A little while ago I shared this Melba Dress sewing fail on Instagram– a sad outcome for this deep stash linen which I cut into far too haphazardly. With the bold sleeves and the red colour, it felt like something I should be wearing as a church chorister.
I knew that removing the sleeves and making them less dramatic would probably fix the dress for me, but I really do prefer to wear pants so I decided that I’d just make a dramatic top instead since that will get the most wear.
This was an early version of the Melba and the neckline isn’t quite the same as the final version, which has a much better fit on my narrow, hollow chest.
I don’t have much of this tomato red shade in my wardrobe, but I do love a pink and red pairing, so I’m hoping this top will work well with my various pink pants and also my natural linen Glebe Pants too!
Pinterest can attest to my love of pink and red combos, but my wardrobe couldn’t, until now. Inspired by this post from The Fine Cloth Company which showed their candy apple red and bubblegum pink linens combined into a tiered dress, I went ahead and purchased The Exact Same Fabrics for my own colourblock adventure using the M&B Torrens Box Top and Glebe Pants.
I thought i might not like the combo for wearing as much as the thought of it made me chuckle (and also brought me pleasure) and I was kind of right. The combo feels rather conspicuous (d’uh Jess) and I’m left with the feeling that maybe I needed even more colourblocking to make this sit right with me (when in doubt, double down).
Fabric consumption: I purchased 1.5metres of each colour, and although I had enough, I ended up having to cut the red of the back as several pieces (through poor planning on my part). As you can see from the improv quilts in the background of the photo, I had lots of small pieces of fabric left.
The back of the pockets are self-linen (since they are visible past the slash pockets) but the front of the pockets are a viscose fabric (this saves fabric but adds some extra slink to my pockets).
The red fabric is opaque but the pink was letting things shine through (I don’t mind a bra but I draw the line at underwear), so I did a half lining using the method from men’s suit trousers which is to cut your pattern pieces sideways so that the bottom hem sits on the selvedge. This means you can skip hemming your lining, which is extra comfortable and doesn’t let any bumps show through your pants. They’re lined in the same opaque pink fabric I lined the pockets with.
However, for some reason the pants and the lining looked really tight on, there were all these extra drag lines.. basically, it looked really bad. This was my standard size for the Glebe so I think the issue was how my lining pants and the linen pants were interacting (the lining pants were attached through the pocket but not the crotch seam). I experimented with unpicking the centre crotch along the leg seam and this unlocked a lot of the tension, so I added a gusset into both sets of pants. Much better!
Speaking of doubling down when things aren’t working- When I’d decided that maybe this combo wasn’t working, I went back and ordered more of this fabric, with a plan to make an epic Waikerie Dress to wear as a duster with the outfit. Very much inspired by Garth Brook’s The Chase album cover, my duster would have pockets added onto the front to amp up the colourblock, and maybe I’d finally use that snap press that I bought so I could stop sewing buttonholes! Good things take time though, so I’ll continue procrastinating!
While the mocha Waikerie got a lot of wear, this peach shirt has been somewhat spurned.
The mocha linen was a slightly heavier weight and is totally opaque, but I didn’t reach for this shirt because it pretty clearly displayed my bralettes and my favourite black bra. Recently I read that a red bra works as a flesh tone and can’t be seen through things, and I was pleased to find that works for me with this shirt!
Of course, I don’t like to wear a bra very often so I’ve now got a plan to make some red Banksia Bralettes!
Pattern details: This is Size F of the Waikerie Shirt, with some breast pockets, a straightened-out the side seam and extra fabric in the pleat at the back of the shirt. I added length to the sleeves.
The contrast between these 2 garments is pretty hilarious. The pants might be some of my tidiest sewing ever and the shirt is pre-overlocker, pre-rotary cutter and was one of my first shirts! Because the insides have a zigzag finish (which just isn’t as good as an overlocker finish), I still have to snip the occasional loose thread off from various locations.. I’m also not sure that I nailed the button locations since they don’t reeeeaaalllllyyy meet perfectly with their buttonhole pals.
In the background my improv quilting explorations, and a not-so-improv patchworking exploration which is going to be part of a fun and very cosy project!
This project is blatant plagiarism I copied the project right down to the fabric choice and I don’t feel bad at all!
During our August M&B Patreon Zoom Sewing Circle, Leila whipped up this exact hack of our new Melba Dress, with gathers and in a seersucker fabric (hers was navy and white). But, since she’s particularly busy at the moment, I had a chance to copy her project and take photos of it before her!
Fabric: I ordered 4m of this 137cm wide fabric because I didn’t want to be caught short of yardage like Leila was during her hack. It was a comfortable amount to work with in the end, and I’ve got a small piece left over. If I had wanted to cut the sleeves on the bias (which is I think what Leila did) then I probably would have needed the full 4metres.
I cut my facings and the front of my pockets from a stable rayon fabric- I probably could have done it with the seersucker, but I find it’s nice to have a stable fabric that’s ‘true’ so that I can ease the shiftier fabric into it. It’s also nice to have a silky-fronted pocket for secret hand comfort!
The Hack: This is the Melba with the pattern piece cut off between the notch for the sleeve and the pocket. The skirt is 2 rectangles that are simply the full width of the fabric (so 137cm) front and back. The pockets use the same method as the original Melba pockets. The skirt is 90cm(ish) long, with a slight adjustment to cut to a light stripe so that when I hemmed it it would be on a darker stripe.
I’m pretty sure it’s all pattern matched (except the sleeves), but I didn’t check as I was going and there’s so much volume that I’m not sure anyone will ever notice.
This fabric is from Spotlight and is only slightly wrinkled, unlike some seersucker which has serious dimpling and wrinkling. I did wet this and try to dry it in a ball after pressing the seams to get it to wrinkle up some more (without much luck, but it did remove the flat pressed parts). That’s fine though because it means I haven’t lost any length in the skirt or had the sleeves pucker up strangely on me.
Now, bring on the warmer weather so my Melba Hack and Dulcie Shorts can get amongst it.
After my two most-worn M&B Glebe Pants (both natural linen) died in quick succession my wardrobe has been screaming out for a new pair so at the August M&B Patreon Zoom Sewing Circle last weekend I finally finished up this pair in A+R Fabrics Herringbone linen.
The deaths were particularly sad because the pair I’d made to replace my most-loved and first ever pair died first because the fabric just did not hold up! A particular disappointment since I felt like I’d purchased pricey linen which should have been up to the job.
One thing that’s not a disappointment about those 2 pairs of pants dying is that I got to replace them with this delicious herringbone linen. It’s hefty, and it’s soft and I have high hopes of it withstanding my powerful thighs!
I can’t lie to you, dear reader. These pants sat in the naughty pile for quite some time before I finally finished them off. I don’t remember exactly why they were in the naughty pile but I unpicked 6 darts (6?!?) from the back and unpicked the darts on the front before starting again.
Size: I printed and cut out a Size G for this pair, even though I’ve generally made a Size F. I’d hoped that the extra room I’d gained would give me a bit of ‘breathing’ space around my lower belly (but above where my hip is measured). I’ve got a relatively low and protruding bum and a full lower belly that is firm rather than soft and pliable. While they appreciated the space, my waist didn’t care for the extra fabric, which was exacerbated by the flat front (means the fabric at the back is doing all the gathering work and you end up with much more fabric gathering in the small of your back).
Adjustments: In the end, I moved the front pleats and deepened them and I removed some width through the centre back seam, and lowered where the waistband sat on the back rise of the pants. This removed some extra fabric through the back and took care of the ‘pouf’ of fabric which would be perfect for accommodating a shelf-but if I had one.
The natural linen Glebe Pants have become such a wardrobe workhorse and a comfort item for me. It’s something I know that I can reach for even when I’m at my most frazzled and nothing looks or feels right! They feel put-together but can also look casual- I appreciate that they never make me feel under, or over, dressed.
The result was way too structured- my mitred hems were beautiful but the whole thing was sitting weirdly. ‘This would have made a great Torrens Box Top‘ I thought to myself while trying to think about how to rescue the project, which was entirely finished at this stage.
The solution was not immediately clear, nor was it especially ‘Jess-esque’ but I cropped the hem and added a flounce, for a golden fish tail hem! My flounce could use some more pressing and probably wanted me to fuss with its tiny hem a little more, but it was out of luck.
I’ve never made a circle skirt so I used a circle skirt calculator, pretending the hem circumference was my waist and then it gave me some measurements and I had no idea what to do with those. I got there in the end (I even had to pause the TV while I nutted out whether I should be cutting it on the fold and cutting it twice, etc).
I folded my fabric in half and then used my quilting ruler to measure the radius along the top of the fabric (from the fold towards the selvedge) and then down then I used that quilting ruler to mark a curve between the two point (see- it felt very complicated at the time). That was the stitching line at the top of the flounce. Then I added a 1/2″ seam allowance above that and then I measured another curve 12″ below that (I ended up cutting maybe 2 or 3 inches off the final flounce).
Then I did the same thing again, which gave me a front and back flounce.
I quite like the finished dress, even though I would not have gone into the project thinking ‘I’m going to hack this to have a circle skirt attached on the bottom’. I do have enough of the fabric left to make a Torrens, which will probably be a much better fit for the fabric (or maybe I’ll just make a shirt-length version of the Melba)!
Next time it’s flounce time, I’ll be making a lined flounce that I understitch very well so that I can skip trying to hem that jerk bottom.
In the background you can see my improv quilting experiments that I’m doing with linen scraps as part of the 30 Days of Improv Quilting during August. The neapolitan colours are the ones that I’m working on right now and although I’ve never patchworked or quilted before, I’m really enjoying the process and I feel like I’m putting those precious linen scraps to good use!
The Melba Dress is the latest pattern from Leila and I through Muna and Broad. To celebrate, M&B email newsletter subscribers have 15% off during launch week. Sign up and the discount code will automatically be emailed to you.
We wanted to make a very beginner friendly pattern which riffed on the Torrens Box Top but brought some extra details! There’s shaping through the side seams to give some extra room, rather than a straight up-and-down boxy dress. The Melba has our classic sleeve-band application but pairs it with a soft v neck and pockets which are designed to sit forward and not flap around.
The mitred hem of the Melba is totally laid out for you, so they’re super straightforward to sew but you still feel great watching them come together (and looking at how tidy they make the insides).
I made a straight-size F with no modifications, as that corresponds to my hip measurement. For future versions I will lengthen the dress a few inches as it hits right at the knee on me because of my long legs.
Yes, the show stopper here is the fabric! This 200gsm Hot Pink linen from A+R Fabrics is buttery soft and has incredible drape in spite of its heavyweight status. This was a delight to sew with (stable, not fraying, played well with the iron) and I ordered more so that I could fill my wardrobe with it. It might be the most delicious thing I’ve made in quite a while.
I love the simple look of this dress- it’s ripe for casual wear but also elevating for outings. I can see myself making a beach version to throw over my togs come summer, but also slinking about in a sandwashed silk.
Pink and red should always be seen together, or whatever the opposite is to the saying about how you should never pair red and pink.
I used a pink and red linen from The Fine Cloth Company for this colour-blocked Torrens Box Top and Glebe Pants combo. I haven’t hemmed the top or pants yet because I had second thoughts about the combo because it’s just such a huge-scale colourblock on me.
I’ve been experimenting with large statement pocket on the top to see if this fixes the combo. I’m not set on this shape pocket, but I do think bigger will be better here.
Because the pink wasn’t especially opaque I lined the pants in a deliciously slinky rayon. That’s partly why I’m so desperate to get this pocket right so that I end up with an ensemble that I love- the pants are Just So Dang Comfie!
In the background of my pics you can see my first day of improv quilting for the 30 days of improv quilting in August. One of the pink shades is leftovers from this matching set! I’m looking forward to exploring more during the month of August (and also to using up a lot of scraps in a really pleasing way)!
I generally do try and take photos of the things I’ve made before I bring it into serious rotation, but these PJs have been well worn by the time I’m getting around to taking pics!
I actually made this combo in August 2021… so here’s my pics a year late!
The top is a modified Tarlee T-shirt (One of the hack toiles for this top) and the bottoms are the Spinifex PJs bottoms. One of my winter pain points is that my neck gets cold overnight unless I manage to keep my sheets up over my ears (but never covering my nose) all night long. The turtleneck of the Tarlee is perfect for keeping me cosy in bed… and on the couch.
The top is a viscose knit that’s quite stretchy but still hefty and the pants are actually a cotton fabric from the curtain section that’s crisp and smooth like a lawn. Clearly the print on the bottoms (lots of Australian flowers) required red piping and a matching red top.
Although I used to wear non-matching PJs sets, I really like feeling quite put together when I go off to bed- if I had to evacuate in the middle of the night I wouldn’t be embarrassed when the fire folks saved me (and Fifey).