What is sewing ease?
In patternmaking and sewing, ease is the difference between your body measurements and the finished garment measurements across the body. Sewing ease is essential for a nice fit of the garment. It allows the body to move in the garment, so that you can sit, turn around and lift your hands comfortably.
When we draft our basic slopers, we use our exact body measurements and there is no ease included. This is because the basic patterns don’t include any styling and functionality elements yet.
They are supposed to outline your body shape. You can use them as a base to draft your patterns with the fabric and style elements in mind and not to wear them as a finished garment.
If you want to learn more about how to draft the basic slopers, here are some resources:
If you cut the fabric according to the basic pattern, it is going to fit as a second skin and restrict the movement of the body. Wearing ease applies to stretchy fabrics as well, where often we need to add some negative ease to compensate for the stretching of the fabric.
To transform the basic sloper into an actual sewing pattern, we need to add some wearing and possibly some design ease, as well as seam allowance.
What are the types of ease?
Wearing ease is the amount of room left between the body and the garment to ensure the free and comfortable movement.
How much wearing ease a garment needs depends on the fabric choice, your personal preferences, as well as the area of the body you are adding ease to.
Design ease is the amount of space between the body and the garment, left in addition to the wearing ease to alter and style the basic pattern.
On the image below there are two knit fabric dresses that I’ve made. I used the same basic knit dress pattern for both of them.
as you can see I’ve added some design ease to the bodice part of the second dress as well as some negative ease to the skirt to compensate for the stretch of the knit fabric.
How much sewing ease do I need to add ?
How to add sewing ease for woven fabric patterns
Fabric choice is the most important factor when deciding how much ease a pattern needs.
For example, if you are drafting a pattern for woven fabrics, you are going to add more inches for ease. Also, the bust and hips areas require more wearing ease than the waist.
Here is a reference table that you can use when adding ease to patterns for wovens. The amounts vary, because you may prefer to wear your clothes more fitted or looser on the body.
The amount of wearing ease also depend on the body type. Larger figures usually need more wearing ease because of the way the weight is carried.
You should also consider the style you are drafting.
For example, if you are making a pattern for a strapless dress, you would most probably want the top part more fitted. Therefore, you are going to add less inches/cantimeters for wearing ease.
How to add negative ease to patterns for knit fabrics
To add some negative ease to the knit pattern, you need to subtract from the circumferences of the pattern. This is also called pattern reduction or adding negative ease.
The amount of inches you need to subtract depends on the stretching factor of the knit fabric you are going to use.
First, you need to know the stretch factor of the fabric. According to the stretch factor, knits can be:
1. One-way stretch stable knits with 0% - 25% stretch.
This type of knits stretch very little and they can be treated almost like woven fabrics. You can skip darts, but you don’t need to add negative ease.
2. Moderate knits that stretch up to 50%.
A pattern for that type of knits would require 2% pattern reduction across the bust, waist and hips. This means that you need to reduce the bust, waist and hips measurements with 2% to draft a pattern that would fit.
Examples for knits with moderate stretch are most jersey knits, interlocks and T-shirt knits.
3. Stretchy knit that stretch 51% to 75%.
Examples for stretchy knits are some jerseys and T-shirt knits as well as velour and stretch terry.
A pattern for those type of knits requires 3.5% negative ease. This means that you need to reduce the bust, waist and hips measurements with 3.5% to draft a pattern that would fit.
4. Super stretch knits that stretch from 76% to 100%
These are fabrics that are suitable for leotards, leggings and swimwear. Examples are 4-way spandex and supplex fabrics.
A pattern for those type of knits requires 5% negative ease. This means that you need to reduce the bust, waist and hips measurements with 5% to draft a pattern that would fit.
Here are some great recources you might want to consider regarding pattern drafting for knits and pattern reduction:
Patternmaking For Knits: Essential slopers at Craftsy which you can watch as part of Craftsy unlimited with a free trial
where you can get your first class 20% off with coupon LEARN2SEW.
How to determine the stretch factor of knit fabrics?
Finding out the stretch factor of knit fabrics is a usefull skill that you can use when shopping for fabric or when you have to choose fabric according the recommendations in a pattern.
How you can find the stretch percentage of knit fabric is the topic of feature post. It is well explained in the online cources listed above.
How to add seam allowance to the basic pattern?
You need to add seam allowance in addition to the wearing and designing ease. This is the last step in creating the pattern.
The seam allowence has to be added all over the pattern, at any place that is going to have a seam. Don't add seam allowance to places where the pattern is supposed to cut on fold.
How much seam allowance you need to add depends on the machine and the seam you are about to use.
If I sew knits on a serger, I like to leave only 1/5" or 0.5 cms. This is as wide as the seam plus a bit that gets surged by the blade. If I sew wovens, I like to leave at least 3/8" or 1 cm. This way I leave enough space for woven fabrics not to unravel and not too much to make my seams bulky on the face side of the garment.
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