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#059: What is ease and how much do I really need?

Updated: Aug 13

with your host, Jacqui Blakemore

Why doesn't my garment fit comfortably?

Have you ever chosen a pattern for a garment that you really liked, followed the instructions to choose your size, made it up and then felt like it doesn't really fit in the way you imagined?


Maybe it feels like there's not enough room in it, or it might feel like it is way too big.


Well, one reason for that could be that it doesn't match your 'ease preference'. So what is your ease preference and how do you find it? Read on to find out more!


So what is ease?

Ease is the name given to the difference between your body measurements and the final garment measurements. When we make garments with non-stretch fabrics, if we make them to our exact body measurements then we aren't able to move or breathe when we wear them.


So adding at least a little bit extra to our body measurements allows us to wear the garment and move around and the extra we add is called ease.

Lots of body shapes demonstrating garments with different types of ease
Adding ease takes the focus from the body to the garment silhouette

There are a few different types of ease:

  • Basic ease or wearing ease: this is the minimum amount of extra fabric, over and above our body measurements, that we need to be able to move around if we make a garment from woven fabric

  • Design ease: this is the extra amount of fabric that the pattern designer might add to change the silhouette of the garment. For example, the hip measurement of a circle skirt includes a lot more fabric than we need for wearing but is required to give it that full silhouette.

Ladies wearing sporty outfits with leggings that have negative ease
Leggings are designed with negative ease
  • Negative ease: this is when the garment measurement is less than our body measurement and relates to stretch fabric items. For example, leggings, swimsuits and sports bras have negative ease which means when we wear them they cling to our bodies as they are stretched and under a bit of tension.

  • Sewing ease: you may also see the term 'ease' used on sewing patterns where one slightly longer piece of fabric has to be sewn onto a slightly shorter piece to create fullness for example on the head of a sleeve

How does that relate to my 'ease preference'?

Great question! The short answer is that when you make a garment it's not the pattern designer who is wearing it, it's you. And you are the best person to judge what feels comfortable and what doesn't for your body shape and your style.


You might be more comfortable in clothes that show off parts of your body, in which case you might want less ease for garments in those areas.


Or you might want to feel more comfortable and draw less attention to particular body areas, in which case you will want more ease.

Jacqui in skinny jeans and t-shirt
Jeggings: negative ease, t-shirt:design ease

For example, I like to wear skinny jeggings which have negative ease so that they don't fall down (well, not too much!). But I don't like to show off anything too clingy around my stomach when I am wearing them so I tend to wear them with a top that is looser fitting around the waist and hips i.e. with more design ease.


I also like to wear wide-leg trousers which have more design ease around the hips and thighs. Because I am quite short, I tend to wear these with more close-fitting tops (with less ease particularly around the bust and waist) so that I don't look too blocky.


Not all wide-leg trousers are created equal and the amount of ease at the hip and through the thigh can vary a lot. When I find a pair that I feel comfortable and confident in then I can use them to help me understand my 'ease preference' for that style of garment.


Similarly, with the tops I like to wear with my skinny jeggings, I don't want too much design ease at the hip as it can make them look a bit like I am wearing a tent. So when I find a style of top that makes me feel good, I can use that to work out my 'ease preference' for that type of garment.


But how much ease is the right amount?

Another great question! Well, the best way to check is to take a look inside your wardrobe, particularly at the clothes you enjoy wearing the most.

  • Grab a pen, a piece of paper and a tape measure

  • Pick a garment that you like, lay it out flat and using your tape measure, measure across the bust, the waist and the hip

  • Multiply each measurement by 2 to give you the full measurement of the garment and write them down.

  • Now measure your body at the bust, waist and hip (ideally in something relatively close fitting so that you get your actual measurements)

  • Write your body measurements next to your garment measurements

  • Now subtract your body measurement from your garment measurement to give you the amount of ease

Seasalt - Tremayne Quay Jersey Top
Inspiration: Seasalt Top

How do I find out how much ease a pattern includes?

Some patterns make it easier than others to find out how much ease they have included.


On many of the newer indie patterns, they include two tables in the instructions. The first shows you the body measurements that they have used to design each size. From this you can find out which size or sizes they would recommend for your body.


The second shows you the finished garment measurements, so once you have found which size(s) they would recommend you can then check to see what the finished garment measurements are for that size.


If you subtract your body measurement from the finished garment measurement that will give you the amount of ease.


garment measurement - body measurement = ease

On some patterns such as Vogue and Burda with the tissue pieces, you will often find the finished garment measurements printed onto the pattern pieces themselves. So at the bust on the front bodice piece, it might show all of the pattern sizes and the finished bust measurement.


If there are no finished garment measurements given then you can measure your pattern pieces at the bust waist and hip. If you do that, remember to subtract your seam allowance in your measurement.


Sounds a bit complicated - can you show me?

Of course! Recently I spotted the Tremayne Quay Seasalt top that I really liked. It is a boat neck top with a drop shoulder and 3/4 sleeve. It's made in a jersey fabric and has quite a relaxed fit.


I thought I would try to make myself one so I checked on the Seasalt website and managed to find their size guide (see below) so that I could check what size they would normally recommend for my body measurements.


My body measurements are bust: 36 inches, waist: 31 inches and hip: 41 inches which falls most closely into their size 12.


I then found and checked the finished garment measurements for that garment in the size 12. It only gave the bust and waist measurements but as the top is quite straight I assumed the hip size would be slightly bigger than the waist.


Charts to calculate what is the ease for Seasalt Tremaine top

I wasn't sure whether a garment with those measurements would suit me so rather than order one to try it out, I managed to find a t-shirt in my wardrobe that had similar dimensions.


I really liked how that felt when I was wearing it - not too much extra room in it - so decided that would be a good amount of ease to work with.


Here are the ease calculations that I did using the t-shirt measurements (which were very similar to the size 12 Seasalt top garment measurements):

T-shirt/Seasalt top (inches)

My body (inches)

Ease (inches)

Bust

22 x 2 = 44

36

44-36 = 8

Waist

21.5 x 2 = 43

31

43-31 = 12

Hip

22.5 x 2 = 45

40

45-40 = 5

Choosing the pattern and the size

I found a pattern that was a similar style with a boat neck and a drop shoulder also designed with stretch fabrics.


It is the Itch to Stitch Uvita top and if you fancy giving it a try yourself it's FREE!


I wanted my Uvita top to have a similar fit to the Seasalt one so I looked for the size that would give me those finished garment measurements.


Overcoming my ego

Here's the bit where things nearly went awry.


I checked the Uvita pattern to see which size it recommended for my measurements.


Based on the chart below (and other patterns I have made from this brand) I would usually have chosen a size 6 at the bust, blended to a size 8 at the waist and then a size 10 at the hip.


If you want to find out more about blending between pattern sizes take a look at this video: Getting the most from multi-size patterns

Body measurements - Itch to Stitch Uvita Top
Body measurements - Itch to Stitch Uvita Top

But when I checked the finished garment measurements the size that most closely matched my t-shirt and the Seasalt top was a size 16.

Finished garment measurements - Itch to Stitch Uvita Top
Finished garment measurements - Itch to Stitch Uvita Top

Being completely honest I was really sceptical because I thought that a size 16 would swamp me and my ego nearly got in the way of me picking that size. But logic said the numbers are the numbers so let's give it a try.


And when I also checked the images for the people that had made this pattern, the original design seemed to be more close fitting than I had in mind.


The moral of the story

So I cut out and made up the size 16 in a raspberry-coloured cotton jersey. I made the 3/4 sleeve version but I modified it slightly to add a sleeve cuff. I also shortened it by about 1.5 inches.


But other than that I didn't make any other fitting alterations and I have to say I really like it and it turned out pretty close to the picture from the Seasalt top.


Jacqui's Uvita top and Seasalt inspiration
Inspiration and final top!

So if you would like to check in your wardrobe and find out what your ease preference is I've put together this Making Ease Easy guide that includes worksheets you can use to capture your measurements.


For my FREE guide to Making Ease Easy click here:

More resources

If you’d like more inspiration on sewing with Jersey fabrics then if you haven’t already done so I would highly recommend going back to episode 30 - Fabric Spotlight - Jersey and giving that a listen.


And if you would like more information on how to lengthen or shorten your pattern then take a look at this video: Lengthening and Shorting.


And if you would like more help with any of the aspects mentioned in this article or this podcast episode then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at hello@sewmuchmorefun.co.uk.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.


To listen to the podcast version of this topic click on your favourite podcast app below:

In this episode you'll hear:

  • [1:40] What is ease?

  • [4:02] How do ease types relate to my Ease Preference?

  • [5:52] Exercise to find the right amount of ease for you

  • [7:00] Practical example of using your Ease Preference

  • [11:44] Free guide and worksheets

  • [13:23] Finding the ease built into a pattern

Other boat neck top patterns you might like:

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Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

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