Sewing ease – A Comprehensive Guide To Sewing With Ease 20

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.

adding sewing ease to master pattern

If you want to learn more about how to draft the basic slopers, here are some resources:

  1. Draft the basic pants sloper
  2. Draft the basic straight skirt sloper
  3. How to draft harem pants pattern
  4. Draft a bodice pattern for knit fabrics
  5. Draft a sleeve pattern for knit fabrics

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

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

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.

wearing and design ease on sewing patterns

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. 

adding sewing ease to woven patterns

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.

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.

 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. If you want to investigate this topic further, check this article on Stretch percentage.

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.

add seam allowance to the master pattern

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.

Like what you read here? Support my site

Daniela, bloger at Sewing For A Living, indipendent designer, seamstress, crafter.

Hi sewing friends, Daniela here! As a passionate sewist and pattern maker, I love to empower fellow creators to sew their dream wardrobes. Join me on a fun journey where we unlock our creativity, stitch by stitch.

If this tutorial has helped you, please consider supporting the blog with a small donation. This way I can keep it up and continue sharing for free.

It is always greatly appreciated!

I hope you enjoyed this pattern-making lesson. Happy sewing!

Related posts:

  1. How to make a skirt pattern like an expert
  2. 3 Easy Ways To Draft a Harem Pants Pattern
  3. How to draft a circle skirt pattern
  4. Draft and sew a collar and a collar stand


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20 thoughts on “Sewing ease – A Comprehensive Guide To Sewing With Ease

  • Lois

    Daniela your teaching – instructions are so clear and encouraging, in each and every article you have published I am now going to make a pant basic from scratch, following your directions, instead of adjusting a pattern. You have made me feel it is possible. I also appreciate all the articles of yours,I have read. I have a small neck and have searched for directions in adjusting bought clothes and patterns. I have stumbled along and discovered I am pleased to see your suggestions parallel my ideas. In short, you are a guiding light for sewists and I deeply appreciate the time you have given to teaching the rest of us as well as doing your own sewing.

  • Kathleen Rowley

    Great series! I appreciate you so much. Can you explain where the wearing ease must be added? I’m assuming that you add wearing ease at the points you noted above and smooth out the lines of the pattern so that those points are gently incorporated into the original lines. For example, you would not as wearing ease to the knee or ankle on pants but you would smooth the lines from the hip downward. Is that correct?

  • Joan Ballet

    Please specify where you add the ease to the various garments. I know for the bodice sloper you add it to the side seam.
    Where do you add your ease on a pants draft? How much do you allow for the crotch seam? Also the inner of outer leg?
    In other words, how and where do you spread the ease amount to the draft?
    I’m referring to woven garments
    Thank you
    Joan Ballett

  • Deb

    Your post on the pants sloper intrigued me so much I tried it. Now I’m ready to add wearing ease and seam allowances. BUT I read your comment in another post that you add ease by adding it to the body measurements. Does that mean for a 38” hip I should have used 41” before drafting? If so, all that work for nothing? Or is there a way to use the draft I just made?

    • Daniela Post author

      Sure, you can add ease to your basic block pattern. That might be design or wearing ease. Then, refine when fitting. Adding ease to the measurements is possible when you draft with a certain fabric and fit in mind.
      When you draft a basic pattern as you did, you can add ease and make other design changes on top of the basic draft.
      Hope this helps!

  • Jo

    Thanks very much, just starting out with drafting, reading lots of articles and trying to fit the muslin not easy by yourself is it?
    Very easy to follow your plain English instructionsThanks again,

  • Megan

    Love the article! So informative. Just one question: Does the negative ease factor in after the added ease for a woven pattern? Or is it just the amount subtracted from a particular measurement?

    • Daniela Post author

      Hi Megan,

      Negative ease is for knit fabrics. It is added because they usually stretch and get a little baggy if the pattern is not reduced a bit.
      Therefore, wovens don’t require negative ease to fit properly. In fact, adding negative ease to non-stretchy wovens will most certainly spoil the fit

      Hope this helps!

        • Daniela Post author

          You can do both. If it’s a drafted pattern you can subtract on the pattern. If you start from scratch, you can add to the negative ease to girth measurements. Or, vice versa.

  • Mizuki

    So, I sew for dolls, which means that I’m generally working at a much smaller scale, and that can make it difficult to figure out how much ease to add to woven fabrics. (And yes, indeed, they do need ease. No ease causes the same problems as it does for a person.) Do you have a more… mathematical/percentage based way to figure out ease for wovens? Because if I added an inch of ease to a garment for a doll with a six inch waist, the garment would just fall off. I need something that can be easily adapted to pretty much any scale of garment. With that being said, I’ve found your posts extremely informative otherwise. I’ve mostly had to create patterns from draping, copying a pattern off of an existing garment and then modifying it, and guesswork based off of measurements. Being more aware of what exactly I’m looking for and how to use it to draft a pattern that fits has made drawing patterns more satisfying.

    • Sarah

      Hi there! Ive just drafted a pants sloper using your site, its the easiest ive ever used! Im planning on making trousers out of woven (no stretch) which areas do i add ease to? The chart only mentiones waist and hips? Also if im wanting a more fitted pant (skinny leg pant) do i take the excess from the outer seam or inner? Many thanks

    • Daniela Post author

      With two daughters, I often sew for dolls. But as ease is concerned, I must admit I add it intuitively (just add a bit here and there). I can’t give any professional advice here as I do it only as a hobby. Doll clothes are more specific as the bodies are with different proportions and move and bend differently than human bodies.
      On top of that, ease is not an exact science as it depends on the design and fit preferences. At least I haven’t found a rule that can be scaled to any size of a garment. If you happen to find a solution, please share.

  • tinajay

    This is great, but HOW do you add ease to the sloper? If I wanted to add 3 inches around the hips of the pants sloper, and 1 inch to the waist, where would I add that? to the inside/center seams, the side seams, or split the sloper down the center grainline? half here, half there…? Do you add in the ease, then put in the seam allowance? I need more direction, please!

    • Daniela Post author

      I usually add ease to the body measurements, but you can add it around the pattern, as you say half here, half there. Then, add the seam allowance all around the drafted pattern. Seam allowance is the same and you add it everywhere where there are seams to be made (for example 1/2 inch), while ease varies on the fit you want to achieve.
      Hope this helps!

  • Paula

    Very informative post. I have been sewing for about 50 years and have never seen any articles as clear and informative as this one. Thank you very much.