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Understanding Ease
There are two uses of the word ease in sewing:

1) When you have a larger piece of fabric that you need to "ease" in to fit to a smaller
or shorter piece of fabric (e.g., sleeve cap to fit into the armhole or fitting the side
front along bust curve to the front piece on a princess seamed bodice).

2) The other kind of ease is an amount added to a pattern sloper for either wearing comfort
or to achieve a particular design. There are two (2) kinds of this type of ease -- and if you
are attempting to create a doll pattern using a commercial people pattern, you
need to understand how much ease has been added into the pattern so that you can
create the look for your doll that is depicted on the cover of the pattern.


Wearing (or Comfort) Ease:

Picture Source: Mother Pletsch's Painless Sewing by Pati Palmer & Susan Pletsch, c1975, pg. 60.

Wearing Ease is the minimum amount that is added to the basic sloper/pattern so that it can be
worn easily. Ease allows you (or your doll) to move in a garment. The amount of wearing
ease added to a garment can be a very personal choice -- some people require more ease
(in a waistband, for example) for comfort than others. Dolls, for the most part, need very
little wearing ease because they are not moving around as much as people.
Fitting a pattern for a BJD may require more ease (than for other kinds of dolls) to allow
for a variety of poses. However, that will be a judgement call on your part as you create your
pattern - if there is too much ease in a doll garment it can end up looking frumpy or baggy .
There does need to be enough ease to allow the garment to fit around the doll's body and
snap together without popping open (in other words, if you create the pattern sized to the
doll's exact measurements, you might not be able to get it on the doll and/or fasten it).
For a snug fit on a doll I usually only add 1/4" or so of ease to the total measurement
(e.g., bust measurement + 1/4").

When working with a woven fabric, the opening down the back of a garment needs to be long enough
to fit up over the doll's hips and arms. Straight sleeves need to be wided enough to go on over the
doll's hand spread -- unless an opening is left at the bottom of the sleeves and a closure is added.

Design Ease:

Picture Source: Mother Pletsch's Painless Sewing by Pati Palmer & Susan Pletsch, c1975, pg. 60.

Design Ease is the amount added to the basic sloper/pattern in the bust, waist, hips, etc. to
achieve a particular design look or element and can vary from minus ease (used in knits,
swimwear, etc.) to over 12" beyond the sloper's measurements (in people patterns).
Some pattern envelopes have a description of the garment and when they do, this
description indicates how much ease is built into the pattern design -- e.g., close fitting, fitted,
loose-fitting, etc. By checking the back of the pattern envelope you can learn how the pattern
is intended to fit and look - and this can help you decide if you really want to choose that
particular pattern to get the look you desire. When there is no description on the envelope,
you can usually tell how the garment is supposed to fit by looking at the picture and
the shape of the pattern pieces (which can be viewed on the instruction sheet). If you need to
know the exact amount/percentage of ease you may have to measure the pattern pieces.

The chart below shows the design ease amounts as listed by the commercial
pattern companies (these amounts are for woven fabric only):

0 -- 2-7/8"
3 -- 4"
3-3/4" -- 4-1/4"
4-1/8" -- 5"
4-3/8" -- 5-3/4"
5-1/8" -- 8"
5-7/8" - 10"
Very loose-fitting
Over 8"
Over 10"

If you have a pattern without a description such as fitted, etc. and you want to figure out how
much ease the pattern company has built into the pattern there are two ways to determine this:

One way is to look at the picture and visually figure out what category the design
falls into. There are several clues along with the pattern piece shaping that
can tell you a lot. I've included some examples with pictures below.

Minus Ease

Swimsuits, leotards, etc. are examples of garments with minus-ease - the garment actually measures less than the body measurements as the fabric stretches to fit.

Close-Fitting Garment

A corset is a perfect example of
a close-fitting garment - only enough ease to get the garment on, and it fits very tightly.

Fitted Garment

This is the dress pattern that I
used to create a doll pattern (later lessons-for both an MSD and SD
size doll). It is a fitted style - does
not have a lot of ease, but isn't
tight-fitting like the corset pattern.

Semi-Fitted Garment (Jacket)

The jacket in this pattern is classifed
as semi-fitted because it does not
hug the body - it does not have
any princess seaming or darts that
would make it a more fitted garment -
so it is somewhat unstructured.

Loose-fitting Garment

This pattern is a perfect example of loose-fitting garments -
the vest is unstructured, both the pants and shorts have an
elastic waistline and fit loosely in the crotch and hip area.
The T-top has an extended shoulder line (meaning it extends
beyond the natural shoulder line) and thus has a more flattened sleeve cap, which is common in loosely-structured garments.
The flattened sleeve cap is also easier to sew.

Regular Sleeve Cap

Flattened sleeve cap

Very Loose-Fitting Garment

This is a very unstructured jacket with the sleeves cut as part of the main garment -
not sewn in separately. And it is easy
to see from the picture that it is very
loose fitting! Many times these patterns
are classified as easy to make
because there virtually is no fitting and the pieces are simple and easy to put together.

Another way to determine how much ease is in built into a particular pattern:

In many current patterns there is information printed on the pattern pieces that
shows where the bust, waist or the hip lines are located on the pattern/garment - and there are
numbers included that state what the actual pattern measurements are. This is very helpful!
Here is an example from a dress front (actual pattern piece) showing the bust measurement
on the pattern I used to create a pattern for my doll - Simplicity 4118 (no longer available-but is
a nice basic sheath dress). The measurements for the waist and hips are also listed on the pattern
piece. This pattern also indicates that the "total ease above body measurement is approximately 3" (7.5cm)". This would mean that the pattern falls into the "fitted" category shown in the chart above.

A bit of calculating is required to figure out the percentage of ease added into the pattern
so that you can use this percentage to determine how much ease to add to your doll pattern
when enlarging the pattern instruction pictures(what the final pattern measurement should be).

Here's an example:

For size 8, the pattern measures 34-1/2" (87.5cm) -- to fit a bust size of 31-1/2" (80 cm) - (this number
is found on the back of the pattern envelope and means that a size 8 pattern is created from a sloper
to fit someone with a bust measurement of 31-1/2")
-- so there is 3" of ease built into the pattern.

**To determine the percentage (%) of ease, you would take 34-1/2" (34.5)
and divide it by 31-1/2" (31.5) on your calculator:
34.5 ÷ 31.5 = 1.0952
(Pattern measurement ÷ Bust Size = Percentage of ease added to pattern)

I round this down to 109%
(move the decimal point two points to the right and drop the extension to get 109%)
So there is a plus (+) 9 percent ease in this pattern.

The following is a not specific to any one doll/pattern example -
when you are working on creating your own pattern you will use
your doll's measurements and your pattern's measurements to
work the calculations. Additionally, these calculations would be
done for other areas of the body & pattern - waist, hips, etc.

**To figure out what the final bust measurement should be on your doll pattern,
take the doll's bust measurement and multiply it by 109%.

Example (US system):
(Doll's bust measurement X Ease Percentage = What total bust measurement of pattern should be)

-Doll's bust measures 9-1/2" (9.5).
-Multiply 9.5 X 109%
(on calculator punch in 9.5, hit X key, then 109 and the % key)
-and you get 10.35 - or 10-5/16" --- which is 13/16" or close to 7/8" ease in the bust area.
So......when I enlarge the pattern instruction pictures (see future lessons)
the final pattern measurement of the bustline should be 10-5/16".

Example (Metric):
(Doll's bust measurement X Ease Percentage = What total bust measurement of pattern should be)

-Doll's bust measures 24 cm
-Multiply 24 X 109%
(on calculator punch in 24, hit X key, then 109 and the % key)
-and you get 26.16 cm - round down to 26 - which is 2 cm of ease
I usually make sure that I make the pattern is slightly larger than I desire the final
result to be. This gives me some room to pin out the tiny bit of excess (desired) when I
am doing my mock-up to get a more precise fit. It is much easier to pin out fabric than to
try to figure out how much to add if the garment is too small in the initial fitting stage.

**I do this same exercise with the waist, hip and shoulder width area to determine how much ease to add into the doll pattern I am creating. Note: On this dress pattern the ease in the waist area is 4-1/2" (11.5cm)
and in the hips it is 5" (12.5cm) - so don't assume that there is the same amount of ease in all areas!
When there are different ease amounts in different areas of the body/pattern you just have to figure
out an "average" as a starting point and the fine tuning will come in the mock-up fitting stage.

Analyzing The Pattern

There are times where you can analyze the actual pattern pieces (whether they are from a doll
pattern or from a people pattern) and it will tell you something about the possible fit of the
pattern before you even begin. This can also give you a clue as to whether you might need to
make some alterations to the pattern to fit your doll (or if the shaping of the pattern is
inappropriate for your doll's type--e.g., if you have a pattern for a mature, adult type doll it
probably won't work for a child doll). For example, the size and shape of the darts can tell you
if the pattern has been designed for a small-busted person/doll or a large busted person/doll.
Or in the case of a princess seamed garment, the shape of the side
front can again tell you if the pattern is fitted to a small or large busted person or doll.

Here are some examples:

This front is made to fit a body
with little or no breasts - note the
small vertical dart so bodice is
made to fit a "flat" shape.

This bodice is made to fit a full-
busted figure - note the larger vertical
dart, large side dart and more
defined armhole shape.

This princess seam bodice is made to
fit a body with little or no breasts - note
the gentle curve of the side front. This
bodice will only be slightly rounded -
fitting over very small (or no) breasts.

Note the curve on this side front - it
is made to fit over full breasts and
the curved part will have to be
eased in to fit the front seam - thus
creating the rounded shape of the
front necessary to fit a full-busted figure.

May 12, 2014
Copyright 2000 - Dale Rae Designs