Summer Dahlia

Colette Dahlia Version 21 Colette D1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI was worried that Version 2 of the Dahlia would be too inappropriately revealing for my advancing years but the black dress on the Colette website must have been made of something slinky for it to drape so attractively.  My cotton lawn recreation had bit after bit trimmed off the bodice and still it looks kind of … frumpy.

1 Uh Oh, back of Dahlia V2 in the mirrorThe first sign of this not being the quick project I’d imagined came after the neckline bias was partially applied when I checked the back view in the mirror.  1 Trim 7cm off the neckline backThe bra straps and the dress straps were so far from each other!  Ugh, racer back!  In a previous project – my much worn Frida dress – I saved the situation with bra keepers but that was clearly not going to work here where the fabric and the straps were thin.  Instead, I measured the disparity and trimmed the neckline down by 7cm which seemed to do just the trick. Colette Dahlia Back ViewFront neckline trimThe front presented a similar problem so I cut 3.5cm from each side (grading to the middle of which I only lost 1cm) to bring the dress straps in line with those of the bra.  This gave me the chance to fix something else I noticed looked wrong with the bodice front: the instructions specify gathering fabric only at the centre of the neckline but this just makes the boobies look too far apart from each other 😯  I re-sewed the gathering stitches and distributed the fullness across the entire front neckline.  Much better.

1 Armscye acheFinally, the armscye was too high and really cut in.  I trimmed it down by 1cm and the dress was no more comfortable so I did it again, this time cutting another 2cm.  That’s some change!  If you ever have to do this alteration, don’t begrudge the time this takes as it’s quick and makes all the difference between the outfit getting worn or sitting in your wardrobe.

Oh yeah, and the zipper…  Because the waistband has a facing, there’s rather a lot of fabric going on in the seams at either side of the zip and I struggle to get it pulled up and down in the waistband region – a problem I also have with my winter Dahlia.  I thoroughly suggest you avoid this by handstitching the waistband facing to the zip fabric, which would also enable you to interface it for more structure.

1 MitraljezAfter Nicky recommended a trip to Shoreham-by-Sea to see the houseboats, I pushed the kids into the car for a mini adventure mid-half term and that’s where these photos were taken.  My son soon spotted his dream home!1 Ideal home exhibition

The day was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze that, alas, seemed to fill up my skirt from below and make it rise around me like a lifebelt!  Not that I want to put you off Dahlia, but be prepared to make some adjustments if this is going to be something better than a casual summer dress you can buy in a shop for a song.  I’m so making this again out of some slinky black fabric so I can swing my way through summer 😉

1 mumm

Shoreham Houseboat Grand Entrance

1 cat botherer1 summer dahlia plus cardie

Achtung, Dahlia!

1 Colette Dahlia by Sew2pro1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI bought this pattern almost immediately upon its release and tested it with a muslin.  However, just as I was about to finish the real thing, the machine and I got turfed out of my sewing space to make space for a Christmas tree and associated clutter.

The photos on the Colette Patterns website show a Version 1 of the Dahlia in a rich green modelled by a dark-haired beauty bearing a resemblance to Nigella Lawson in her Italianate edition.  One day, if the occasion demands it, I will make a jewel-coloured Dahlia just like that and try to claim some of that La Dolce Vita glamour but it’s winter now and I want warmth – to compensate for a neckline so wide, it’s guaranteed to make the baps freeze!1 La Dolce Vita


1 Inside out Lined DahliaThis mock-wool (ok, polyester) at £8 a metre comes from A Crafty Needle in West Wickham.  The lining is black acetate.  I think lining is essential and makes the dress look more substantial than the rather droopy one on the pattern envelope.  This adds hours of sewing time and renders it more of an intermediate than a beginner project, particularly as I lined the kick-back pleat (using my tutorial).  For the black binding, I used leather (phwoar!) by cutting 4cm strips from a soft black offcut in my Wested Leather bundle.  It has a matt texture that goes perfectly with the grey and black in the fabric.  I wanted to keep as much length as I could so instead of hemming, I used home-made cotton bias tape which, though not visible from the outside, complements the neck and sleeve binding.

Pattern Matching

1 Zip side seamColette has produced a free how-to-match-plaid tutorial which you may find of use but with a more complicated plaid where there is a horizontal and vertical repeat and not necessarily a symmetry along the lines, you must proceed with caution before cutting (or else...!!).  I found it impossible to facilitate a match in the bodice and yoke seam  on the zip side, but I don’t think it shows (what do you think?  See right).  The match is almost spot on in all the more visible seams, i.e. in the skirt seams and the sleeves to bodice.

Yoke Bias

My only major dislike of this dress comes from the decision to cut the yoke on the bias, as suggested by Colette, with the yoke lining (same pattern piece as the yoke) cut on the straight grain.  In theory, on the outside, this adds interest to the layout of the plaid whereas the straight inner layer makes the waist sturdy without the thickness that may have come from interfacing.  In practice, when putting the yoke and the yoke lining together, I found they were no longer the same size!  I had to sew on an extra piece to the yoke lining  or it would have literally fallen short.  If you examine the photo, you may spot that the waist is bit bleurgh – it could be tighter.  If you’re after the interesting diagonals, I recommend applying some light interfacing before the yoke is cut.


Raglan Sleeves1 Another Dahlia

These were 2cm too wide at the neckline, the excess jutting up from the shoulders, but as this was discovered before the neckline binding was applied, the fix was very simple.  Sew 3 rows of gathering stitches onto and within the seam allowance then pull to fit.  This results in a nicely cupped shoulder line with no puckers or gathers visible.  If you’re square of shoulder, gather evenly across the shoulder piece.  If your shoulders are more rounded, concentrate the gathers onto the sleeve front.


Instinct and research told me to sew down a size so I made a 4 (this being the U.S. size).  It fits perfectly so if it helps you to know, I’m 36-28-38.  Add an inch to the last two if it’s Christmas!1 Po Faced Dahlia

 Yeah, I know, I should cheer up!


Emergency Sorbetto

Call me shallow, but there’s nothing in my view as reprehensible, shocking and absolutely vile as a T-shirt tan

Which is exactly what I ended up with after gallivanting in the sunshine wearing my Iris Shorts and the Jasmine I’d made especially to go with them.  Emergency measures required that quickly, while the sunshine lasts, I make a sleeveless.  I had the same mock-Liberty lawn that I’d used for Jasmine and I was keen to use it as the cotton is so light and the colours look great with a tan.  Unfortunately, it was a leftover patch of about half a metre in an annoyingly irregular shape of a small cowhide.  This meant I had to pick the smallest size I could get away with (2); also, I couldn’t cut the wide front piece in one but put in some seam allowances and added the pleat separately.  If you look closely, you may notice that the direction of the print on front left is different to that on the pleat and the right.  Let that be our little secret though!

This was the first time I’ve used a downloadable pattern; also the first time I’ve used one that’s free.  I think I’ve always had a slight mistrust of either.  The good news is that with the Sorbetto, the instructions are foolproof: you absolutely get the same hand-holding detail and clear graphics as with the purchasable Colettes.

I printed out pages 10-25 only.  I used glue instead of tape and didn’t slice off more margins than necessary.  It didn’t take long!  When fitting the top, I decided to lower the armholes by 1cm and the neckhole front by 2.5cm (I’m wearing this in the sun, not church!).

Now I must go as the bailiff is pounding my trailer door.  Till I get back, will someone please give me good advice on what to do about my white skin-shorts!?   😯

Colette Iris

Last year when I was stupider, I commented to a friend of mine that women of our age simply shouldn’t be seen in shorts.  “Oh, they’re fine for gardening,” said I, “in the privacy of a hedgerow of leylandii.  But not out in the open, with heels and handbags and everything…

My friend pointed out that some of our friends look great in shorts, and as for those who don’t but who still enjoy wearing them, does it really matter?

The tolerance and wisdom of her remark helped sow the seeds of my conversion.

In April, Jennifer launched her Make it, Wear It 2012 Summer Holiday challenge and I jumped on board wondering if it wasn’t time to expand my repertoire of sleeveless dresses I’d been making year after year.  Colette Patterns had just released the Iris Shorts pattern to mostly positive reviews and the drawing on the pattern envelope immediately captured my imagination.  It reminded me of Diana Rigg’s sunbathing outfits in Evil Under the Sun; it evoked wooden speedboats, Art Deco beach resorts and a liberated 1920s beach glamour (a nice collection of images, old and new, can be seen here).  Immediately I imagined them in navy, with contrast piping and buttons.  I even dreamed of extending them to full-length sailor trousers, though by this point I was also dreaming of having different, longer legs!

I had a metre of linen left over from making my daughter’s Bubble Dress and encouraged by the many images on Pattern Review, I made a first attempt.  I traced size 6 of the pattern (a generous UK 10).  I couldn’t resist View 2 thereby indulging in the making of Cute Buttons.

Pattern Modifications

a) I made the line from side waist to hip a straight one (and not a curve)

b) Linen frays quite badly, and being without a serger/overlocker, I decided to french seam as much as possible.  So, with the wrong sides together, I sewed a 0.5cm seam on all vertical joins, followed by a 1cm seam with the right sides together (this is 1/4″ and 3/8″ in Colette Speak!)  The result is a very neat finish in places such as the crotch:

But when it came to the zip and the joining of the pocket pieces to the front and side front, I wasn’t able to incorporate the french seam and so the effect is a little half-baked…

One day, I will make these with a neat finish everywhere.  It just might take me a while to work out how to do it!

c) I sewed a hook and eye to the top of the closure, partly to correct the less-than- perfect match at the top of the waistband.  Doing this has the advantage of making the shorts easier to put on: they don’t slide off you as you do up the zip!

The Back View

Far as I’m concerned, finding trousers or jeans with a flattering back view is the Holy Grail and these shorts are as good as it gets.  A big thumbs up there, Colette!

Suggested improvements

If making these again, I’d taper the legs at the side and front seam to eliminate the slight leg flare (not apparent in the pattern drawing on the envelope).

The other slight reservation I have with the pattern is that the pockets are loose (and shaped like the ears of the Indian elephant!).  When putting the shorts on, I have to check that the pockets haven’t flapped to the sides.  However, this might not happen if the shorts were made of a stiffer fabric such as poplin or one of the other recommendations.

Iris Pattern Giveaway

Fancy making your own Iris shorts?  This September, I plan to hold my first giveaway so for a chance to win my almost pristine Colette Iris pattern, check back here after the summer hols!

P.S. I’m wearing shorts again!!