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How to Work with Ease

WHAT IS IT?

Ease is extra room built into a pattern. There are two types of ease: wearing ease and design ease.

Wearing ease refers to ease needed for movement. Your clothing needs to be larger than you are so you can lift your arms and sit. It may be tempting to choose the size with little to no ease, but that will be uncomfortable and the seams may tear over time. On the other hand, too much ease will result in clothing that is too large for you.

Design ease refers to extra ease added by the designer to create a specific silhouette. For example, a gathered skirt may have more ease than you need to move around through the hips as part of the design. An oversize jacket has generous amounts of ease added to create a slouchy, relaxed silhouette.

Most of the time when I refer to ease it’s the measurement larger than the body, or positive ease. Negative ease happens when the pattern and the garment are smaller than the body. In this case, the garment has to stretch to fit. Formfitting knit garments are often designed with negative ease so they hug the curves of the body. Lingerie and swimwear also may be designed with negative ease.

Cambie Skirt with positive ease

Cambie Skirt with positive ease

Renfrew Top with negative ease

Renfrew Top with negative ease

WHEN DO YOU USE IT?

When you’re choosing a pattern, look for the finished measurements. Sometimes these are printed on the outside of the envelope; sometimes they are printed right on the pattern pieces. The difference between the body measurement and the finished garment measurements is the amount of ease. Keep in mind that your preferred amount of ease may be different from the designer’s vision.

How much ease is in a garment? At the waistline, pinch the garment fabric until the garment is tight against your body. This pinched amount is the ease. To determine how much ease you like in your clothing, try on your favorite dress and pinch the ease at the bustline, the waist and the hips. This will give you an idea how much ease is in your garment and how much ease to look for when planning a sewing project.

HOW TO WORK WITH EASE

What kind of fabric are you sewing? The more stretch and give in the fabric, the less ease is needed. Stretch knits can fit with little or no ease; workout wear and swimwear fit snugly with negative ease. On the same note, the stiffer the fabric, the more ease is required so that your body can move. In general, natural fibers have more give than synthetic fibers. Knits have more elasticity than wovens because of the way they’re constructed.

What type of garment are you making? Clothing for relaxing is more comfortable if the fit is loose. This is why elastic waistlines, loose fits and draped silhouettes are popular for loungewear. Fitted garments are suited for formal occasions, where you don’t need to stretch and bend but want to show off your figure. Skirts need to have enough ease to sit down, and if you’re making a skirt for work, make sure it’s comfortable to sit in all day. You may find that modern sewing patterns have more ease than vintage sewing patterns, as modern women are more active, and women wore more restrictive foundation garments in the past.

Don’t forget to consider what you will wear with the finished garment. If you like to tuck in your blouses, make sure there’s enough room in the waistline of your skirt for your blouse. If you are making a blazer and love to wear them layered over sweaters, make sure there is enough ease to accommodate the thickness of the sweater. To check that there is enough ease in a garment, bend your elbows and reach your arms in front of you to give an imaginary hug. If the garment is too tight, it will strain at the seams and eventually tear. You should be able to bend and reach easily without the garment holding you back.

Personal taste is an important factor, too. Do you like fitted tops or blousy silhouettes? If you don’t feel comfortable when the waistline is fitted against your body, add more ease to make it suit your preferences. If you like your clothing to look relaxed, choose a size up or add more ease. That’s the beauty of sewing your own clothing—you can customize the garment ease and final fit!

Patterns from different eras

Positive ease in a blouse

Patterns from different eras

Patterns from different eras

Ease allows this Robson Coat to fit over a sweater

Ease allows this Robson Coat to fit over a sweater

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine