Part 2: Focusing on Ease: Where~When~How

Hi Everyone!  I wanted to say Thank You again for all the nice feedback I received after Part 1: “Measuring Properly” was debuted last Monday.  If you missed it and would like to catch up with this fitting series it’s here, Part 1: “Measuring Properly”.  I also shared a little of my background and what motivated me to write and produce this series for you.  I’m told it’s helped to connect with me on a more personal level.  If you’d like to read about it the blog is here.
Welcome to Part 2 of my fitting series, “My Approach to Successful Pattern Fitting”. It’s time for an explanation about “Ease:  Where~When~How!!”

What is ease in terms of pattern fitting?? It’s simply an amount added to specific body measurements for the garment to fit, wear and move with comfort. Some measurements will need ease added and others won’t. I’ll explain the differences and tell you how much to add.  I’ve read on many message boards and review’s about different patterns and found them referred to as: “true to size” or “runs large” or “is short waisted”.  It’s helpful to know how a pattern is before cutting into it, however that information can be way too vague and frustrating.  What one person may consider “running large” or “true to size” may not be what another person considers the same.  If we work with our body measurements with ease allowed and take the time to measure the pattern, we should be able to fit a garment without being in the dark about how a finished garment is going to fit.  Measurements don’t lie.  They are what they are and if we have the inches in the right places, there shouldn’t be a fitting issue.  Of course since our bodies have shape and aren’t flat surfaces, fitting a pattern well should always be completed on the body.  Minimal nips and tucks here and there may be taken and then transferred to the final pattern to complete the shape perfectly.  I will be going into more detail on choosing the right pattern for you in Part 3:  Selecting the Right Size Pattern”
There are a couple of considerations to be made in terms of how much ease to allow.
The first consideration is made when choosing your fabric and pattern.  There are five different variables to be consider in your selection:
  1. Patterns drafted for woven fabrics without stretch to be cut on the straight grain.  Patterns drafted for woven fabrications with no stretch will typically have more style or fitting seams/darts and therefore should allow for more ease.  These would include fabrics for shirting such as Batiste, Chambray, Linen or Silk.
    Patterns drafted for a woven fabric with stretch to be cut on the straight grain.
  2. Pattern drafted for woven fabrications with no stretch can also be used with woven fabrics with a small amount of stretch.  It may be necessary to remove a small amount of ease to accommodate the stretch.  These would include all the wonderful newer fabrics with Lycra.
  3. Patterns drafted for woven fabric to be cut on the bias.  For patterns that are drafted specifically for cutting on the bias will have many different considerations. The true bias of the fabric is found by drawing a 45-degree angle from the straight grain. It’s the area of a woven fabric with most amount of stretch.  I prefer to only drape directly on the form to draft a bias pattern.  The amount of ease that appears within these types of patterns is not added on the table and best to include while draping directly on the form.  Garments made on the bias will fall beautifully around the curves of the body in a soft way providing the fabric chosen has the right drape.  These would include fabrics such as Georgette, Chiffon, or Charmeuse.
  4. Patterns drafted for a moderate one way stretch knit.  Patterns drafted for knits usually allow for less ease or even negative ease in some cases and have less seam/darts. It’s important to remember these patterns are not usually interchangeable with those drafted for woven fabrications even if they do have a small amount of stretch.  These would include fabrics such as Ponte’, Interlock, or Jersey.
  5. Patterns drafted for two way stretch knits with a significant about of stretch.  These will include patterns made for lingerie, swimwear, active wear and shape wear.  These patterns are drafted especially to be worn very close to the body with comfort because the ease is in the fabric by having a large amount of stretch. These patterns will usually have negative ease. These would include fabrics such as Stretch Lace, Spandex, or Mesh Knit.

The second and probably the most important consideration when adding ease is your personal fitting preference. This is where I’d like to address a potential pitfall before it happens. We all like to wear our garments a particular way. Some of us like our clothes to fit close to the body and others like extra room to breath. I’m going to explain everything in moderate terms and you can tweak them to suit your own preferences. Have you ever taken a moment to think about how you like to wear your clothing? I had a client once that was very particular about her fit. She insisted that every garment being fitted skintight. She was a very good client, so I accommodated her wishes. With her in most cases, I didn’t add much ease and even when I did, she would have me remove it at her fittings. Then there are the clients to the other extreme that don’t like to “feel” the fabric touching them. These are personal preferences that are neither right nor wrong but must be determined by the individual.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained measuring properly both in terms of where on the body and how to measure. There were 2 general types of measurements taken:

 #1.  Measurements of circumference. These include measurements taken around the body both in the front and back as well as complete body measurements.  These measurements will have ease added.

 #2. Measurements in the vertical direction. These include linear measurements.  These measurements WILL NOT have ease added.  There is one exception to this group.  The sleeve length is the ONLY linear measurement that will have ease added.  This is because when the arm is in a bent position, it will take up fabric and the sleeve will look too short otherwise.  Another solution is to measure the arm with a moderate bend 1/2” past the wrist bone.  This will allow a long sleeve to sit at the proper position if the elbow is bent of not.

  • It’s time to add ease to your measurement chart that I provided in Part 1. Generally speaking, 1½” dispersed around the body should be enough ease for a garment to worn with comfort.  Now add 1½” to each of your full circumference measurements. That will include your bust, waistline, high hip and hip measurements.  Now calculate those finished measurements and check each section of your body with a measuring tape to see how it feels to you.  How does that feel?  Do you think you have enough room for your comfort level? This is a question only you can answer. If when holding the tape measure around yourself with the ease added to your measurement it feels confining, add a little bit more. If it feels too roomy then remove a little bit.  It’s also not unusual for different amounts of ease to be added to different areas of the body. For example, you may have a fuller upper arm and want more ease in that area, but have a small waistline and want to define it with less ease. It’s all about how your want your garments to look and feel.  If you like to wear your clothes closer to the body, you will add less ease.  The opposite is also true if you like your clothes with a looser fit, add more ease.

    You will need to add between 1″-2″ of ease to several sleeve measurements.  I suggest a variable amount of ease for the sleeve for accommodate your personal preferences.  Generally add this amount to the arm bicep circumference, elbow circumference and the wrist circumference.  As you did with your body measurements, check your final measurements around the appropriate area with a tape measure for your comfort.  Add or subtract accordingly.

  • I find it helpful to think of the body as being divided into 8 segments around the body. Divide the body into 4 segments in the front of the body and 4 segments in the back of the body in a linear direction. You can visualize these segments by picturing a garment having princess line seams. By dividing the body up into segments, it’s easier to actually see how your body needs ease dispersed around your body.  This also happens to be the same way patterns are divided and graded into different sizes. Little bits added all the way around the body and vertically to achieve a larger size.
  • Front mannequin showing princess line segments.

    Back mannequin showing princess line segments.

  • Let’s break down the 1½” ease into the 8 segments around the body. You will be adding 3/16″ to each segment around the entire body. I don’t want this to start to sound scary and “mathematical”.  I just want you to be aware of how ease is dispersed around the body.  We will also be discussing the ½ body measurements, but I want you to comfortable first with adding ease to the full body measurements.

    Front with added ease.

    Back with added ease.

  • I also had you take measurements of ½ your body.  The front segments and the back segments.  By doing so I wanted to make you aware of how your body is balanced.  If you’ve experienced sewing patterns in the past where the back fabric pulls forward or vise versa where the front fabric pulls backwards, it’s necessary to measure half the body to determine where to distribute the measurement.  Do this by adding half of the ease measurement to the front and half to the back.  Remember we added 1½”  to the total circumference measurements.  In this case you will add 3/4″ to the front bust, front waistline, front high hip, and the front hip measurements.  You will also add 3/4″ to the back bodice width, back waistline, back high hip, and the back hip measurements.  The “half body” measurements should add up to the total body circumference measurements.  The balance of your body may also change in different areas of your body.   This principle may not necessarily apply to you at all.  You may have a fairly balanced shape from front to back, however I wanted to make sure you had the option should you find this is your circumstance.
  • The last thing I would like you to be aware of is the reason we do not add ease to the vertical body measurements other than the sleeve.  I have illustrated these points in 2 pictures for you to visualize why this is not done.  If you’ve ever experienced a pattern that is too long waisted for you, it will be crystal clear.  If you’ve ever fitted a garment that was too long waisted for you it would be evident in the extra rings of fabric around the center of the body.  Notice in each picture how the black lines that denote the waistline fall well below the waistline on the mannequin.  Notice also that where the black lines of the high hip fall in the picture.  There appears to be no ease allowed at the high hip.  I have found in my many years of experience that the single most important measurements to get right are the center front and center back lengths.  Please don’t misunderstand me in saying that other measurement aren’t as important.  I have found that other measurements are easier to correct.  This is not so easily corrected after the fabric has been cut.
  • Front with to much vertical bodice length.

Back with to much vertical bodice length.

Don’t forget I will conclude this series with a Give Away!! In order to qualify for the prize you will need to become a registered “follower” of my blog AND “like” my Facebook Page.  Thanks!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and Part 2 of my fitting series on “Ease:  Where~When~How.”  I hope through these illustrations and written information, things are becoming clearer for you on how to achieve YOUR PERFECT FIT!!

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6 Responses to Part 2: Focusing on Ease: Where~When~How

  1. Mary says:

    Super helpful information today. I am short waisted and have no fitting partner. If I can get these measurements done, I'll be way ahead in my sewing!!

  2. Thanks Mary!! Glad to hear you find the information particularly helpful!! I hope you're able to find someone to help with measuring.

  3. Carol says:

    Thanks for the info on adding ease. I have a question on this. If there are no mid bodice or back seams, does all the ease get put into the side seams and either the center front or back seam depending on where the piece opens? I have seen diagrams of adding ease in the pattern by cutting vertical lines the full length of both pieces, front and back and putting the ease in the pattern piece where no seams exist. That would be similar to your dress form, between sections 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. This would make the shoulders wider. What do you suggest? Hope that is clear enough.

  4. Hi Carol! That's a great question. Right now I'm only explaining ease as far as the measurements to add. I'm not talking yet about how to alter patterns to fit or where on the patterns to measure. If I understand you correctly, by cutting vertical lines in your pattern I think your referring to grading the pattern larger if the pattern is too small?? My next blog will focus on selecting the right size pattern as to avoid grading the pattern up. I hope this answers your question.

  5. Karen says:

    Such a timely pin! I am about to embark on sewing bridesmaid dresses for my son's wedding! Thanks so much for such helpful information – I will use all of it!

  6. Hi Karen! Congrat's on your son's upcoming wedding! Glad you found my blog and my information helpful! Good luck with all the BM's.

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