Let's talk about EASE

My favourite type of patterns to sew from are vintage patterns from the major pattern companies - Simplicity, New Look, McCalls etc. While some of the methods might be out of date (like zips in knit fabric), I like the assurance that the are designed from a standard pattern block and will fit fairly close to the stated body measurements. I usually sew a size 16 in a 1970s pattern, for a 36" bust and 30-31" waist.

I approach indie patterns with some caution if I don't know what type of shape they are drafted for, or don't trust the drafting skill. As for modern patterns from the big companies, the main problem is ease. Here's an example:

These Simplicity 1887 trousers:

The size chart puts me in a size 16 (for waist and hip which are obviously most important here):

There are some finished garment measurements on the packet but crucially, not bust or waist:
Instead you have to know to look at the pattern tissue where it states this:

8 inches of ease. EIGHT INCHES. Plus, it's not even exact, but approximate. Does this mean that there will be 8 inches of ease in the waistband, or a bit less there?

My response was to cut the size 10 instead, based on this figure of around 8" of extra ease. I basted the leg pieces together to check fit and it was fine. When I basted the waistband, which is elasticated at the back, I could tell that it would be a bit of a tight fit getting it over my hips, so I ripped out the side seams to re-sewed with a minimal seam allowance, probably closer to the size 12. This was a good fit - I'll share the trousers in my next post - but I'm glad that I knew to be very vigilent about the issue of ease. It's worth noting that there are two types of ease: wearing ease (that lets you moved and breathe) and design ease (that contribute to the style of the garment e.g. a loose fitting, oversized shirt). It's not made clear in patterns how much overall ease can be attributed to each type.

I've just started another project using a contemporary Vogue pattern. Going by the finished measurements (again, only seen on the pattern tissue) cutting a 16 is about right, though I may need to come down to the 14 in some aspects. So, while ease has been included, the amount is not as great as the 8" from Simplicity - so there is not even a similarity between pattern companies.

So who benefits from this habit of including huge amounts of ease? Is it a vanity thing to keep in line with modern ready to wear clothing measurements? I am usually about a 12 in shop bought clothing. If that is the case, the amount of ease needs to be stated more clearly on the packet. This could help someone buy the correct size more easily, if the range of sizes is split across two size ranges, but crucially, knowing what size your garment is going to end up is key to a successful project.

Happily my trousers worked out well (post coming soon) but this is such a frustrating issue, with a real lack of clarity surrounding it, that primarily serves to make things more challenging for users of contemporary patterns.

K x

27 comments:

  1. The ease thing is crazy to me. I came to sewing as a knitter so the lack of schematics has always annoyed me. Luckily I always measured the pattern pieces to get an idea of fit so I've never had a garment end up so large that I can't save it. It does make me wonder how smaller sewists deal with the big 4 patterns. If I go by the envelope I'm usually towards the end of the size range but I usually have to make patterns 3 or sometimes 4 sizes smaller. If I was at the opposite end I would have nowhere to go.

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    1. A knitting-style schematic would be a great idea in a sewing pattern

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  2. I made these. Sized down but still ridiculous.

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    1. It's a great pattern if only the sizing wasn't so crazy

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  3. 8 inches of ease??!! That's ridiculous. Anyone new to sewing, who had heeded the instructions to go by their measurements and not their RTW size, would probably be put off sewing for life by the finished result.

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    1. I know! It could be so off putting

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  4. So crazy. I also measure into 16 in simplicity, but always make a 12. New look the same. I'm now trying to explore what sizes I am in The Butterick/Mccalls/Vogue patterns!

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    1. Yeah, I think I'm about the same size-wise but who knows what else in other companies?

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  5. 8" of ease is crazy! Thank you for reminding me to check those finished measurements - I always forget to do that!! With indie patterns my experience actually has been opposite - the J. Stern Fitted by the Cupful blouse fit great until I got to the hip which is never a part that gives me trouble (other than usually being too large) but when I finished my muslin I could hardly get it around the hip! Shock. So I always do a practice run - sometimes they are actually wearable but if not I donate it to a local charity. Indie companies don't typically post their finished measurements on the package (maybe they post them online? I'll have to check that) but all the big 4 do which is handy!

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    1. Thanks for commenting Kathleen - I've not found indie patterns to have the same amount of ease usually, unless it's design ease for a loose fitting garment

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  6. Yes the ease thing is so annoying! Why would anyone wear pants with 8 inches of ease? That's even more than pajama pants. But tbh, at least it's in the pattern so you can guesstimate the best size. In pattern magazines like knipmode the patterns have plenty of ease as well but you cant find the amount anywhere. Recently I wanted to make a shirt dress that looked quite fitted but when I measured the pattern there was about 15 cm of ease at the bust. Ugh!

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    1. That's so annoying! I don't often use pattern magazines but I suppose it makes sense that the patterns have a similar amount of ease to Big 4 printed patterns

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  7. Generally when learning how to draft clothes I was advised to add 4cm/1.5 inches on a fitted garment for wearing ease...8 is huge! I also had similar issues and share the same thoughts on indies (always check real expertise)

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    1. I think 1.5 inches sounds about right for 'wearing ease', who knows why they thing so much extra is needed!

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  8. They even have crazy ease in fitted dresses that should have 0 ease!

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  9. So agree, its terribly frustrating not knowing the finished measurements for bust and waist.

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    1. I know, such a simple thing to be able to check the full finished measurements

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  10. On my, 8" of ease is ridiculous. They would be like clown trousers, a look for sure. I suppose that the best course of action is always to do a flat pattern measurement first but if you didn't know to do this then it could seriously put you off. They really need to have a word with themselves. I hate getting pattern without the finished garment measurement on them too. Xx

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    1. Absolutely, it would help so much to have the full set of basic finished measurements written clearly somewhere

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    1. Thanks for your comment - I think a lot could be solved by clearly putting finished measurements on outside of the packet.

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  12. To be honest this is what puts me off trying simplicity. I'm basically planning on figuring out what I need to do with burda and sticking with that!

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    1. Yeah it's really off-putting isn't it? Especially when it varies between companies

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  13. I've just encountered this issue for the first time too! Like you I'm a modern 12 but tend to be a 16 in 70s, or even 18 in older patterns. I just made a top from a 90s pattern, size 16. I had to cut 2 inches off each side, to reduce the waist by about 8 inches total. Crazy!!

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    1. So annoying! Finished pattern measurements really should be more clear

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    2. I think I'm going to have to start measuring pattern pieces as I cut them out, it might be a bit time-consuming but might save a lot of hassle later!

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Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say