Where is ease permissible?

This post comes in continuation of Lazy pattern making. The latter was inspired by Candi who wrote and asked me where ease is permissible in a pattern. I wasn’t sure of how to formulate a response but I think I’ve gotten closer to defining the issue and will attempt to answer the question now. It is most certain that I will fail to address someone’s questions so by all means, add your questions by commenting. Before I begin, by “ease”, I am not referring to wearing ease -excess fabric over and above a basic fitting shell- but ease as defined as the practice of sewing two disparate lengths together. Secondly, sleeve cap ease won’t be discussed having been dispensed with here.

In analyzing the question, I’ve realized there must be some sort of rule governing the practice. Unfortunately, no one has ever told me just what that rule may be so please don’t jump all over me if I fail to define it to your satisfaction on my first attempt because I haven’t resolved it to my own. Rules are only well defined after discussion and hopefully, that’s what this post will generate. It would be great to define a rule -to govern practices- that is whole, rational and logical.

My first definition of the rule, is that ease is permissible whenever your boss says it is. The person who signs your paycheck trumps anything I’ll ever say. If they like the way it looks, get good results and want to pay for it, so be it. My greatest concern is that you don’t use “ease” as a problem solving tool in the event your pieces don’t match in order to save yourself the bother of recutting them because that’s what I usually see. Ease is most often used as a solution to avoiding work in pattern cutting. And also because that’s what books tell you to do. Consider the sketches below. None of these seams should be eased, none of them.

Assuming you’re the one making the decisions, my second definition of the rule depends a lot on the styling and price points of your product -and whether you’re over-fitting- particularly when it comes to the kind of fabric you’re using. For example, if you’re using a knit fabric, there is no practical reason I could see for ease -at present. In a nutshell, you use ease to close up small darts. And what is small? I don’t know. It depends on the amount of area you have in which to ease it. It shouldn’t be discernable. Consider the sketch below.

On this skirt, I’ve erased a dart in each panel. Your waistband should match the seam lines of the skirt. Now, if you want the fit of those erased darts -it will be in the waistline only and not the girth- sure, you can ease it onto the waistband but technically speaking, you could go wild and use ease to close up darts all over the pattern but why? If you really want the epitome of fit, then keep the darts and sew them up. If you want couture fit, you can’t take the shortcut of easing in darts. Still, most of you really aren’t on that level. Most of you are doing basic sportswear or children’s wear. I mean, you’d be hard pressed to find a pattern more shaped and detailed than a bra, yet none of a bra’s pattern pieces are eased. In summary, if you want precisely detailed fit, there are no shortcuts.

Let’s assume you’ve taken the darts out of a skirt and have added an elastic waistband. You would not have the waist portion of the skirt larger than the waistband; that’d be ridiculous. Rather, if the skirt didn’t match the waistband, you’d have to recut one or the other. If the waistband were fitted rather than elastic, your only other option is to gather in those darts rather than easing them.

Still, style lines can present some real challenges with regard to ease. The example that always comes to mind is a back yoked skirt. You want a yoke but you want a slender fitted skirt too. Consider the sketch below.

In the right sketch, you can see the remainders of the dart left over. What do you do with those? In a leather skirt this wouldn’t be a problem because you’d have to break up the skirt anyway since leather hides aren’t large enough, meaning you could have your cake (darts) and eat it too (fit). But what about denim? A question to seriously consider at this point is overfitting you have to remember, this is sportswear; it’s not couture. If it really were couture, I’d ease the skirt onto the yoke but this could be overkill once you consider price points as well as category. In a work situation and if I were checking the pattern, I’d be inclined to approve the ease -pattern makers are entitled to their prerogatives- provided the resultant sample wasn’t puckered, it fit well and the pattern was marked correctly.

Now, there is one possible exception to the easing vs. darting debate and that applies to necklines, particularly the front neckline. Still, there is a limit to what you can do. Consider the sketch below.

This has a dart in both the front and back necklines. Normally, you should just sew up that back neckline dart rather than easing it. The front neckline is another story. Depending on your target customer -say, large busted women (who are egg shaped), these darts can sometimes be quite deep. Still, I don’t know that any of you are targeting the latter demography in spite of my most fervent wishes. Rather, this more often applies to custom clothiers who have the luxury of easing in whatever is needed, as needed. The point being, darts in the front neckline are rarely appealing unless they’re part of some sort of design detail which you really don’t see anymore; that being more typical in the forties and fifties than today. If you really need to close a gap with ease in the front neckline, so be it.

Now, if you do intend to ease something, it must be marked. If you don’t mark the ease -where it begins and ends with notches- somebody like me will just think the pieces don’t match and we’ll ask you to correct it. The beginnings and endings of eased areas must be marked, just as darts, gathers and tucks must be marked. In addition to marking the start and end points of ease, you must write on the pattern piece how much that ease is. If you have 1/2″ of ease, the pattern must thus so state. For more details on production pattern standards, see pp 176-180 of my book.

A question that was not asked is, are there things that should always be eased? Happily, I’d say yes; linings are the first thing that come to mind. The front linings should always be eased onto the front facings. Still, I get arguments about that. Some people insist on sewing a little tuck at the bottom of the facing, hem and lining juncture rather than easing in that extra lining length over the length of the seam. There was a lot of controversy over the Nameless tutorial series. Sometimes, I don’t understand why people ask me these questions when they’re just going to argue for doing it the way they’ve always done it.

Oh, I almost forgot. Top and under collars are not eased -to the extent you’ve been taught- either. Again -boy, I dread saying this- there’s a better pattern correction for this but I’m not going to do it right now because it’s a whole other tutorial (also part two) in itself.

In closing, please submit your questions regarding the ease of specific designs. The basic fitting shells I’ve shown here are not going to cover this discussion. It’d be most helpful if you could include a link to photos or sketches of the designs in question. Don’t worry if your link scrolls off the edge of your comment, I can fix it from the back end. If you own the image, please indicate whether or not I can republish it on the site.

Thanks, I’ll revisit the topic once we’ve collected enough responses for another post.

Where is ease permissible pt.2

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    If it really were couture, I’d ease the skirt onto the yoke but this could be overkill once you consider price points as well as category.

    Aha! The light bulb just went on…

    So, when you say ‘overfitting’, do you mean that one runs the risk of making the garment too specific (height/weight, posture, attitude, etc)? Am I following the wavelength?

    I would be interested to see the tutorial on how you handle the turn of cloth on the pattern. Should I presume this means the upper- and under- collars are separate pattern pieces?

    What is your opinon on inlays/outlays? Are these too confusing to present to a sewing contractor? I typically only see inlay added to the seat seam of trousers – every once in a great while I see 1/4″ added to the back trouser panel inseam. But, I have yet to see inlays in RTW jackets. Is there a practical reason to not add inlay to production patterns?

  2. Thomas Cunningham says:

    kathleen — what is the correct amount of ease in the facing for a men’s coat to allow for the roll of the lapel. I’m making up the jackets in a 280 gram worsted — a relatively “tight”, hard fabric.

    also, is it typical that the facing is cut with ease *below* the break point?

    For example I have a 2B pattern that was made for me and matching the facing and front at the break point notch, there is a *generous* 1/4 inch of ease in the facing below the notches. Meanwhile, there is a scant 1/8 of ease in the facing above the break point.

    I’m not a pattern-maker (obviously!) but it seems to me that, if anything, the facing should be a tiny bit smaller than the coat front to ensure that the bottom of the jacket doesn’t curl out away from the body.

    some of the jackets made up with this pattern had a bubble on the front of the coat that emerged near the break point — but this doesn’t make sense to me either, because if there was too much ease in the facing, wouldn’t the bubble occur on the facing side of the coat?

    I hope this all makes sense to you — I would love your input.

    thank you.

  3. Sarra Bess says:

    (Continuing my trek through the archives.) I have a terminology question: when an excess of fabric in one piece is a style feature — for example, excess fabric in sleeve caps to produce puffed sleeves, excess fabric at a waistline to produce a gathered skirt — is the resulting sewing technique termed gathering rather than easing? Or is gathering vs easing a quantity thing; i.e., a large amount of excess fabric is gathered, a small amount of excess fabric is eased?

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