Saturday, 17 August 2013

Completed: Green Graphic Print Peony

Colette's Peony was the first independent pattern I ever encountered. I found a reference to it on online, followed the link which took me to Colette's site, and the worlds of independent pattern makers and sewing blogs. And yet as much as I loved the pattern, I didn't buy it. Instead I bought the Rooibos (still to be made) and the Violet (only made once). And of course I've made a Sorbetto (not blogged) and my Laurel.

I know enough now from experience, and from others' blogs, to recognise that the fit on Colette patterns can be a bit of a challenge. And although I was mentally prepared for this, my Peony was no exception.

I cut a size 4 and made a muslin of the bodice, plus sleeves. The waist darts were very odd, giving me lots of excess fabric at the bust. I moved these out (towards the sides) by about 1.75cm and also reduced the height (length?) by about 3.5cm. The bust darts seemed OK on the muslin but now that the garment is finished I think they are ever so slightly too high (probably about 0.5cm ) - this is unusual because previously on a size 4 in Colette the bust darts have always been too low - and also, I think too long. If they were at the right height, they'd go right to the nipple (sorry, "apex"), and I'm not convinced they should? Am I wrong about that?

I tapered the back seam in at the back neck - I can't remember the measurements but have adjusted my pattern piece for future reference. I did similar with my Laurel. I thought the bodice was too long, so added 1.5cm to the length, which I then had to remove on the finished garment. Clearly my long torso issue is completely imagined because this is the second time I have done this. I added 3cm to the skirt, which made the skirt sit right on my knee, which I quite like.
Please ignore the giant crease just above my waist. It sits fine in real life, honest!
I duly sewed up the dress, which went together very easily. I French seamed the bodice, used my overlock stitch on the arm holes and the waist and pinked the rest. I would have French seamed the skirt but I couldn't figure out how to do to that AND incorporate the in seam pockets. This is the first time I've pinked seam allowances. It appears to work for Roisin, so I thought I'd give it a go. Plus I didn't really have enough thread to overlock everything (and, gosh, it's boring to do!).
A seam "junction" showcasing 3 types of finish. I'll come to the elastic in a bit...
The bodice and sleeves went together and I started to add the skirt to the bodice. The skirt has 2 little areas of gathers on the front waist and the instructions have you gather these to fit the bodice. I did this, but the skirt didn't really need any gathering to fit. Strange, I thought. I sewed the skirt to bodice and tried it on. Too big! Like several inches too big! I went back to the pattern pieces and realised that when I'd moved the waist darts, I'd inadvertently reduced the width - however this wasn't the whole reason. I measured the original pattern pieces and it appears there is a whole lot of ease in there. With the help of my sewing teacher, we re-looked at it - trying to fix it without having to unpick too much. I unpicked the waist seam and looked at the bodice. We added more width to the waist darts and used a 2cm seam allowance at the back seam.

Now, the problem with my sewing class is that there aren't any full length mirrors, so I was reliant on my teacher telling me what looked OK, and me determining what felt OK. My teacher reckoned it all looked fine, so off I went to make the amendments, sewing skirt back on to bodice and inserting the zip - this time, there was more gathering required, which made me feel a bit better. I finished the zip off at home and then tried it on again... and it was still too big! By now I was starting to get frustrated. I had just inserted my BEST EVER concealed zip and really didn't want to have to unpick it, or anything else. Then I remembered a post I'd read the previous week by Ami of The Little Tailoress, where she used shirring to add waist definition to a boxy playsuit. I didn't have any shirring elastic, but I did have some 1/4 inch elastic leftover from my 50's petticoat. So, using a 3-stage zig zag stitch, and stretching the elastic as I went, I sewed the elastic onto the seam allowance at the waist, starting as close as I could to the zip, and basically sewing a bit, trying on, sewing a bit and trying on again until I was happy. In the end, I used about 11cm of elastic on each side.
Yes, I am aware that on one side my seam allowance is pressed up and on the other it's pressed down - the right side got caught when I inserted my zip, and as I said, I have no intention of unpicking this zip!
This worked a treat! The fit is perfect now, and the elastic makes the skirt very comfortable. It accommodated last night's dinner very well! It does have it's drawbacks - the side seams are now pulled backwards and this makes it a bit trickier to access the pockets, but it's saved a lot of unpicking, which I am pleased about!
Can you see the concealed zip? Thought not!
You can see here that the side seams are pulled towards the back.
And here
I am really happy with this dress. The fabric is lightweight quilting cotton, bought at The Quilt Show back in February. I love the colour and the retro graphic print. The shape of the bodice is really flattering, once you get the fit sorted. I love a boat neck: it's my favourite neck shape. The bodice would look lovely with a number of different skirt variations - I fancy a half circle skirt next, in a slightly drapier fabric.

You can see here that the neckline gapes a bit at the front. I'm not too sure what to do to improve this. I could obviously add some pleats next time, but if I wanted to keep the neck simple, how do I remove this excess? Any ideas? If I get the bust darts positioned correctly, is it possible to rotate this out from the neckline and into the bust dart?

I wore this dress yesterday. P and I took the day off, put the Small Boy in nursery (followed by a sleep over at Gran and Grandad's), and did some Festival stuff. In August, Edinburgh's population swells to what feels like 100 times the norm, as the whole world flocks to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Book Festival and so on and so on. Some locals hate it, and avoid town at all costs, but I love it. Although I'm not from Edinburgh, I grew up about 20 miles away and my mum always made a point of taking us to something every year - even if it was just to see the free street performers. At this time of year, Edinburgh feels so cosmopolitan. Some of the main roads are closed to accommodate temporary venues, meaning cafes and bars can spill out onto the street (weather permitting). The whole place just feels like it's on holiday. Yes it's an absolute nightmare if you are in a rush, and if you want to park your car, forget it, but give yourself plenty of time, take the bus and it's cool. Yesterday we wandered into town about 3ish, took in the Man Ray exhibition at the Portrait Gallery, followed by drinks outside the Udderbelly, Sean Hughes at the Gilded Balloon, and finally dinner at Spoon. We've taken Monday off too, and we are taking Small Boy to see Tiddler and then to see the street performers. For his birthday I got him this book, which features street performers (number 7, I believe), so he is keen to see them IRL. Last year I took him to see Hairy Maclary, and he enjoyed it so much, he demanded "again" at the end of it. And then cried for a full half hour when I couldn't make it come on again!

Deformed foot and an interesting hat. Also, some very pretty verbena bonariensis in St Andrews Square. All the cool bloggers are featuring verbena bonariensis these days... just check out Roobeedoo!
So, overall, I am delighted with this dress! Yes the fit was a challenge and there are further improvements to be made, but I feel like I have learnt something in the process. There will be future versions of this dress. A lovely wool version, with 3/4 sleeves would be lovely for winter. And the aforementioned half circle skirt version will no doubt make an appearance too.

If anyone has any solutions or suggestions on how to resolve these fit issues, they would be gratefully received!

Next up, a Scout woven tee!


  1. Gosh that is a lot of fitting!
    The dress looks so simple and stylish you'd never guess how much work went into it. Glad you're going to make more of them though, it suits you.

  2. Oh, brilliant that you finally got it to fit! I have heard about collette pattern fitting issues, something usually about excess fabric in the upper back? But, I don't know that's heresay as I've not made this myself. But, the 1/4" elastic seems to have worked out really well, it fits you and looks so nice! The Man Ray exhibit must have been pretty cool.

  3. Soo pretty and the fit looks perfect.

  4. I love your fabric choice and the finished dress looks great!
    BTW, there's a great tutorial on for French seaming in seam pockets. I used it on my Hawthron since I've become obsessed with French seams recently!

  5. Oh, this is lovely! So summery, and both the colour and print are gorgeous! I love your idea of the elastic in the back - must remember that :)
    All the muslin fitting work you did really paid off. And I didn't even notice any neckline gaping! If it really bothers you for next time, maybe you could try pinching out the excess at a few points on the muslin piece. That's worked for me before, if there's not too much excess to get rid of. Just a thought :)
    Hope you have many more summery days to enjoy your dress in!

  6. Love it! Could be a white stuff number. Hair looks good in the photos too x

  7. Your dress looks fab! I have never sewn a colette pattern, I think I am totally the wrong shape for them :)


  8. Gorgeous dress, and well worth the effort. I'm afraid I gave up on this pattern, way too much fitting to make it work, but I love how it looks on other people. Great invisible zip and pattern matching too.


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