If you are a beginner to sewing then you might find the word ease pop up here and there quite often and while this article is about garment ease I suggest you have a read of this article here first. So that you’ll be informed of the different ease in sewing.
What is garment ease
Garment ease is the allowance of extra fabric to go around the body. It’s what provides the comfort of movement as well as design. It is the difference between the wearer’s body and the finished garment measurement.
Can you imagine what would happen if a garment was made to your exact body measurements?
As soon as you try to lift your arm up the seam will screech and pop. How embarrassing!?
That is because that garment is lacking the ease.
All garments technically have ease counted for, whether it is made out of woven or knit fabric.
Essentially, there are two kinds of ease that a patternmaker adds to a pattern.
It all begins with the sloper which is made with the exact body measurements. Then a pattern block is traced out using the sloper to which stage then the ease are added.
So what are the two different garment ease allowances?
- Wearing ease
- Design ease
Wearing ease definition and what it means
Wearing ease is the consideration of extra fabric allowance to go around the widest areas of the body. Providing room for comfortable movement in the garment.
If you’ve worn a close fit garment that has been made out of a woven fabric then you’ll have noticed that the bust measurement of that garment is actually somewhat bigger than your actual bust measurement. The small difference between your measurement and the garments measurement is most likely the wearing ease.
Wearing ease is the first ease added to any pattern. It allows for the wearer to function in the garment without any seams ripping away.
How to add wearing ease
Although there is a standard guide of how much ease to add, I think it’s important to note that fit is one of those personal things where some of us don’t mind a close fit garment and some of us, on the other hand, prefer a much looser fit. So I suggest if you are making a pattern for the first time then use the standard as a reference for an idea to figure out your preferred ease amount on a test garment.
Ease is added to three key areas of the pattern but please note also that the larger the body the more ease you may need to consider.
- Bust 2 ½ inches (6.4cm)
- Waist 1 inch (2.5cm)
- Hip 3 inches (7.6cm)
Remember though, that when adding the ease amounts to a pattern to evenly divide the total ease amount by 4 as you are working on only a quarter of the pattern.
Design ease definition
Design ease is the extra allowance after the wearing ease has already been added. It’s used to achieve a certain look in the silhouette.
Take a look at these two dresses for example. The difference between a tailored dress and a shirt dress is that the tailored dress is more close-fitting while the shirt dress is looser. With both these dresses after a designer adds wearing ease has to add adequate design ease. You might have already guessed that with a tailored dress the designer will add lesser ease than with the shirt dress.
How to add design ease?
With this one, it’s up to you. You can add design ease, of as much or as little as to desire. That’s why there aren’t really any standard guides for it.
Negative ease and Positive ease
So far have you noticed something in common, with the two ease mentioned above? They are ease that has to be added to the initial body measurements. And this is known as positive ease.
This is in contrary to negative ease. With negative ease, the patternmaker will subtract from the initial body measurements.
Now, why would you want to take away from your measurements?
Surely that means the garment won’t fit, right?
…the purpose of negative ease
Have you looked closely at the leggings you’ve worn before? Have you noticed how they look so much slimmer than your actual legs, yet they fit?
That is because the leggings are made out of a knit fabric where the stretch in the knit fabric accommodates movement.
Ease for Knit fabrics and Woven Fabrics
Woven fabrics will always have positive ease unless of course, you decide to cut on the bias where the stretch is.
Knits can have either of the negative or positive because knits unlike woven don’t have to have positive ease counted for as mentioned before that the stretch accommodates movement.
However for design purposes ease can be added.
A Good Tip about commercial sewing patterns
Have you noticed some commercial sewing patterns state “Only for knits” on the envelope?
That’s because the pattern may be made with negative ease and therefore you can only use knits to sew up the pattern. If you use a woven in-place of the knit then you’ll be in trouble.
This is why you will find the experts advising to make sure to not use a knits pattern on a woven fabric. To use that pattern for a woven fabric just know that you will have to modify the pattern for fit.
From all this, you may have gathered by now that, ease is something just like art. It requires attention for fit as well as design. Plus fabric also has a huge role to play. To get both right you have to fiddle and play with it. It can either make or break the garment. This is why commercial sewing patterns clearly state on the envelope of the exact materials suitable for a pattern.