The Secret to Understanding Garment Ease for Crocheters and Knitters

We’ve all been there: we’ve all stared at the finished measurements in a knit or crochet pattern wondering which size to make. The secret to making the perfect size lies in understanding garment ease. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about garment ease and how you can use it to find the perfect fit.

Garment Measurement – Body Measurement = Ease

Knitting and crochet patterns list the finished measurements of a garment, usually at the bust or chest. You need to know your body measurement at that same place (See How to Measure). When you subtract your body measurement from the garment’s finished measurement, the leftover amount is called ease.

Positive ease: The garment measurement is larger than your body measurement. When you subtract body size from garment size, you will get a positive number. Most garments we make have at least a little bit of positive ease so your body can move easily while wearing the garment.

Negative ease: The garment measurement is smaller than your body measurement. When you subtract body size from garment size, you will get a negative number. A garment with negative ease will fit the body very tightly, and it works best if you’ve stitched a very stretchy fabric.

No or zero ease: The garment and body measurements are the same. When you subtract body size from garment size, you will get 0 (or close to it). Zero-ease garments are also tight, and they too call for stretchy fabric.

Functional (or Wearing) Ease vs. Stylistic (or Design) Ease

You may also encounter 2 other kinds of ease.

Functional (wearing) ease: the ease needed in a garment so someone can “wear” the garment or “function” within it. This is usually a small amount of ease. Have you ever tried on a skirt or jeans that technically fit around your waist, but will bust a seam if you sit down? That garment is missing the necessary functional ease.

Stylistic (design) ease: the ease needed to achieve a specific style or silhouette. Designers choose stylistic ease to create particular effects with different types of fabrics. For instance, a bodycon dress is meant to be tight fitting and uses stretchy fabric. It will most likely have negative to zero ease to achieve the desired design fit. A poncho is meant to be very loose fitting. It will likely have a large amount of positive ease to achieve the style of the garment.

Different Types of Stylistic Ease

When you knit or crochet your own garments, ease is your friend—once you know how to play with it! Interweave magazines supply helpful information so that you can choose the appropriate amount of ease. Every pattern indicates the garment’s finished measurement(s), then it supplies ease information:

Finished Size: 29.5 (36.5, 40, 43, 50)” bust circumference.
Sweater shown measures 36.5″; modeled with 2.5″ of positive ease.

Now you can customize your project. If you like how the sweater fits on the model, add 2.5″ to your bust measurement. Then pick the appropriate finished garment size, rounding up or down if needed. Fit is up to you; add or subtract ease to your project if you like. Changing the ease by a small amount, say .5″ to 2″, won’t dramatically affect a sweater’s style. You can also adjust the ease by much more than that to achieve a totally different look. Here are the different kinds of stylistic ease to be aware of when choosing the amount of ease that is right for you:

Very Close Fitting means the garment is designed to have 2″ to 4″ of negative ease (or the garment will measure 2″ to 4″ less than your body measurement). This garment will be very tight fitting. Try the Botanic Summer Vest from Interweave Crochet Summer 2017 or the Racing Stripes Pullover from Love of Knitting Spring 2017.

garment ease

 

Close Fitting means the garment has almost no ease: it’s almost the same size as your bust measurement. Try the Boardwalk Tank from Interweave Crochet Summer 2017 or the Free Falling Pullover from Interweave Knits Fall 2017.

garment ease

 

Classic Fit means the garment has 2″ to 4″ positive ease (or the garment will measure 2″ to 4″ more than your body measurement). This is considered a very comfortable fit and is most common in knitting and crochet patterns. Try the Citizen Pullover from Interweave Crochet Spring 2017 or the Goldsmobile Top from Interweave Knits Fall 2017.
garment ease

 

Loose Fitting means the garment has 4″ to 6″ positive ease (or the garment will measure 4″ to 6″ more than your body measurement). This is a slightly oversized fit, with a little bit of extra room, so it produces baggy, comfy sweaters. Try the Blooming Tee from Interweave Crochet Spring 2017 or the Tangled Up in Gray Pullover from Interweave Knits Fall 2017.

 

Oversized Fit means the garment has more than 6″ positive ease (or the garment will measure 6+” more than your body measurement). This is a very loose fit, which should probably be reserved for patterns designed to have that much extra fabric (you don’t want to look like you’re drowning in your sweater!). Try the Hondius Way Pullover from Interweave Crochet Fall 2017 or the Kricka Top from knitscene Summer 2017.

Now you know all the secrets of garment ease! Go forth and make some incredible projects!

If you have an interest in doing more work on crochet garment shaping, enter your email and get a free tutorial on crochet garment shaping by clicking on the “Get My Freebie” button below!

Happy stitching,
Sara Dudek
Associate Editor, Interweave Crochet

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