A common question that both experienced and novice sewists often ask is: How do you find out the amount of ease in a pattern? (Ease is the difference between the measurement that the pattern was designed to fit and the actual measurement of the pattern.) In tailored clothes pattern ease gives us wiggle room; in casual clothes pattern ease gives us comfort. In other designs, pattern ease gives the style. Knowing how to determine the pattern ease allowed in any pattern is one of the first steps in learning how to fit patterns. This is not going to be a post with pretty pictures—just basic pattern know-how.
Most commercial patterns help us out, listing the actual measurement of the pattern on the tissue pattern.
Or, the actual measurement of the pattern (size + ease) is printed on the back of the pattern envelope.
Comparing either of these numbers with the size chart gives you the ease amount. Note: If the size chart is not printed on the back of the pattern envelope or within the guide sheet of the pattern, you’ll be able to find it online at the respective pattern company site. (The screen shots are courtesy of The McCall Pattern Company.)
In this size 14 example, the ease is the difference between the two numbers: 43-1/2″ − 38″ = 5-1/2″. (It may seem like a lot, but it isn’t! Minimum ease in the hipline is 4″, which will give a very tailored fit.)
If the pattern you’re using doesn’t include any of these comparison options, especially when using vintage patterns, here’s how to measure to determine the pattern’s ease.
Locate the size chart.
- Note the sizing measurements.
- If the pattern has a waistline dart, pin the dart closed only at the waistline.
- Extend the waistline marking across all pattern pieces.
- If the pattern is multisized, mark the stitching line at the waistline of the pattern. This pattern has 5/8″ seam allowance. The 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge is 5/8″ wide—how convenient! Use the width of the tool to quickly mark the stitching lines.
Overlap the pattern pieces
- Pin together at the respective stitching lines.
- When all pieces are pinned together, you’ll be looking at half of the garment.
Measure the pattern
- Fold the end of the tape measure to the waistline measurement in this example to 37″ for the XL size.
- Place the fold of the tape measure at the back stitching line; lay the tape measure along the waistline marking.
- The pattern ease is double the distance between the end of the tape measure and the front stitching line; the ease is 7″.
- Measure the distance with a second tape measure—double the measurement. In this instance, the ease is 7″.
It’s certainly not necessary to always know or determine the amount of pattern ease. Yet, understanding the wiggle or style room added in your pattern is one of the first steps in understanding how your pattern will fit. You can find more information in Pattern Fitting With Confidence, my book and DVD on fitting tops, skirts, and pants.
Bye for now,