This week I’ve released my newest design, Low-key vest! When knitting up the samples of this design (there are two versions – cropped & tunic length), I decided to knit 2 different sizes to model as a lesson in ease. Let me explain more!
What is “ease”?
Ease is the difference between your actual body measurement and the measurement of your finished garment. If a knitting pattern says it recommends you pick a size with 4-6″ of positive ease at the bust, that means you should pick a size whose finished garment measurement is 4-6″ larger than your actual bust measurement* (note: this is not your bra size – this is your actual measurement around your bust using a tape measure). Ease can also be negative if a garment is meant to be very close-fitting (personally, my patterns rarely recommend negative ease but that’s only because my aesthetic is all about layers, so it’s just not my style). If you see a pattern that asks for, say, 1-2″ of negative ease, that means you should pick a size whose finished garment measurement is 1-2″ smaller than your actual bust measurement.
Actual Bust vs Upper Torso
Now above I say that you’re supposed to add the positive ease amount to your actual bust measurement. However, for some people (especially those who have a larger bust but smaller shoulders), using your upper torso measurement (or sometimes referred to as “high bust”) instead of your full bust is often recommended. Below is a drawing that shows the difference between these 2 measurements:
So why does using the upper torso measurement as the ‘starting point’ instead of the full bust work better for some people? Because just because you have a larger bust doesn’t mean your overall frame is larger. So if you have found that using your actual full bust as your starting point (i.e, taking your full bust and then adding the suggested amount of ease) usually results in garments that feel too big on your frame, especially in the shoulder area, then I suggest trying your upper torso measurement as your starting point instead and see if that results in a sweater fit you prefer more. I first learned about this from the designer Amy Herzog years ago and so I’ll link here to her blog post about it.
How does a designer pick the amount of recommended ease?
There are so many factors that go into deciding on ease from the pattern designing perspective. The type of construction of the piece has a big impact – raglan or set-in sleeve constructions will typically call for 1-4″ of positive ease whereas a drop-shoulder construction typically calls for 6-12″ of positive ease (for more information about drop-shoulder ease, check out this blog post). The weight of the yarn/density of the fabric will also impact the amount of ease a designer will suggest. But it also has to do with the particular style/look/drape the designer had in mind for the piece. Often a designer will recommend a fairly large range in terms of the amount of ease, as well as let you know how much ease the model is wearing the sample. This will give you an idea of range the designer thinks will work well, as well as let you know how much ease you would need to have a similar look as that photographed.
But how do you determine what ease might be best for you?
Deciding on your own, personal amount of desired ease
One of the great things about knitting is the ability to create your own garment that’s unique to your body and your own taste. And the size you pick to knit is part of that “unique to you” experience. Everyone likes to wear their clothes differently – close-fit, oversized, or a combo of both with layers. It’s all about your own personal style. Here’s the best way to determine what you typically like to wear your sweaters/tops? Measure the sweaters in your closet!
Although store-bought, machine-knit sweaters will drape differently than hand-made ones, it will still give you an idea of the overall widths/lengths to tend to prefer and how they compare to your actual body measurements. For more tips on finding your “preferred fit”, check out this blog post!
Length can play a big factor, even when deciding on width-wise ease…
Ease is often listed as the difference between garment and actual measurements of the bust. But the reality is that the bust is not always the widest circumference on your body. So when I decide on the amount of ease I want in a garment, knowing where the garment will fall length-wise is extremely important, as well as how I want it to drape on my body (fitted vs more loose). And in my pattern Low-key, I’ve demonstrated this…
Low-key version 1: cropped length, being worn in size 2…
My actual bust measurement is around 33.5″ (and my upper torso is only about 1″ smaller than this). Size 2 has a finished circumference of approx. 38.5″. So in the above photo, I’m wearing size 2 with approx. 5″ of positive ease at the bust. This works for me in the cropped length because at this length (from my natural waist up to my shoulders), my bust is my widest circumference. However, when picking a size to knit for the tunic-length version, I changed things up…
Low-key version 2: tunic length, being worn in size 3:
I wanted to show a version that had a more flow-y, oversized vibe to it, so I knit this sample in the size 3. Size 3 has a finished circumference of approx 42.5″, so compared to my actual bust I’m wearing it with 9″ of positive ease at the bust. It feels more like a layering piece this way. Additionally, this is the tunic-length – the back will hit at the widest part of my hips. And my hips are the widest circumference on my body – they measure approx 39″ (so a good 6″ larger than my bust – I’m most definitely a pear shape!). Had I knit the size 2 in this tunic length, it would be hugging my hips (I’d have 1/2″ of negative ease at my hips). This could be fine if I wanted a more fitted, hip-hugging tunic, but I knew I wanted it to have more drape so by sizing up to size 3 I was able to get that look.
I have more ease in the bust for that more oversized, layered look AND, because it’s tunic-length, I accounted for my hip measurement and the piece falls on my body the way I wanted it to. So there is no wrong answer here – it all just depends on the way you want the garment to fall on your body.
The more garments you knit, the more you’ll learn
There’s nothing like first-hand experience. It might mean that there’s a learning curve and not every garment you knit you’ll be 100% happy with, but with each garment you knit you’ll learn more and more about the size and style that you like best. With time, you’ll feel more confident about picking your size and making alterations as needed so you have a finished garment that’s made just for your unique body!
My ease recommendations can be different depending on the pattern, so feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions about picking a size for any of my designs!
For Further Reading about Ease & Sizing…
Check out these additional blog posts I’ve written about this subject!