A common question that both experienced and novice sewists often ask is: How do you find out the amount of ease in a pattern? I like to think of ease as Wiggle Room! It’s the difference between the measurement that the pattern was designed to fit and the actual measurement of the pattern. Sometimes there’s a lot of room to wiggle, other times the fit is trim.

Knowing how to determine how much ease is 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″ minus 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 your pattern to determine the ease.

  • Locate the size chart. Note the sizing measurements.

The example shows how to determine the waistline ease.

  • 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 multi-sized, 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 at the respective stitching lines. When all pieces are pinned together, you’ll be looking at half of the garment.

  • 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″.


Hint: I often measure the distance with a second tape measure—it’s just clearer.

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 Confidencemy book and DVD on fitting tops, skirts, and pants.

Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy zieman

My goal is to bring you more Sewing Pattern Know-How in future blogs. If you have specific pattern fitting areas you’d like me to address, leave a note below and I’ll see what I can do!

Nancy's Giveaway Winner

It was enjoyable to read your suggestions regarding my Auditioning Quilt Borders blog posting. Before submitting the post, I chose option #4 with the dark border. When I complete the landscape quilt, I’ll post a photo.  Just for fun I roughly tallied the votes.

  • Option #1: Binding only—7 votes
  • Option #2: Light purple border–45
  • Option #3: Green Border—12
  • Option #4: Dark Purple Border—55

Other suggestions were to create borders like attic windows, have no borders, have two borders, or use all four colors. Thanks everyone for your responses. It was great to have my decision validated!

The lucky random winner of Landscape Quilting Workshop DVD is Liz. Her comment was: Oh, I would have to go with #3, the Green! It is really, really neat with the design. Congratulations Liz! (And Liz, the green was my second choice!)

Landscape Quilting Workshop DVD

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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