Ease & the All-Important Bust Measurement

Did you know Interweave now publishes Love of Knitting? For beginners, we provide plenty of how-to information on yarn selection, techniques, and stitch patterns. Knitters at any level can easily follow our patterns for toys, accessories that can be made in a weekend, or garments that can be made in a month.

Here’s a sample from the Winter 2015 issue.

A Beginner’s Guide to Ease
by Carol J. Sulcoski

If your knitted garments don’t fit the way you’d like, perhaps it’s time for a refresher course in ease.

Ease is the extra wiggle room that’s built into a garment—or to put it more formally, it’s the difference between the size of an actual finished garment and the size of the body wearing it.

An example of standard ease in a knit vest. In this blog, learn how your bust measurement is important to guide your size choice.

Standard ease

Take a look at the shirt or sweater you’re wearing. Raise your arms and you’ll probably notice that there is extra fabric, particularly under the arms and along the sides, to give you room to move around. That extra fabric is the garment’s ease. Most garments contain at least a minimal amount of ease for comfort and freedom of movement. When selecting a size to make, you must consider not only your actual body measurements, but also how much ease you’d like to build into the garment.

Let’s look at a concrete example: a knitter whose actual bust measurement is 40 inches. Now look at the sweater patterns in this issue. You’ll see a box titled “Finished Measurements” in each pattern. Don’t automatically assume you should make the size that’s closest to 40 inches—you may end up with a sweater that doesn’t fit the way you thought it would. You must start with your actual bust measurement, but modify it by adding or subtracting the amount of ease you’d like.

The standard amount of ease built into a sweater is two to four inches. A standard amount of ease means that sweater will have a classic fit, neither too loose and floppy, nor tightly clinging. If you’re looking for this type of fit, you will begin with your actual bust measurement (40 inches) then add another two to four inches for ease. That means you should select the pattern size that has a finished measurement of between 42 and 44 inches.

An example of positive ease in a knit pullover. In this blog, learn how your bust measurement is important to guide your size choice.

Positive ease

Sometimes sweaters are meant to be worn with more than the standard amount of ease. A sweater intended to be oversized and very drapey, say a kimono top or a sweater inspired by 1980s silhouettes, might require a greater amount of ease—6 inches, say, instead of the usual 2 to 4 inches.

An example of negative ease in a knit pullover. In this blog, learn how your bust measurement is important to guide your size choice.

Negative ease

Alternatively, a top may be styled to hug your curves, fitting closely to your body (perhaps evoking a 1940s sweater girl sensibility). In that case, you’d select a size that is exactly equal to your body measurement (adding zero ease) or even an inch or two smaller than your actual bust size (subtracting an inch or two for “negative ease”).

If you aren’t sure how much ease you prefer, try measuring several sweaters that fit you well, and compare the bust circumference of each garment with your actual bust measurement. You may find that you tend to favor a particular amount of ease. Use your newfound knowledge to help you pick the perfect size sweater for your next project!


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