Understanding Ease in Knitting and Crochet Patterns

We get a lot of questions about ease very frequently. So I wanted to write a blog that we could share with knitters and crocheters when questions arise—this will ideally be a living document that’s updated when people have questions that aren’t already answered in the post.

Let’s begin with a discussion of what exactly is ease. You may have seen notes in a pattern that say something like “Garment was intended to be worn with 2–6″ of ease.” Or you may see the phrase “To fit bust size 32 (36, 40, 44…)” bust circumference.” Those notes, and notes in that vein, are designed to help you make an informed choice about which size to choose by understanding how much ease is recommended for a given pattern. But what is ease?

Ease is the difference between the finished measurements of the garment and the actual measurements of the intended wearer.

That means that you should take your actual measurements and compare them to the finished measurements of the garment you intend to make. You can have a friend or partner take your measurements with a measuring tape if you feel comfortable doing so, but make sure they keep the tape horizontal to the floor (that is, not sitting at an angle on your body). The Craft Yarn Council has an excellent page on which measurements are important for ensuring fit, though for the purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing on the bust measurements, as that’s the most common way many crafters decide which size to make.

Some of the key measurements for sweater fitting, from Craft Yarn Council.

So, let’s pretend we’re making a sweater for a woman with a 35″ bust. She’s thinking about making Kai, Bena, and Abatina. For reference, all of these photos show the sweaters on the same model and were photographed on or around the same day, so her body measurements would be the same in all of these photos (I don’t know the model’s actual bust measurement so we’re going to pretend she’s our lady with the 35″ bust).

KaiBenaAbatina

Kai is shown in size 36″; Bena is shown in size 40″; Abatina is shown in 52″. I’m going to subtract the 35″ bust measurement from those numbers to determine ease. Respectively, the each have 1″, 5″, and 17″ of ease on our fictitious Example Lady. You can find the ease suggestions for each of these patterns by reading the “Pattern Information” notes on the Berroco website.

Kai was designed to be worn with 2–4″ of ease, Bena was designed to be worn with 4–6″ of ease, and Abatina’s note says that it was designed to be “quite oversized.” In this example, (and again, playing with the idea that the model is a 35″ bust) Kai is worn with less ease than recommended by the designer, but it still looks very nice on the model. Bena is modeled with an ease allowance that falls within the recommended range. For Abatina, I think we can all agree that 17″ of ease is quite oversized.

The most important thing to remember about the recommended ease, however, is that it’s just a recommendation. When you’re knitting or crocheting a garment for yourself, you have to keep in mind what you like. If you like your sweaters more fitted, say with 0–2″ of ease, choose a finished measurement that is 0–2″ more than your actual measurements. If you like sweaters a little roomier, go with anywhere from 2–6″. And if you’re very fond of the oversized style, 6″+ is what you want.

Ease is a function of style, and style is incredibly personal.

It’s important to remember that not all bodies are formed the same way—two women with a 34″ chest measurement could have very different bodies! Maybe one is tall and broad-shouldered but the other one is shorter and more buxom. So they may want differing amounts of ease for the same sweater—maybe the taller lady wants a loose, flowing piece, and the shorter lady wants to show off her curves. It’s entirely a matter of preference.

We’ve got a video to help with this basic understanding of ease and garment fit, and I hope this helps! But I also want to hear from you—what questions do you have about fitting garments to your body?

We’ve already had one great question in the video comments (you can leave your questions here on the blog or on the video), and it’s going to require another blog post, so ask away!

 

6 Comments

  1. … but… if the pattern don’t talk about ease and measurement for say then… how can we figure out? Let say I have a bust 35′ and the pattern says that this bust size is this amount of stitches but don’t give a final result measurement (with the ease)… how can we deal with this?

    1. Patterns should always give you a finished measurement—if they don’t, that’s a poorly written pattern. Because you can’t even begin to choose a size, never mind take a guess at how much ease you want, if you don’t have any sizing (measurement) options.

      I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone, and I’ll edit your comment to remove any names, but do you have a pattern in mind that doesn’t list finished measurements? I just want to make sure I’m understanding your question, and can adapt it into my blog post if necessary.

  2. I am doing Weatherman. The bust sizes are 90 cm (I figured that to be about 35 1/2′ and 99 which I figured out to be 39″. I am having problems with the gauge though. On size 8 needles I have 5 stitches per inch but I hate to go up to a larger needle or the worsted weight I am using will make the sweater very thin and I don’t think it would look nice in the patterned part. If I make the medium which takes 178 stitches cast on, I get it equaling about 35.6 inches which is the size I want. I would use the length of sleeve and length for the smaller size because those are about my measurements. Will this work, or should I change yarn a second time?
    Harriet

    1. Hi Harriet! If you like the fabric that you’re getting at 5 stitches to the inch, then I think you’re right on track to knit the medium size and end up with the 35½” size.

  3. Also If I want more ease with the pattern do I have to add a specific number to get the pattern correctly fitting around the sweater. I am actually planning to add a steek of about 6 st so I can make it into a cardigan. Any suggestions how one adds ease with the pattern in the yolk?

    1. For this question, you might want to read through the Adding Larger Sizes blog post. Weatherman is a little tricky because it’s such a wide repeat—to add extra ease but have it fit with the stitch pattern, you’d need to add 16 stitches, which at your gauge is an extra 3″ (which may be the amount of ease you’d like).

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