Fall Palette Challenge Week 7: A little gingham Peony


I’m normally a glass-half-full kind of person. When things seem to be going sour, I usually find myself thinking about how much worse it could be, and how 99.9% of the people in the world would likely be happy to trade problems for mine.

But every once in a while, you have a week that just wears you down completely. Nothing seems to be going right. Work is piling up, and every tiny setback puts you further and further behind until there is finally one straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

I’m afraid… this dress was that straw.

It isn’t that I had trouble sewing it up. On the contrary, it came together quickly and easily, even with the addition of self piping, bias faced sleeves, and the little corded bows at the waist. And the gingham fabric is a silk/cotton blend with just the right amount of body, and it presses beautifully. No trouble there.

The problem came when the dress was finished. I’d worked into the night Wednesday to finish it so I could get some pictures of it yesterday morning for today’s post. I had a million other things to do, and really needed to just get it done so I could get back to the Clover sewalong posts. I brought it home, tried it on, everything looked great.

Then Thursday morning came. I put the dress on. To my horror, I felt a pop as I pulled the zipper up. It had come apart. Panicked, I asked Kenn to help me unzip it so I could try to fix the zipper. He pulled hard on the tab and… the tab broke off. I wiggled out of the dress and tried to fix it, but only made things worse. The zipper was completely irreparable, the metal that attached the pull had actually snapped.

Now, I know this doesn’t sound like much. I mean, it’s just a dress, and just a blog post. But after working so hard to get it done and have it break immediately like that… I was crestfallen. It had just been one of those weeks. I’d worked and worked, yet everything was falling apart.

So I didn’t get the pictures I wanted. I took the dress back to the studio, took out the zipper, and replaced it with a new one. Then I snapped these pictures.

But you know, I really like this dress, for all the trouble it caused. It looks good with a bright jacket (or sweater) and some chunky jewelry. And you all probably know how much I love gingham. So I won’t hold it against you, little Peony. Even if you did cause a bit of a meltdown.

Outfit details:

Dress: Peony in gingham silk/cotton
Jacket: Vintage 1960s
Necklace: Vintage bakelite

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 63


‘Crestfallen.’ Never has one little word sounded like one massive understatement. The air would have been blue at my house! I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a trying week. Have a nice, restful weekend. The gingham dress is beautiful with the necklace and jacket.


It is definitely an understatement. Sometimes a little meltdown is cathartic, though. :)


Gah! I hate zippers.

It is a bit spooky the way you are wearing the dress next to another one on the dummy.

I love the little capped sleeves.


Haha, there were two other forms in the room wearing gingham too! We use it for most of our muslins, so it’s everywhere.


I think every knitter, sewer has horror stories like this…at least your dress now has a story. Plus you were able to save it without a true disaster – an irreparable rrrrrip!


Oh my gosh, yes! Like when you’re pulling out basting stitches with a seam ripper at the end and rip right through your fabric? The WORST!


Sorry you had a bum zipper; glad it all worked out. I really like how the piping gives a little bit of extra structure to the sleeves & neckline. very nice


Sorry to hear you had a crappy week but the dress does look fantastic. I love the waistline shaping with the little bows – such a nice feature.


Ew. One of those weeks…. topped up with a horror story like that – I admire your restraint, Sarai… at least the dress wasn’t ruined AND is totally gorgeous :)

Love the dress in gingham – I was wondering whether to make my first one in dusky rose and white wild silk (like shantung) gingham – one of about 6 colours I snapped up for €8 a metre (like $10) at this wedding shop closing down round the corner from my office…. and now I have official confirmation it will look good in gingham :)… I will of course shamelesws appropriate the bows at the waist – so cute and I love teh way they draw attention to the gathers and darts meeting up :)


Gingham is almost always a good choice, in my opinion. :) It just looks so fresh.


Oh my! Crestfallen is the perfect word. Despite all this, your dress is lovely. Sharing these “blips” is a kind and humanizing effort on your part. We all have them and it is nice to know that someone with your skill and marvelous design sense has them too. We are not alone:)………….


No way, everyone has these terrible moments! I make dumb mistakes all the time, believe me. That’s what seam rippers are for. :)


So sad about the zipper, but the dress is gorgeous!

I’m relatively new to sewing and just not great at visualizing what a piece of clothing would look like in different (or patterned) fabric. I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d like this dress so much in this fabric, but it’s lovely and surprisingly neutral. I imagine it would be really easy to wear and work into a wardrobe.


Yes, I think so! I thought the gingham might be too summery at first, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. To me, it reads in a similar way to a houndstooth or something, sort of graphic and neutral at once.


love the peony in gingham! and with that jacket? adorable!
speaking of the jacket… I want it! :)

hope your weekend is fun and relaxing.


I got a good deal on it! I guess it was supposed to be part of a suit, but the skirt had gone missing, so it was a pretty good price. The fabric is really cool in person, bright red with the tiniest flecks of pink.


Oh I get it. I had big huge sewing catastrophe yesterday morning when I was already behind schedule with projects and was up late into the night sewing. I could use a little break after tomorrow’s big party. Thank goodness for helpful husbands! The gingham Peony is adorable. As I made mine, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the possible variations for it. It’s seriously versatile.


Oh no, I’m sorry to hear it (though it is so comforting to hear everyone else’s stories too). Whenever you’re in a rush, that’s when things seem to start collapsing around you.

Sewing Princess

The dress looks great. Sorry you are having a busy time. I remember having a similar nightmare with a zipper on a dress that had already taken way to long to make. When I finally finished the zipper came out… I spent a whole evening putting it back…because I didn’t have another one, shops were closed…and I was way too stubborn to let it go.


That sounds familiar. I’m stubborn that way too. Even when it’s sometimes more wise to walk away for a bit, I refuse to be bested!


Your dress did turn out beautifully; the gingham is beautiful, and I love the little cording detail. I hope your weekend is relaxing and next week starts off better!


Ugh… we’ve all been there, more than once, right. But to see this dress and the photos you were able to get, this Peony was effort well spent! At least the zip broke at home, and not out in public? :)


aw! i hate incidents like that – i had a similar situation with a broken zipper… i was wearing my brand-new, just-finished birthday dress (a labor of love that took something like 2 months to sew up), and the instant i sat in the car to go to my birthday dinner, the zipper popped completely open :( no time to fix it – we had reservations – so i had to haul ass inside & change into something else. it wasn’t the end of the world, especially since i was able to replace the zipper & wear it to my party the next night, but i still felt pretty upset.

your dress looks lovely! i just got my copy of the peony in the mail, can’t wait to make it up after i tackle these pants :)


Oh no, that sounds so incredibly frustrating! I’m sure I would have been really upset in that situation. But it’s awesome that you could still wear it the next night.


Gorgeous dress!


Oh my goodness–I suddenly need a gingham dress! :) Zippers can be so pesky, can’t they? I’ve had a few break recently too, and can only figure that they are not making them as well as they used to. But I have to admit that reading your post made me feel a little better about some of the sewing-related hiccups I’ve had of late. ;)


Me too! This is the second time this has happened this month! The first time was on a pair of Clovers, and I have to admit I bought a cheap zipper at Joann’s because I was already there. But this time, that wasn’t the case.

I was really shocked that the actual metal broke on the tab. Yeesh!


I know how you feel! The sole fell off my favorite vintage shoes yesterday at work! However, the dress is adorable! The fit is perfect and the details are super cute! I hope you have an absolutely wonderful weekend! You deserve it!


Ack! I hope you can get them resoled.


They are already at the shoe repair store!


Oh, no! What a horrible sound! That ominous pop is definitely the sound that will start a sewing meltdown for me, too! Ugh!

On the positive side, your dress is truly spectacular! I really like the little details you added. Well done!! I have the Peony pattern, too, and have some gorgeous dark purple fabric just waiting to be whipped up!


I love your details and really admire your skill…beautiful! I’m curious if you’ve ever used the Bernina bias binder attachment feet (the ones that fold and attach in one step). I have a few of them now (one Bernina, 3 generic) and I find it tricky to get them to give me a nice smooth finished binding. I’ve noticed you use a Bernina and you seem to like bias binding almost as much as I do, so I was wondering if you have a different experience with those supposedly wonderful feet?


I have actually never used one! The thing is that they are so expensive, and I’ve heard mixed things about how well they actually work. I thought about giving a cheaper generic one a try sometime, is there a big difference?

I normally love every Bernina foot I’ve tried and would be thrilled if it actually worked well, but I don’t know.


I have the 1/4″ bias binder attachment and I love it! It’s one of those attachments I don’t use alot but when I do, I’m so thankful I invested in it. It just takes some practice to get used to. Make sure when you cut your bias stips they are cut EXACTLY the width recomended.

PS. I love your blog since I discovered it a month or so ago. I’ve lost about 1/2 of the weight I’m trying to loose and can’t wait to make some of your patterns when I reach my goal weight.


The generic ones come in wider sizes, and the Bernina one comes with instructions ;) Plus, the Bernina foot has a great screw that secures the foot to the machine. I can use the screw with the generics.

If I were starting the binder foot journey anew, I’d watch the instructional Bernina video on the foot, and ask my dealer to show me (he doesn’t mind, I buy enough stuff from him!), but I’d buy the generics. I think I got 3 of them in useful sizes for $40. The Bernina price was obscene but I was entranced. You do need a foot with one toe, I think, as a companion to the binder – even if you use the generics.

It’s really fun to play with and great for placemats, but so far I’m not good with necklines or beautiful soft fabrics. When it works, it’s mind-blowing. But I’m a little afraid of using it on garments now, and that’s why I asked your opinion. I’m kind of glad to know other people have had issues. Not that I wish twisted bias binding on anyone!!

I bet you’d master it in no time. I’d loan you mine if we lived closer….


I am always thankful for the amount of work that you do for the sewing community. You continually amaze me with your attention to detail and commitment to quality and just outstanding taste. The dress is beautiful. Your work is wonderful. Sorry it all piled up on you that way, but thank you for all of that effort. It’s appreciated on a daily basis. :)


Thank you. One thing I forgot to mention was that after I had my meltdown, I read two really exceptionally warm, thoughtful, and appreciative emails from people like you that came in. And I felt SO much better. They seriously turned my afternoon around.

So thank you to everyone who takes the time to say something nice. Words cannot describe how much I appreciate it.


Hi again
first of all apologies for the spelling mistakes in my earlier post!
secondly, you are the greatest – for taking the time to post so much inspiration – and for your gorgeous style – let alone the fab patterns you create for us!
I just had a thought. Was it an invisible zip? I stopped using them after two – yes, two! – popped on me in succession – and neither dress was at all tight. Now I only do hand-picked normal zips the way my aunt had taught me, with doubled thread passed through beeswax. So far, the normal zips have functioned much better….


i had that same problem too. i was working on my parfait dress and i had two invisible zippers fail on me. i was beyond annoyed. i like lapped zippers and i think that i may stick with that method from now on. are there better brands of invisible zippers to try? usually i get the coats & clark zippers from joann.


Such a gorgeous dress, though! Inspiring me to make something similar to wear to work.


My zipper did exactly the same as yours did, only trouble was it was in the dress I was wearing to my daughter’s wedding, 5 mins before we were meant to be going out the front door for the church!! No safety pins in the house and no way of repairing/hiding it. I ended up scrabbling about in the wardrobe for something else to wear.

Your gingham version is fab, and I love it dressed up with the red. I bet it could go with a lot of different colours for dressing up or dressing down.

I really hope you have a much better weekend than your week has been.


I think the dress looks great! I made the Sencha in a black and white gingham, and it’s my favorite shirt that I’ve made to date!


I think we’ve all been there – I once made a skirt broke 3 zippers (pulls broke, zippers were accidently zipped off, etc) in one afternoon. When I finally got a working zipper on, I wore it out on the town. Unfortunately the zipper was shorter than the previous one and I forgot to replace the basting stitches with an actual seam. I had a massive hole running from the middle of my rear down to my thighs and had no idea until I returned home.
I’m so sorry you’ve had a rough week and I hope it starts to look up this weekend. Your Peony is beautiful and I love your styling!


My husband has never been around me or anyone else in the midst of a sewing project. I usually don’t work when there are distractions but I was forced to meet a dead line for a tunic that I made for someone as a gift.
I accidentally cut a hole in the sleeve while trying trim from the other side. (till don’t know haw I did that).
Anyway, I had one serious meltdown right then and there.
Mind you, this poor man has been married to me for over thirty years and had never seen me “melt” in this way before.
After I figured a way to create an applique and fix it that way I was relieved and I swear even I have a hard time finding the disasterous hole.
Later he asked me if I was sure that I wanted to sew another project.
I had to reassure him that all people who sew encounter those moments; rarely, but it was part of the experience. We usually find a way to recover that makes feel good about our creativity or in some cases we just recover and move on!
He was surprised that I would enjoy something that can be THAT challenging at times.
I had to emphasize that it is the “occassional” otherwise he might think we sewists are a bunch of crazy people!!!!!
Nice to know we are ALL in it together!!!! I know the pain!!!!


That same thing JUST happened to me with the Rooibos I “finished.” So frustrating!

Katherine ad

I’m so sold on Peony now! What a wonderful dress.
Zippers still spook me a little. They seem to have the magical power to DESTROY everything.


I love, love, love that dress in ginham! Somehow it looks so rich and classic… Sorry you had such a tough week, but I have to tell you how much I appreciate all the work you do… Your beautiful designs, excellent taste and meticulous sewing skills are so inspiring to me….


Sorry it gave you trouble, but it is fantastic. I can’t wait to start my own Peony.


Completely understand that feeling but just so you know, my first reaction when seeing your dress was, “This is absolutely lovely without being over the top dainty.”

I love your website, I am learning so much!


All the same…You did do a wonderful job!


Oh dear, aren’t those weeks terrible? I mean when nothing goes the way it should. OTH the weeks that follow seems so easy :-)
Anyway, I like this dress very much, you did a great job.


Hi sarai,
I love gingham!
Your dress is very nice!
Have a good sunday!

Andrea O.

I am in LOVE with the Peony pattern, but I’m skeptical that it will work on me and I’m wondering if you might have any thoughts? I am 5’2″ and curvy, but well proportioned. However, I AM shortwaisted and so dresses with belts like the one in the Peony pattern don’t always looking flattering on me. Dresses seem hit or miss on me, and I can never quite tell whether a super defined waist will work…anyway I love your patterns and this blog and if you have any thoughts that’d be great!

Keep up the good work and thank you for making the sewing world a better place :)


I’m very short waisted myself. I know how you feel about the defined waist thing. First, I think it would probably be a good idea to shorten the bodice, to make sure the waistline hits you at the correct place.

Also, the ruched belt that goes with this dress can help soften the lines around the waist. I chose not to make one for this dress because I wanted to do the piping and the bows, but I think it’s very flattering.


I love the gingham! Looks gorgeous :-) It’s terrible when something goes wrong after sooo much work…seems to happen to me every time I sew something for MYSELF….


Sarai, The dress is just fabulous and I am glad to see I am not the only one that has made really good friends with my seam ripper. I always look forward to your posts. Have an AWESOME day…


Sarai when i saw your dress I had to take a double-take. It is almost exactly like a dress I have carefully packed away that my grandma made for my mom to wear after I was born back in 1963!- black and white gingham, fitted bodice, small pleats to gather the skirt, piping between the bodice and skirt, a little bow at the neck! There was some 1/4 ” lace at the neck and sleeves, but I might have removed it. It was never worn as my mom never was able to fit back into it.Two almost exactly alike dresses neaely 50 years apart. Wow!


I was revisiting this post today. After making a couple fitted bodice dresses for myself I’m curious how you handle the darts. I’m a busty lady and I like the dresses to fit tightly accentuating my curves. Most patterns have a straight triangle dart from the apex to the waistline. I feel like this style of dart leaves a “tent” of fabric from the tip of my boob to my waist. Is it weird/appropriate to fit the dart to your body? I noticed this dress fits you like.a.glove and I wondered if you altered the dart at all.

I love your blog, btw. Do you ever hold clinics in PDX? I’d love a chance to meet you and hear about your experiences sewing in person.



And then I found the tutorial on the Peony pattern profile. :)
I’d still love to know what type of dart you used on this dress.


To be honest, I don’t quite remember what type of dart I sewed here! I often turn my darts into curved darts (not like the one shown in the link, but where the dart legs bow away from one another). This gives the best fit of all darts, I find.

Sometimes we do little events and things. I don’t really teach (I leave that to my lovely retailers), but I do like to get together with folks around here from time to time.


I just discovered your site. Love EVERYTHING you do! I ordered your book and it just can’t get her fast enough. I’d love to know where you buy silk gingham? I’ll be reading all your post so maybe the answer is found elsewhere. ~Cynthia

Marina K

I love this version of the Peony. I’m working on my own and the bodice fits perfectly but I’m having trouble adjusting the sleeves so that I can raise my arms freely. Any suggestions? Is this just the nature of this style of sleeve? Thanks so much for your help….

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