interesting, thanks for taking the time. I think it looks an all round winner for you and your life style….and with the whole fitting experience you’ve truly deserved how pretty it’s turned out. I love all of it, but the more I read about peony the less I’m tempted and am instead drawn to making my own version from other patterns….sometime. Yellow looks SO summery and I am as always super jealous of your wonderful environment. 🙂

    • Thanks Winnie. It was a big write up but for all the visual simplicity of Peony it is hard work! I do love the neckline and will perhaps give it one more go. I find Colette Patterns compelling for some reason – they are open to interpretation and they do get blogged about a bit. We are going to have a mini downunder Oolong sew along – well Thornberry and I so far – you should join in and channel yourself some Aussie summer!

  9. Thanks for the mention Lizzy! I really love your Peony – well done for sticking at it – I must revisit mine and redo the bodice at some point. Ooh am so jealous of your summer!

  10. You’re back, I missed you! Lovely Peony, it was worth all your hard work. It’s a cheeky pattern isn’t it, you want to be cross with it because of the fitting issues and yet the end result is so good you can’t help but like it. I’m still not convinced that I’ll go back to it though. It’s good to see your summery photos, it’s so grey here, you’ve cheered up a dull day!

    • Thank you – I have been rather absent for blogland. Life has been ‘getting in the way’. Hopefully that will stop soon.
      I do love the lines of Peony, it’s ladylike rather than girly. I would still like a short sleeve version.
      However I am making some aprons this week! Soooo much fun.

  11. Wow – that’s a whole lot of adjustments. I really like some of the Colette patterns but they seem to require a lot of alterations which is dampening my enthusiasm. All that being said, I think you look lovely in your yellow peony, and if you like they way it looks and it wears well, then I’d consider it a win 🙂

    • I’ve made a few Colette patterns and they can be hard work but are surprisingly addictive and there are so many resources online to help.
      I found Macaron really good, only a few minor tweaks.
      Next up for Colette I’m trying Oolong. I love the bias cut and I’m surprised it hasn’t been blogged about more often.
      Ahhhh this could be a heaven or hell sewing experience!

  12. Despite your fitting issues (I’ve heard the same from so many people!), your dress is cute as a button! And I love your photos – oh, to live near the beach with koala’s in the trees!!!

    • It was worth the effort. I can’t tell you how many times I almost wadded this lemon sorbet dress!
      I do live in a pretty special place in the world. Can you believe this was once a convict settlement??? LOL there are certainly worse places in the world!

  13. The colour is lovely! So is the fabric. I’ve been eyeing that style off in my own Spotlight.
    Thinking about how you will accessorise the garment as you sew it is a great idea. Can’t believe I haven’t been doing that for years. Should have been!
    I really prefer photos that aren’t touched up and so forth especially on a sewing blog. I’m reading to see what the clothes are like in reality on a real body, not what they’d look like in a fashion shoot with lighting and presentation no one would ever really do.
    On the other hand a bit of cropping or colour adjustment can actually help make that clearer.

    That camel really is lovely!

    So is your beach. I got sunburnt to within an inch of my life on that beach as a little girl. You know, back when sun sense was a t-shirt over your swimming cozzie and a line of zinc cream down your nose. Good times!

    • I’m a junkie for pairing clothes and accessories. Even when I pick a fabric I mentally pair it with shoes, hats, necklaces and figure out if it will fit in my wardrobe. It’s a handy tip as it stops me buying fabric that will never be worn because I don’t have anything to go with it or its just not ‘me’.

  14. Aah, so pretty. And the dress looks great too! Yeah, comparing dresses to camels and koalas doesn’t really work for jokes does it? Sorry!

    I love, love, LOVE your dress, it’s such a pretty, summery colour and the cut and fit is good in my very-new-to-sewing opinion! I’m truly inspired – just have to wait for summer. Oh, wait, I live in England.

    • Oh I include koalas often in my posts, I get them in my garden and people are often amazed by that. They have got nothing to do with my sewing but it’s a unique part of my life – and the camel well he was just too cute not to photograph.
      It’s a lovely shape. it does come with short and 3/4 sleeves and I’ve seen lots of cute winter versions. Be warned though, the pattern is notorious for its fitting issues! LOL

  15. I can’t even believe what you do to put a garment together. I just don’t have the skills (or patients) for the details. I’m so excited to see you’re summer wear and the beach and the ocean! It snowed here this morning. I’m not sure why anyone would care if you did your hair and put on make up before a photo…yeesh, I wouldn’t be caught dead without makeup. Truth, I deleted 90% of the photo’s I take…weird smile, double chin, forgot to suck it in, the list is long. So what if you want to show yourself in the best possible way…..who doesn’t. Maybe they’re jealous of your fabulous figure…I know I am 😉

    Thanks for sleepy Koala photo, can’t get enough of them guys!

  16. I love that you go into so much detail! I must say I am a little scared now of the project but then I have so many going on at the same time right now that I think I will maybe make this for next summer. 😛 I love your fabric choice! and the accessories work so well! 😀
    I am glad you like the dress as I like the outcome on you and it sounds like it was a great journey during which you learned a lot! I am off now to try some piping! 😀

    • I know! This post is loooong but its a pattern which needs a bit if explanation as its not as easy as it looks. Piping is so easy and look fabulous. I piped an apron on the weekend, it’s so cute it’s scary!

      • haha! awesome! oh it wasnt a criticism that it is long! I think it is nice and really valuable to know! Often you can see finished products but then u cannot appreciate the long journey there and get disillusioned! I think you do a great job in explaining the journey! 😀

        • Fear not I didn’t take it as a criticism 🙂
          I figure it’s not fair to say ‘look at my pretty dress’ and provide no detail just how hard it was to make look pretty. I would be crushed to cut up a lovely fabric, sew it up and discover its a disaster – or even buy a pattern unawares!

  17. You know, I see your name everywhere in the blogosphere and I honestly thought I was following you. Today I had an errant thought… why hadn’t I seen your blog pop up in my bloglovin’ reader?? Turns our I hadn’t yet added you! I’ve just been reading back – and I’m loving what I’m seeing and reading. So just a heads up that I’ll be popping my head in a little more regularly from now on 😉
    And ah yes… the Peony. Those bodice darts are a b*tch. Took me forever to get them right, but I’m glad I did because it’s totes my favourite bodice with little sleeves pattern. I couldn’t agree more on the skirt too – it hangs beautifully with the right fabric and is a really lovely aline. The gathers do give a bit of a pooch… but I’m way over caring about that presently.

    • Thank you – and thanks for subscribing – it’s hard to keep track of everyone isn’t it? I love your Peony – just lovely. I’m going to make it again soon as I agree, it’s just a classic dress.
      And the pleats and pooch? I think that’s why ‘they’ invented belts 🙂

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