Seriously, think about it..."Do we as sewists really understand ease and how it relates to the patterns we buy?" This thought came to me as I was reading Gertie's blog post today.
How many times have we looked at the picture on the front of a pattern and made an assumption without actually reading the verbiage on the back of the pattern envelope. That pattern description is there for a reason and it gives clues to the pattern designer's thoughts, as well as, to how the pattern company drafted the pattern pieces.
So let's examine the definition of the word we sewists frequently use.
In "Fit for Real People" by Pati Palmer and Maria Alto there is an entire chapter dedicated to ease. They start their chapter with this definition:
"Ease is the difference between body measuements and garment measurements. Some people like tight clothes and others like loose-fitting clothes. The amount of ease you find comfortable is personal perference. It varies with size, age and lifestyle."
Then they go on to define two types of ease ~ minimum and design and what types of fabrics have more and less ease.
Adele Margolis in her book, "How to make clothes that fit and flatter" says this about ease:
"It is difficult and often unwise to give standard amounts of ease. An amount that's right for one person may be altogether wrong for another. If you just want to stand around decoratively, you'll need less ease. If you're the type that insists on moving around you'll want more. If you're heavy, you'll need more; your muscles in motion take up more room. If you're an active type, you'll feel imprisoned by a dress that encases you. An uncomfortably snug dress that keeps you tugging at it may spoil your fun and your looks. A comfortable one leaves you free to enjoy all around you without worrying about "bustin' out all over" - like June."
Now I'm one of the first to stand up and criticize the pattern companies when I feel that they are coming up short when serving us their core customer. However, sometimes I think our own lack of understanding causes us to blame the pattern companies for a wrong that isn't theirs but ours...and that's myself included. We have to know & understand a few basic sewing terms and pay attention to the clues that the pattern company is giving us.
For example ~ Loose fitting, very loose fitting, fitted and semi-fitted are terms that regularly appear in the pattern descriptions of the Big 4 Pattern Companies. After looking through a few of my Burda Style Mags, I do realize that this information is not included in any of their definitions. However, the Burda envelope patterns that I own do use these words such as; close-fitting, loose fitting and fitted.
I think we need to determine what amount of ease we like to wear before we cut into a pattern or are swayed by the pattern's photo or sketch. And once you have a set amount of ease that you like to have in garments, then carefully use the wording on the pattern envelope to assist you when picking the style of garment to make...but to generally state that the pattern companies allow to much ease in their patterns...does not take into account these factors or the fact that the pattern company sells patterns to fit a variety of people who have different ideas about how much ease their clothing should have. What works for you, may not work for me and vice versa.
We need to learn what works for us and use that. We need to learn the principles of minimum, of very loose-fitting or of close-fitting ease and process that into our reasoning when starting a garment. I think when we have a better understanding of how ease works in not only our garment's design but in our everyday lives, we will be happier with the ease in our finished garments.
To that end, I can not recommend highly enough, the book, Fit for Real People. As stated earlier, there is an entire chapter on ease, how to measure for it, how to understand it in relation to a pattern vs. an actual garment, and how to achieve the right amount of ease that we desire in our garments.
I hope I haven't sounded like I'm lecturing...I guess I'm just passionate about the fact that we sewists should understand all of the complexities of making a well-fitted garment. There are just so many decisions that we must make that ultimately affect the outcome of the finished garment...and there are several great tools in the marketplace that can assist us with learning to make the most informed choices.
So the next time you make a garment and wonder why it's too big or too small, ask yourself if you took the time to look for the "ease words" when choosing your pattern!