What does ease mean in sewing? Plus 4 different ways to do easing

What does ease mean in sewing -SMALL
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You might have come across the word ‘ease’ while sewing clothes using a sewing pattern.

I have typically found that there are two different scenarios of when you’ll come across the word ease.

  1. Ease concerning the fabric. The pattern may instruct to ‘Ease stitch’ an area.
  2. Ease in regards to the garment. On a pattern, you might find phrases such as “wearing ease or design ease”.

The two types mentioned above are two different topics. Therefore I think they deserve attention in separates which is why this article is about #1 The Ease stitch and over here is the article to cover #2 Ease in the garment.

…I shouldn’t be talking about them at once because I could confuse you especially if you are a beginner to sewing as they’re not at all related in any way. But seeing that beginners may not have a clue what ease means in general, I thought that their questioning could be incorrect as well.

If you are searching the web with the query “what does ease mean in sewing?” then that tells me that you may be unaware of the fact that there are two different versions of ease in sewing. So that is why I thought it would only be wise to put them together by starting this article by addressing this.

So now my question to you is “which ease do you want to learn about?”

If it’s for the ease stitch then carry on reading this article where I will try and explain what it’s all about.

What is an Ease stitch

The ease stitch is the sewing technique used to draw in the fabric fullness to an area.

What you’ll find is that you’ll have two pattern pieces that don’t align together in that, one piece would be longer than the other.

As we all know with a regular seam, two pattern piece edges will align and match perfectly. But in this case where the pattern pieces don’t match you have to use the ease stitch technique by gathering the fabric so that you’ll be able to draw the fibers closer then, spreading out the fullness- evenly around the shorter pattern piece of fabric. And this process is known as ‘easing’.

Most importantly to note: that when easing the fabric to be sure that no puckers or pleats are formed in the seam.

When I say that the pattern pieces don’t align, I think I make it sound like this happens due to an error made while cutting out the fabric? But actually, it’s not.

The need for the technique doesn’t arise by accident but instead, it has been deliberately added for a good reason by the pattern designer.

What are some of the common uses of easing in sewing

  • On a set-in sleeves
  • On princess seams
  • Shoulder seam

The purpose of easing

The idea is to provide fullness to a particular area of the garment with it looking as seamless as possible.

…I can explain.

It’s about the look

The way I see it I believe it not only creates ease of mobility but it also creates- as though like a contouring effect.

From my visual judgment what I’ve noticed from looking at different areas where the fullness has been eased that, the area looks more contoured and defined.

If you take a look at a suit/blazer jacket, for example, the look of a suit/blazer jacket is quit structured. Especially at the shoulder and sleeve joint. What you’ll find is a well-structured look. And this look is achieved by easing the fabric fullness in that area.

If it’s about the look then does it mean you can change it up?

In short yes.

Here’s the thing when you sew your own clothes, the call is yours because why else would you get into sewing your own clothes if you can’t break the rules and just create!

… I mean when we sew our own clothes some of us are after something unique in a way aren’t we?

I have seen people gather that fullness instead. Which changes up the look of the pattern sometimes.

So, instead of easing the fabric go ahead and gather it. Experiment!

What is fullness

Fullness literally is extra fabric allowance.

Initially, when a designer designs the pattern they take into consideration where they’d like to add fullness (extra fabric).

The extra fabric allowance is so marginal. From what I have found so far I would say the ease allowance is most likely 1 inch and less. (let me know in the comments below if you know otherwise-always happy to learn!)

So when you get two pattern pieces that otherwise would match perfectly while in this case, one piece is longer than the other, it means the longer piece has fullness within it.

What is the difference between easing and gathering

You might already know “gathering” to be another technique all by itself and I talk about it so much over here? Before I confuse anybody I think I have to make clear of the differences between the two.

There is a great deal of a difference between easing and gathering.

The significant difference is that with the finish of easing you get a smooth even look. Whereas with gathers the finish will have a gathered look.

When it comes to easing it is correct that we use the gathering technique. However, the idea is to ONLY USE the technique to allow us to draw the fabric fibers in. Then ease it in.

How to gather and ease fabric

I have generally found that there is a standard method taught throughout. That is the more beginner friendly technique.

It’s where you do two rows of basting stitches in the seam then, you pull the threads from the start of each row to gather the fabric.

However, I have discovered (not literally- through research) that there are different other ways of doing the easing.

While some of the techniques may be for more of the experienced sewer I think it would be handy for someone new to sewing to know about. Because if you’re daring enough to try out one of the other methods then I say please do. Because I found that for me I prefer a method that’s a little less fiddly and I get lazy with the standard technique.

So yes. I will be giving credit to those people.

Easing method #1: The standard technique

As mentioned in brief earlier in the article, with the standard technique (by the way I don’t think they call this method “the standard method”, I call it that- just my way of expressing that this method is the standard method I see shown everywhere plus I did find it on a sewing pattern also)

With this method you sew two rows of basting stitches within the seam allowance, going from notch to notch. Then you draw the fabric fiber in forming a gathering effect. Then you place to the main pattern piece and you carefully sew it on. All the while making sure not to create any puckers.

Watch Lisa Comfort from Sew over it demonstrate how this is done in the video below:

Easing method #2 The crimping effect

This technique.. is my favourite. It saved my lazy… self!

You take the piece that has the fullness.

And all you do is using the regular stitch length that you’re already sewing with on the machine, begin on the first notch sewing on the seam-line.

Here’s where the magic happens.

You keep your left index finger on the back of the foot and start sewing. You sew for few seconds and release then repeat. Until you go around to the end notch.

You’ll see that the fabric bunches up creating a crimped effect. Don’t smooth out the fabric because we need it like that.

Then you go and pin it to the main piece. Here’s a good video I found that demonstrates that.

Easing method #3 Easing with aid of feed dogs

This method is my other favorite. It is the method I go to when I’m feeling a little daring. The first time I tried it I got the first sleeve perfect and the other sleeve with 2 puckers so…

I came across it one day through YouTube, just was curious about how others did the easing.

So, as Kay Whitt demonstrates, it’s a method that you use with the aid of the machines feed dogs. Unlike the standard method, you don’t have to do the basting stitches- which is why I favor it despite it being one of the harder ones. It is a method that requires control so if you are daring enough I say give it a go, who knows this technique might prove to be YOUR best go-to technique.

Easing method #4 Clip away fullness

With this method, I stumbled upon it while doing a little research before I started writing this article.

So I haven’t tried this technique myself but I can see how it works.

I’ll explain why it caught my attention. But first how it works.

With this technique, the gathering step is not required.

Instead what you do is after stay stitching you clip along the seam allowance (of the piece that usually doesn’t get gathered) the area releases itself. It allows you to be able to move the area around the curved seam smoothly.

It looks cleaver and I’m itching to have a go at it!

And it’s this video by Miss Sew. It’s method#2 in the video at 12:56 minutes:


With easing, whichever technique you decide to follow remember the goal is to evenly distribute fabric fullness without leaving any puckers/tucks in the area. Always remember to mark your notches as that is what tells you where to begin and end.

Have fun:)

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ally A. Said

    Thanks for good information about sewn

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