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Conversational Threads

Adjusting for ease with different fabric

scrubble4 | Posted in Fitting on

Hi:  As I was moving from sleep to wakefulness this morning, I started to think about the following:

How do you adjust for different weights and hand in fabrics for the same pattern, that you already have fit to you.  For example:

  • are there seams you make sure never change length and shape such as armsyce, neckline center front and back seam on pants? 
  • do you make the changes (I think they are ease changes but I am not sure I am using ease correctly here) through the centre of pattern or all at the sides?
  • is there a rule of thumb that guides you as to how much pattern to add or subtract.

I am thinking about the following type of fabric changes:

  • from jean weight denim to heavy crepe silk
  • from cotton batiste on a top to mid weight imitation suede.

This is probably a question pattern drafters and designers are able to answer, but any help from anyone is appreciated.  I should know this, but I don’t and couldn’t seem to puzzle it through myself this morning.

Thanks Scrubble4

Edited 2/5/2008 11:33 am ET by scrubble4


  1. starzoe | | #1

    The first thing that entered my mind on reading your posting was about the "jean weight denim to heavy crepe silk". It is highly unlikely that you would want to use the same pattern for both these fabrics. The denim would remain stiff and stand out from the body, the silk would drape and flow around your body; two very different applications.In reality, that comparison would probably go for any extreme fabric weight differences and my take on your question in general is to decide on ease for different styles/patterns rather than on weight of fabric in general.Of course there are times when you may want to use the same pattern for two different kinds of fabrics, say a blouse in cotton and a blouse in silk. A muslin might be wise here if you are unsure. The fabric suggested on an envelope is your best guide, each pattern is designed for particular fabric(s)and the intended amount of ease is included for that fabric but that doesn't mean you cannot add more ease if you want a different effect.

    1. scrubble4 | | #2

      starzoe:  thanks, so I am simply barking up the wrong tree.  In my examples I did use extremes of weight differences and I agree that pattern styles require different hands and weights.  I just hadn't melded that piece of information with this other quest about ease.

      I do make muslins (ad nauseum it seems sometimes) and will undoubtedly continue to do so.  I guess I should have completely woken up before I sent off my question.  It just was one of those mind teasers that got me going.

      Thanks for your knowledge and time.  Scrubble4

      1. stitchagain | | #3

        There is a good article in THREADS that is on the topic of ease and fluidity of the fabric that is being used.

        I'll try to find it but you should be able to look it up in the index.   


        1. scrubble4 | | #4


          "There is a good article in THREADS that is on the topic of ease and fluidity of the fabric that is being used."

          Thanks for your suggestion.  I went to Tips and Tricks and found the following:


          "Also think about what fabric you plan to use. Heavy or stiff fabrics usually make better close-fitting garments, and soft or lightweight fabrics are best in loose-fitting garments where they won't show every curve or bump. After that, ease often boils down to personal preference. Simply ask yourself if you like your garments loose, close-fitting, or somewhere in between."

          Thanks for your help Scrubble4

        2. scrubble4 | | #14

          stitchagain:  "a good article in THREADS that is on the topic of ease and fluidity of the fabric"

          Stitchagain:  I have been looking without success, but I did find in July 05 #119 the following interesting bit of info on ease:

          "To make a blouse or jacket pattern fit like a coat, add a prescribed amount of ease." pg 72 by Karen Howland

          With each larger item (blouse to jacket and then jacket to coat) you do the following:

          lower the neck by 1/8 inch

          raise the end of the shoulder to allow for a desired shoulder pad

          extend the shoulder 1/2 inch (varies with style and current trends)

          lower the underarm 1/2 inch

          add 1/2 inch to the sides.

          some more detail on sleeves which requires 1" for biceps and 1" for lowered armhole (more for a coat)

          I will give all the info on the sleeve changes  if anyone is interested. 

          From this I take it that if you go from a blouse to a coat you do these increases two times. 

          This article is close to my original question in that we can use a pattern that we already know fits us, but change its use from blouse to jacket to coat.  My question was changing fabric.  Again, it is ease that plays into this solution. 

          All of these thoughts of mine are hinging around the holy grail of a core set of patterns that fit and then all we need to do is change a style feature, the material or the use (blouse, jacket or coat)  to create a complete wardrobe.  I find that very appealing. 

          Thanks for your information that sent me back to my issues when I was unsuccessful with my magazine search here online.  I enjoyed a number of articles.  Scrubble4

          Edited 2/7/2008 2:31 pm ET by scrubble4

          1. stitchagain | | #17

            Issue 51 pp40-43

            ALL ABOUT EASE   by Gale Grigg Hazen

            The amount of extra fullness you need in a garment depends on the drape of the fabric


            Sorry that its such an old issue but I happen to find a bunch of used Threads and had recently read this article.  Maybe you can find it at the library if you don't have a copy.



          2. scrubble4 | | #18

            Stitchagain:  I am so lucky.  I was recently able to purchase the rest of the Threads that I was missing on ebay.  They are still at my PO so I don't have in my hand, but I will soon.  #51 is in that group.  As soon as I get them I will enjoy this article.  Thanks so much for your great sleuthing.  Scrubble4

      2. starzoe | | #5

        The question was good, I am sure that some of us here have pondered the same thing. I usually don't "muslin" except for something completely out of my head, then I do need help from "m".

  2. jjgg | | #6

    this is a good question, as someone else mentioned, commercial patterns are designed for a particular weight fabric, some one on another thread (8013.1 ) was complaining about a vintage vogue dress she made out of light weight poly satin, the pattern calls for organza, georgette, chiffon, voile etc. She was not able to gather the skirt up because her fabric was too thick. Also, the halter top did not fit her - the fabric was the wrong drape,it stood out from her body instead of draping onto her,. Chiffon etc is very limp, drapy. Poly satin is firm, stands away from you instead of drpaing onto you.So, that being said, there is no reason why you can't use the same patterns, well, not exactly the same, you would have to take out a lot of the fullness of the pattern to use the same style in a heavier fabric.On the other hand, you can use a chiffon like fabric when the directions call for a satin, you just have to underline it with something to give it the hand of satin. - beef it up so to speak.Also, when adding fullness to a pattern, it depends on waht you want to do - you add it in different places. Lets say you have a button down shirt, works great out of cotton, you like the overall fit - the shoulders, armscye, length, style. it has a side bust dart, and skinny darts down the front and back, you want to make it out of chiffon. It would look really skimpy out of the same pattern, youwant it to flow over your body - you have to remove the darts - you won't need them when the fullness is added, -= you don't add it to the side of the pattern at the side seam, you slash the pattern from the bottom edge up to the shoulder and spread it out, you can slash it several times and add the fullness evenly spaced. This way the shoulder length is unchanged, the side seam is unchanged, you've just added more fabric in between all those lines.Now, try to picture this in your mind, if you slashed the pattern only right next to the center front line, and spread that out, the 'fullness' you added would hang just at the center front, and the side of the front shirt would fit just like the old one did. thats why you have to slash it evenly throughtout the front - really just 2 or 3 slashes should be enough, and then spread them all the same amount. - what this does is shift the straight grain (which you want to remain essentially down the center of the front piece, so both the center f ront edge and the side seam will be off grain.

    1. scrubble4 | | #7

      jjgg:  First a BIG THANKS!

      "fullness is added, -= you don't add it to the side of the pattern at the side seam, you slash the pattern from the bottom edge up to the shoulder and spread it out"

      I think I understand.  I hadn't thought of getting rid of the darts, but it makes sense.  Do you mean the bust dart as well if you have one?  (I am guessing it stays or must have that fullness added as well as the ease) When you spread, and yet maintain the shoulder seam length, I am assuming you gather the shoulder seam to keep it the same length with the additional material. 

      What about at the neckline.  How can you add more width at centre front and not change the neckline seam? 

      I so appreciate your knowledge as you exactly got the idea I was trying to figure out.  I know you need to make the changes but not sure quite where and how while still keeping the essential fit of the original.  I do my muslins mainly out of old sheets so they are fairly stiff.  I also have some inexpensive poly chiffon that I can use for softer material, but even it being made of poly is stiffer than the silk rendition.  So having an idea of how much to compensate from one "hand" to another "hand' is really useful knowledge to have.

      Thanks Scrubble4

      1. jjgg | | #8

        Scrubble,When I talk about adding fullness, it's the same as adding ease.Depends on how much ease (fullness) you are adding if you take out the side bust dart. If you are adding A LOT (going from stiff cotton to flowy chiffon - I would add a lot) they you won't need the side bust dart as the chiffon will flow over the bust and shape to you. If you are just adding a little bit to make the blouse more roomy I would leave the dart in. You mentioned something about gathering the shoulder seam - you don't change the length of the shoulder seam at all, unless of course you want to and then yes, would gather the seam. but now you are making big design changes.If you are making small changes - just a little bit of ease added, keep the center front on the straight grain. You could just move the side seam over a bit - remember that the amount of ease added needs to be divided by the number of seams you have - (one piece back, one piece front + 4 seams . 2 back side seams, 2 front side seam) so if you wanted to add one inch of ease, you would add 1/4 inch at each side seam piece. Doing this will add 1/2 inch to the armscye. This may or may not be a problem. Most American patterns have way too much ease in the sleeve cap so taking up an extra 1/2 inch won't be an issue, but if it is, then you have to adjust your sleeve for it.(the hip bone is connected to the knee bone...the knee bone is connected to the ankle bone......)If and when you make changes to a pattern, it is important to go back and measure each seam line (not the cutting line - measure 5/8 " in where you will sew it) and make sure they are all the same length.

      2. sewornate | | #9

        When I read on here about altering patterns, I haven't heard anyone mention the pivot and slide method of altering patterns.  I use a combination of different methods, but really like the pivot and slide method.  I am sure I have a book around here somewhere on that to refer you to, but I don't know where it is.

        Basically, you do not slash patterns,  and you retain necklines and armholes.  You put a piece of paper (waxed paper works) under the pattern.  You choose a pivot point and put in a pin, then swing the area you are widening (or narrowing) from that point and mark it on the waxed paper.  You can then switch the pivot point pin to another location.  You would need a book with pictures to see this.  It runs in my mind that Sewing with Nancy did this method on their shows on TV, and probably has something on it. 

        What I like about it is you don't slash and spread the pattern and you retain arm holes and necklines unless they are a part of your problem areas.

        1. scrubble4 | | #10

          sewornate:  "You would need a book with pictures to see this" 

          Thanks for reminding of this and you are right I do need a video to get it into my head.  I think there is an article on this somewhere in Threads.  I did a search and didn't find it, but I will look again.  I know there are the three methods: seams, slash and your pivot and slide.  I would like to learn more about your pivot and slide method so I have another tool in my box of tricks. 

          I also looked on YouTube to see if they had something on it, but couldn't find anything.

          Thanks Scrubble4

          1. sewornate | | #11

            scrubble4--I found a book on pivot and slide among my huge collection.  It is "Fitting Finesse" by Nancy Zieman.

          2. scrubble4 | | #12

            sewornate:  Thank you so much.  That is not in my library but I am sure I can get it from the library.  Scrubble4

          3. Beth | | #13

            Peggy Sagers has a video about altering patterns, adding ease, moving darts, that I like. The pacing is just right, not to fast, with clear pictures. The styles are out of date, but not the concepts.I'm not affiliated in any way, just a happy viewer. You might be able to borrow the tape. It is part of the ASG library here in Sacramento.

          4. Teaf5 | | #15

            There is an ASG in Sacramento, and it has a library?!? Can you give me any contact information?

          5. Beth | | #16

            Where are you? Are you an ASG member?

            There is a web site for the Sacramento Chapter with information about the neighborhood groups. Many groups have a rotating lending library.

            Does this help?


          6. Teaf5 | | #19

            I'm about twenty miles from the Capitol, and not a member of the ASG because I didn't know that it existed in California. Thank you for the website information; maybe we'll run into each other!

          7. Beth | | #20

            I'm about 50 miles from the capital. I don't drive any distance any more. Do you plan to attend the garage sale on April 22?

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