Saturday, February 11, 2012


How much ease do you need in your sewn garments for comfort? It's taken a while, but I'm finally starting to get the wearing ease right in the garments that I make.

For the non sewing types who might be reading this, ease is the amount of "space" in a garment beyond your body measurements. All of that extra fabric which makes moving in a garment possible. This extra space is especially important when sewing fitted garments with non stretch fabrics. Often pattern companies put far more wearing ease or "space" into a pattern than is actually necessary for movement. It's quite irritating when you finish sewing a garment only to find it's ridiculously large on you, even though the size you picked is for your body measurements. While I'm talking about ease, there is also style ease or design ease, which as the name suggests, is included in the pattern for over all design or style purposes. Today this rant is about wearing ease, specifically on fitted patterns.

Anyway, when sewing fitted garments, once you figure out how much wearing ease you need, it becomes easier to pick the size to cut by either referring to the finished garment size or by measuring the pattern pieces at the bust, waist or hip.

Unfortunately for me, determining how much ease I need has been a process of trial and error. Earlier on in my sewing life, many of the garments I made were over fitted and didn't have enough wearing ease, so I couldn't eat, drink or sometimes sit down comfortably in them. Most of my fitting issues are at the waist or lack of waist :)

On Christmas day, I realised my much loved Simplicity 2180 was just a little too snug around the waist and I struggled to comfortably fit in all of the lovely food I wanted to eat. I had mistakenly thought that as the waist band sat above my actual waist, that I wouldn't require as much wearing ease. I have also put on a little weight these past months, so I won't entirely blame my sewing efforts in this fitting mishap.
Anyway, like most finished garments this dress didn't easily allow for modifications to the waist and I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to wear this dress. It has been on high rotation in my wardrobe since it's completion.

In order to build in the extra 2 inchs of ease that I wanted, just in case I put on more weight (not that I'm hoping or trying to), I un picked the entire back waist band. I released the back darts, sewed the side seams as scant as possible, then tackled rebuilding the waist band. I created more piping then added a new section to the band with fabric scraps. The skirt gathers were reduced slightly to increase the width at the waist.
Now, after all of this fiddly work, my dress is wearable again. I adore this dress. I love the fabric, the style, the piping and I LOVE wearing it. Now I can do so very, very comfortably even if my waist expands a little further.
Also, just in case you are interested my wearing ease needs for comfort, depending on style, are:
Bust:   2 inches minimum
Waist: 3.5 inchs minimum

Have you had similar experiences with sewing your own garments? Do you know the amount of ease you need for comfort?


  1. It's great that you've worked out how much ease you need! I'm currently trying to break my habit of adding too much ease in the clothes I make - I always worry things will shrink even after the pre-wash, but they don't usually - and of course some fabrics relax when you wear them!

  2. Wow, I am in awe of you taking the time to make those alterations. I don't think I would have persevered myself. Well done! That is one beautiful dress.

  3. Hello. I always have issues with ease. I used to make things far too big as I hate being restricted by clothing. I have recently been brave and tried to make things a little more close fitting only to find they are slightly too tight. I will get the balance right one day!

  4. 'tis a beautiful dress, worth the fiddling.

    Ease is something I am still getting my head around. Maybe if I actually made afew more garments from patterns I'd figure it out!

  5. It's a great dress and certainly worth adjusting. I wonder if you needed to line the Liberty fabric. I have both this pattern and fabric but didn't think I could make this pattern without underlining it first.

  6. This is so interesting, I've never thought about choosing a size based on a particular amount of ideal ease. I've kind of figured out through trial and error the approx pattern size I should cut, but can still end up needing to take in a huge amount (especially waist), and it can really throw out the shape of the garment. I'm gonna have to think about this some more! By the way - I also love this dress of yours - it's actually how I came across your blog - I was searching for images of dresses made from this pattern. I especially love your piping.

  7. Great post! Yeah, ease is troublesome. I usually make a practise run in a cheap fabric or calico if I'm working with woven's - then I wear it around the house for a bit (much to my beau's amusement) to see if it's comfy. Sometimes I'm willing to sacrifice comfort, but most of the time, I'm not. So I've never actually recorded the amount of ease. But I like your way of thinking so I'm going to do this with my next few garments and see how (if?) they differ to yours.

  8. This is a very valuable post. I don't usually choose what size to make from the measurements on the back of the pattern envelope - because if I did I would be making a 16 or 18. I check the flat pattern measurement that is printed on the pattern, consider the style, wrap the tape measure around me and work out what size is probably going to be best for that garment. It's usually the same as I buy in the shops, actually - a 10 or 12, but sometimes a 14. I'm very impressed with the adjustments you made to that dress - I love the piped insert, but possibly would not have had the patience to adjust it after the event. But it was SO worth it!


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