Wednesday, June 8, 2011

EASE /verb vs. EASE /noun

What if time travel is possible?
I know "Lost" portrayed it as a bad idea ... ignore that please ...
and think of the opportunities!

There are a couple things I would do, like go back to 1980 and buy stock in FedEx.  But before I did that, I would visit my younger self to tell Young-Robin a few very important things*.
For starters, I would talk about ease; ease as a noun and ease as a verb.

Ease as a noun:
There are your body measurements and there garment measurements.  If the garment is made from a woven fabric,  the actual garment will measure a little larger than your body.

Younger-Robin: "wait, woven fabric? aren't all fabrics woven?"
Now-Robin: "just stay with me, ok?"

Ease is the difference in measurements; the difference between body measurements and clothing measurements.

There is also such a thing as negative ease.  If you knit (or sew with knits) you will learn about negative ease.  A waistline of a knitted vest might measure less than the body measurement.

May I repeat:
Ease is the difference in measurements; the difference between body measurements and clothing measurements.

A rule of thumb:  you only need ease in the circumferences.  You need ease around your bust, your waist, your hips, your biceps.  You don't need ease from the nape of your neck to your waistline.  That measurement will be the same on your body as it is on the garment.  No matter what you are sewing, this is generally true.

Ease as a verb:

One must occasionally ease one piece of fabric into another.  For example, a sleeve head is eased into the armhole.  The stitching line on the sleeve head is longer than the stitching line on the armhole.  That extra fabric has to be eased in.  I think of it as  crowding the fabric.  That results in nice smooth sleeve cap without puckers.

Here is woven fabric:

If I tried to make this dress using a woven fabric, it would have been a very difficult and time consuming project. [I sewed it with a knit and it was easy.]

Here is what makes this dress time-consuming  (if sewn from a woven fabric):
  • Many fittings are necessary:
    • Bottom layer of the dress 
      • first fitting in muslin - determine wearing ease
      • subsequent fittings in muslin until satisfied
      • first fitting in fashion fabric
      • subsequent fittings in fashion fabric until satisfied
    • Upper layer of the dress (the ruched layer) 
      •  pin ruching to dress form until satisfied.
      • after constructing the ruched portion of the dress, baste into place, and, you guessed it
        • schedule a fitting
        • make further adjustments
        • Lather, rinse and repeat
  • Construction
    • Sew the underlayer part of the dress
    • [after fittings] pick apart the seam on the under layer of the dress, so you can permanently sew the ruched layer to underlayer.
  • Hope and Pray the person wearing the dress does not gain or lose an ounce of weight.

To make this dress from a spandex knit, well.... you can read my posts about how I did it.  It was fast, and it was easy.

In a nutshell, I made a pattern that was smaller than the body.  My pattern relied on negative ease. Spandex stretches.  Whether it was 10% smaller or 15% smaller did not matter.  Precision was not a big deal.  It stretched and it fit.

If I had understood that sooner, I would have been a much better seamstress sooner.
Oh well, no complaints.

Every fabric is different.  Even when I use a pattern that has worked for me in the past, it may turn out completely different because the fabric has more give to it, or maybe the fabric doesn't drape the same way other fabrics draped.

The answer to this conundrum is very simple:  feel the fabric.  Pull it, stretch it and wash it.  Let that little voice inside tell you what this fabric is doing.  Trust your tactile senses.  Let your hands tell you what they know.

Sewing is a sensory experience.  Your hands know the answers - listen to them.

Thanks for listening.
Especially if you are young :)
Don't wait until you are 54 to have this epiphany, OK?!


* I might also mention that everything turns out for the best, so try not to worry so much.


    1. Mmmm, great post! I want more!

      When you ease a woven fabric are you supposed to put the longer piece on top or on bottom when you are sewing? I tend to just pull like heck as I go. I suspect this is not the best way. I don't really understand what people mean when the talk about "crowding the feed dogs." I know what the feed dogs are, but how do you crowd them?

    2. The longer piece (or the interfaced piece) goes on top.

      Great post on intuitive sewing!

    3. Great post Robin, I am so happy you had an ephiphany and shared it with us :).

    4. Excellent post. I think I'm going to make all my clothes from Spandex from now on!

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. @Karin, Robin may have a better explanation, but remember that the feed dogs are pulling the bottom layer (away from you) and the presser foot is pushing the top layer (toward you). This often results in ending up with a bit of extra fabric on top when you're stitching (i.e., the layers are uneven, which is why some people use a walking foot).

      You can use this to your advantage when you're easing a sleeve, for example, by putting the wider piece, the piece you need to "ease in" (the sleeve) on the bottom and the shorter piece (the armscye on the bodice) on top.

      Does that make sense?

    7. Thanks Step! Thanks Peter! You guys just contradicted each other though :-) Any tie breakers out there?

    8. For the same reasons as Peter, I was also taught (years ago) to put the longer edge on the bottom and let the feed dogs work for you, not against you.

      Great post, Robin, though I was definitely sewing knits prior to 1980. Maybe it's just us relaxed Californians. ;)

    9. Great post Robin :)

      I'm also for longer on the bottom as Peter expalined.

    10. I put longer on bottom except when I set in sleeves, for some reason. I guess that is how I learned to do it from my teachers.

    11. Great post! If only one had all the knowledge and the wisdom way back when.

    12. Thank you for the great post! I agree, let your hands tell you about the fabric. I would add: let the fabric tell you what it wants to be.
      I totally agree about telling my youger self about Fed Ex. I'd tell her Microsoft and Apple, too!

    13. Oh, and the longer piece goes on the bottom, agreeing with Peter. "Sew with a relaxed bottom". The longer piece is the 'relaxed" one. The feed dogs will take up a little fabric, "easing" it just a little as the machine sews.

    14. I am a longer on the bottom woman as well. Let those feed dogs do the work and they really do. Took me a while to actually believe this sewing rule but it does work.

    15. Ugh. That's what I get for late-night typing. Peter's right, the longer piece goes on the bottom. I was thinking straight/curved, in that case the straighter edge goes on top (like a sleeve) and the curvier edge goes on the bottom (which would also be the longer piece). Sorry!

    16. oh how, nice we are all in agreement!

      Peter described the mechanics of the feed dogs and presser foot very well:
      "the feed dogs are pulling the bottom layer (away from you) and the presser foot is pushing the top layer (toward you). This often results in ending up with a bit of extra fabric on top when you're stitching (i.e., the layers are uneven, which is why some people use a walking foot)."

      This is also why some people sew on a Pfaff. With the built-in walking foot, it allows me to sew without pinning or hand-basting very much. It's especially helpful on knits and very slippery fabrics.

      shams, Ha ha! I sewed knits, blissfully, before 1980so in bliss. As they say, "ignorance is bliss".
      Until you are wearing the garment and the seam breaks!

    17. @Karin, when I am sewing something where the top piece needs to be eased into the botom piece, I hold the bottom piece gently taut, while simultaneously pushing the top piece so that it is, well, tail-gating.

      I am pushing it in to help the easing process.
      Does that make sense? Where is my videographer when I need one!

    18. Would you consider it "ease" if you want a blouson effect in the bodice area? It needs to be longer in length than just the standard neck to waist measurement.

    19. @Linda, I consider that to be a design feature. Extra length was added to create a special effect, as opposed to ensuring the ability to move in the garment.

      Also, the general rule of thumb is that ease is required for circumferences, such as waist or hip. Ease is not necessary for vertical lengths.

      A length, such as neck to waist, doesn't need ease for comfort. In your example, it was added to create a style.


    Thanks for visiting my blog and Happy Sewing, xo

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