Understanding Ease - Patty Lyons | Knitting Teacher

Understanding Ease

We have just begun to swatch for Harbor Springs Video KAL and it’s time to talk fit and the ever so mysterious “ease”.

In the last video sweater class for Costa Maya I showed the same sweater tried on several different body types (The Many Shapes of Costa Maya.) This really helped people see how the same sweater can look different AND great on a lot of different shapes and sizes.

Before we do the same thing for Harbor Springs, I want to dig into that age old knitter’s question:

What is “ease”

Earlier this year I wrote about this for Twist Collective and I thought this would be a good time to expand on this topic.

First, the basics and a bit of myth busting

Q: What is it???

A: Simply put ease is the number of inches larger or smaller than your body.

Q: But what part of your body?

A: This is where things can get misunderstood. When a pattern mentions ease, as in “meant to fit with 2 – 4″ of positive ease”, or “Use a size with 2 – 4″ of positive ease” it is referring to the chest measurement.

Why the chest? That’s because the shoulder measurement will be different with different sweater constructions. For a set in sleeve you have a “cross back” from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, but what about dolman, or yoke, or raglan like Soho Slip Stitch or Harbor Springs? So . . . that leaves the consistent measurement of chest.

When it comes to your chest measurement you really have two to keep in mind: full chest and high chest. To get your full chest measurement, wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your chest. For the high chest, raise your arms, and wrap the tape measure around your body (above your full chest) right under your arms.

The high chest measurement is a skeletal measurement and will connect more directly with set in sleeve measurements like armhole depth and cross back. The full chest is a flesh measurement and sometimes when we add too much ease to the full chest you can get an ill fitting sweater.

For many knitters they find it best to use their high chest measurement as the guide to what size to knit.

Q: Is ease build into the pattern or do I have to add it?

A: A sweater pattern is the instructions to make that finished garment. The schematic measurements are the finished garment. Any mention of ease is there to help guide you as to what size to knit.

Q: How do I know what size to knit?

A: This is guided in part based on the sweater construction. For instance a drop shoulder might have 6–8 inches of positive ease because part of the width of the body is what will drop down over the shoulder (get it?) to be the top of the sleeve. If the sweater is too small, it will be bunchy under the arms. A dolman or modified drop shoulder also needs more ease to fit you correctly. A raglan sleeve might be a slightly more relaxed fit than a set-in sleeve, which can be knit to a variety of eases. It is also part personal preference. A pattern might say “use 2 – 4″ of positive ease”, but if you like 0 – 2″ of ease, and the sweater construction allows that, well, it’s your sweater!

Harbor Springs was test knit by several people. Although I thought every knitter looked great in the size they picked, one knitter said she wanted to knit it again the oversized fit, and another knitter said she wanted to knit it again in the relaxed fit. Personal preference!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at some examples.

The Fit Of Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs is a raglan sweater, so the fit is going to be more athletic (think baseball jersey) then a set in sleeve. That being said, it really depends on what you like.

The note for Harbor Springs says:

Sweater can be worn with a range of eases over full chest. For a relaxed fit, use 0 – 3” of positive ease or for an oversized fit, use 3 – 6” of positive ease.

Let’s look at the same three sweaters worn on different people to get a sense of what size you’d like:

Relaxed Fit:

First up we have the 38″ size in the Witch Hazel worn by Nell. Nell is 5′ 4″, she has 1” of positive ease over full chest, 2” of positive ease over high chest.

Here’s the 41 1/2″ size in Sumac worn by Virgina. Virginia is 5′ 5″, she has 2 1/4” of positive ease over full chest, 3 1/2” of positive ease over high chest.

Finally there’s the 45″ size in Cyprus worn by Rachel. Rachel is 5′ 4″, she has 1” of positive ease over full chest, 3” of positive ease over high chest.

Now, the same three sweaters

Oversized Fit:

First up we have the 38″ size in the Witch Hazel worn by me. I am 5’3″, I have 3 1/2” of positive ease over full chest, 5 1/2” of positive ease over high chest.

Here’s the 41 1/2″ size in Sumac worn by Nell. Nell is 5′ 4″, she has 4 1/2” of positive ease over full chest, 5 1/2” of positive ease over high chest.

Finally there’s the 45″ size in Cyprus worn by Nancy. Nancy is 5′ 5″, she has 4” of positive ease over full chest, 8” positive ease over high chest.

Too BIG

Here’s the 41 1/2″ size in Sumac worn by me. I’m 5′ 3″, with 6 1/2” of positive ease over full chest, 9 1/2” of positive ease over high chest.

Fit considerations with Raglan

– Since the top of the sleeve and the width of the neck front and back all together make your neck circumferenc, you might make adjustments with gauge or stitch count or even how high you knit the neck band to make sure you don’t get a sloppy neck.

– Since the width of the body will also dictate how far down on your shoulders the top of the sleeve comes, this will effect sleeve length. There are easy adjustments you can make to get the sleeve length you want. (e.g. Nell might like the oversized fit, but she would knit the sleeves shorter)

Remember the KAL Video Sweater class will come with all the tutorials you need to get a perfect fit . . . yes, even if you don’t match gauge!!

So, are you in? What fit will you choose. Can’t decide, make two! I have the Witch Hazel (38″ oversized fit) and I’m almost finished with another one in Hawthorn (36″ relaxed fit)

Learn More

 

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