Monday, August 14, 2017

August Reboot Series - Understanding Ease

This month I'm going to be doing some re-posting of older blog posts. Some will have updates included as when I reread I often realize I've learned something new since the original post went up.  I hope to have all new interviews every Friday but many Pros take the month of August off and in past years I haven't always been able to get enough interviews back to fill all the August dates. 

What is ease?  In simple terms ease is the difference between the finished measurement of a garment and the measurement of the body. A garment which is smaller than the body has negative ease. A garment which is larger than the body has positive ease. If a woven fabric garment is too tight it will restrict the wearers movement. Our knitted fabric has stretch, which allows garments to have a closer fit without restricting movement. In knitting we often base ease assessments on the bust or chest measurement only. Patterns then make assumptions about the other body measurements in relation to that single point of reference. Ease looks like this. But it is confusing to garment makers because this is also fit and styling mashed up with ease.

Image from

Understanding ease is one of the most difficult concepts for garment knitters to truly understand. Knitters often show me gorgeous work and then tell me how very unhappy with the result. When I ask questions, their disappointment most often comes down to the gap between the garment that they imagined and the one they knit.

Often the gap has to do with the knitter's personal ease preference. This preference is a moving target, as we age, gain or loose weight and adapt to changing silhouettes in mainstream fashion, our preferences are constantly shifting. 

I sewed many of my own clothes for years. I also used the same patterns over and over. Once I had something that fit me well I would return to that pattern often. I would make it in a different colour. I would make a jacket with a matching skirt, then I would make the same jacket with pants. Then I would make it in a print fabric, or a tapestry or a knit. 

When I was machine knitting I used a knit radar for shaping. It's a charting device which allows you to draw your garment shape. You select settings by your stitches per inch and rows per inch, and let the Radar guide you through the shaping of your garment piece. By simply changing the gauge settings, you can knit this same garment over and over with a variety of yarns and stitch styles. I used to knit the same basic garment shape, change the neckline, shorten or lengthen sleeves and the hem, and no one ever noticed that I was knitting essentially the same sweater over and over.

Now I often do the same thing with my hand knitting. I layer new or different details on the same basic garment shape. In the LYS that I worked at we had only one customer that I was aware of who did this with a pattern. She had an old pattern, that fit perfectly, she only worked in one gauge but substituted many different yarns. She varied the length from garment to garment and substituted short sleeves for long on summer sweaters but that was about it....and no one noticed what she was doing.  

You can do this if you really want to understand the illusive concept of ease, as it is impacted by fabric weight and drape. In the photos above look at the sleeves. The jacket on the bottom right is made from a tapestry print, it is the stiffest fabric in the four jackets. Did you notice how those sleeves stand away from the body? Once you make the same pattern with different yarn types, your understanding of the concept starts to crystallize. When we move from pattern to pattern each time working with a different silhouette we learn these lessons more slowly.

No comments:

Post a Comment