It strikes me there are virtually two separate worlds when it comes to knits as opposed to wovens. There’s some overlap of course, but I do really get the impression of being in a parallel universe when it comes to knit fabrics. Much of this has to do with children I think. There are lots of people whose primary interest is sewing clothes for their kids – and therefore are interested in a certain kind of cute, colourful knit fabric and pattern, as opposed to patterns and fabric for “adult” clothing. I’ve written a series of posts on knits and everytime I think about posting it, I discover some other aspect of this group and postpone it. I’ll get around to it one day. It’s so different from the woven community, it still surprises me all the time.
Anyway, I bring this up because Patterns for Pirates are, I guess, a kind of hybrid company. By that I mean that they definitely have a funky kids/easy-knit-clothes-for-active-mums vibe about them, but they’re also one of the few companies I see floating about in conversations on the “other, adult” side. I suppose it’s because they make crowd-pleasing patterns like the Sunshine dress. I’ve been looking for a nice simple maxi dress for a while – and they’re surprisingly hard to find!
With the Sunshine dress, you get three different skirt lengths and three different bodices: wrap around, halter neck and strapless. On top of this there are endless free hacks on the website, such as sleeves and hacking the dress into a skirt, just to mention a couple of them. There seems to be an active and devoted community around these patterns, so that definitely helps if you have questions or need advice.
I considered both the halter neck and wrap around bodices with the maxi skirt, but plumped for the wrap-around in the end, as that one involves no fancy bra-hiding shenanigans and is therefore a cinch to pull on and wear without any extra effort whatsoever. First things first – the pattern comes as a .pdf and only has the bodice parts of the dress variations. That’s because the skirts are basically rectangles for which you’re given the cutting dimensions. The same goes for the armbands and neckband. I actually prefer that for the bands, since tracing can be a pain on slippery material, and the rayon jersey I chose for this make was slippier than a soaped-up newborn in a bathtub. The skirt parts seemed a bit… weird, but I guess I’m just not used to a lack of pattern pieces.
On the plus side, there are good, deep pockets (yay!), which are pretty unobtrusive and I rather liked the construction method, which was new to me. The neckband and armbands all fit nicely without any adjustment and look smart with the recommended topstitching. The designer also recommends adding a little elastic to the waist seam to help hold up the weight of a maxi, which is a nice touch. Sewing it up is fast – maybe 3 or 4 hours, which isn’t too bad at all. I chose to make it in a vaguely art deco/geometric rayon jersey from Craftsy, and it sewed up pretty nicely actually. Nevertheless, I’m not sure the busy pattern is best suited to the ruching effect and waist join, so I prefer to wear it with a belt, as you can see in some of the photos.
The instructions and presentation are probably less polished than those of other indie designers I’ve used (Grainline, Colette, Liesl & Co. etc.). They comprise of simple , but adequate, photos and a typed up description. It doesn’t really matter to me as long as they’re simple to follow and thorough, and for the most part they were. There were a couple of points where I wasn’t exactly sure what the diagram was showing, but my (albeit fledgling) sewing experience usually led me in the right direction. A complete beginner might have been a little confused at points, however.
All versions of the dress have ruched sides, and gathers around the skirt, which can be a flattering effect for a non-flat stomach (i.e., mine). I read a very thorough review by the Creative Counselor on the day I was finishing my maxi and she mentioned a couple of things I had also noticed. I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but she has also seen similar comments elsewhere, so I guess not! One issue is that the front and back pieces of the bodice are not the same width. This means that the side seams of the bodice pull round at the side towards the front (at first I thought it was my large boobs), although this isn’t the case with the skirt. It makes for an unbalanced side seam, although being knit, it’s rather forgiving.
She also mentioned that the skirt was a touch narrow for walking comfortably and could have done with a few extra inches. I made a larger size than her – XL compared to S – and mine was actually okay, so I’d recommend perhaps grading up to XL through the bottom if you think that’s going to annoy you. Speaking of the skirt, it comes in at a good length for me, and I’m around 5’6″. I believe the patterns are drafted for ladies around 5’5″ to 5’6″, so it’s very accurate going by this dress.
Overall though, the dress just feels a little unbalanced, and that might bug some of the more experienced seamstresses out there. If I were to make this version again, I would definitely make some adjustments to the bodice to balance it out. Having said all that, my maxi is extremely comfortable, my husband loves it and I’ll definitely be wearing it out and about over summer. The rayon jersey is nice and cool against the skin, and as a first attempt at such a garment, it’s not too shabby. Would I make it again? Hmm, I’d definitely give one of the other versions a go – probably the halter neck. But I’ll also keep my eyes open for other possibilities too.