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Conversational Threads

Ease…Ease…and, more Ease!

WandaJ | Posted in Fitting on

I have been reading discussions in Gatherings about the above subject. I understand it is highly unlikely that one can just take a pattern from the envelope, press, layout and cut and sew; however,  fitting, including ease is sometimes enough to discourage one from sewing, and I’ve been sewing for a long……..time.

As we know being a good sewist and garment constructionist is one thing, but that seems to not be worth a hill of uncooked or properly stored beans if the garment will not fit right, as it not only does not feel right but it looks sloppy.

I too think I’ve read everyone’s book on pattern fitting and alterations, including pattern blocks, but just as I strongly consider making a suit I’m back to the issue of ease…design ease, wearing ease.

Adding to that there’s various charts that have been published for how much ease to add where, i.e., for blouses/dresses, jackets/coats, pants/skirts.  But, these charts do not seem to indicate whether or not the ease is for design or wearing.

There’s enough to remember about altering a pattern, then to have to move into an oops mode regarding adding ease.

I wish someone would write a book that gives a step-by-step, not problem-by-problem guide to pattern alterations; and, that they would make the book clear and easy to understand.

Perhaps, I’ve skipped this type of book and someone in this forum knows about this book and can tell me what it is.

Perhaps I’m just venting :-}.



  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    It's o.k. to vent, Wandaj; that way, you don't get ulcers and hypertension! There are lots of well-written fitting books on the market, but probably none can be very accurate for any particular person because ease is such a personal thing.

    There are also fashion trends in ease--right now, most jackets and tops are far more closely fitted than they were for the preceding 15 years, but in a different way than in the 1950s; the Europeans favor far less ease than Americans do, and people in different climates and different types of jobs need different amounts of ease, too. To complicate matters, you need different ease with different fabrics for the same pattern. On top of all that, you have just plain personal comfort and preference--no wonder there is no magical chart!

    I like to determine ease by comparing the garment I'm making to a similar I already own and love. I checked my recent short jacket project against a recently purchased one that I love and discovered that I needed much less ease than the pattern called for. I always do this before cutting out the fabric and then again in the pin-basted stage so that I can make major adjustments early and finer adjustments midway.

    If you don't have any garments you can use as templates, you probably have to experiment more, but eventually you'll learn that you usually like more or less than the amount usually provided by each of the various pattern companies. Take hope in that challenges like these are always opportunities for learning!

  2. mem | | #2

    I aqgree  with TEaf5 The buiggest improvemnt in the quality of my sewing came when I started to use a dummy and when I started making muslins . This is alot of work but I have decided that I am going to make only the things which I cant buy because they would be too expensive made in the fabrics I would love and I am going to spend time and enjoy the journey rather than being focused on the end product. This makes it ok to spend hours getting things right . I also have a small range of patterns which fit very well as I have fiddled with them and I have invested in a pattern making book which helps me to alter them in the ways that I want to.I also dont sew highly fashion driven clothes as they are out of fashion too quickly for me to really get my time and efforts worth out of them.

  3. User avater
    Becky-book | | #3

    I know how you feel!!!  I had a set of well loved and well fitting patterns that I could just pull out, cut, etc, but  30 lbs and gravity caught me off guard so....... nothing fits like it used to fit!!  and every new garment must be made at least twice to get it right.


  4. SkiNsew | | #4

    I agree with all of the other posts.  you simply have to get a good sloper as a starting point.  After that you have to make a few muslins so that you get your basic pants, blouses, dresses to fit the way you prefer.  Then you only have to make muslins when you are using a fabric that has a different hand than the ones that you normally use or are doing a pattern that is different than what you normally would do. 

    You might want to look at some of the pattern software to see if this would be something that would help you.  I use the Pattern Master Boutique by Wild Ginger.  I like it very much but I will tell you that it took about 3 slopers to get each item right and then it took several muslins to refine the fit so it is no magic bullet.

    I watched a program on TV that showed a Paris Fashion House getting a collection ready.  It made me feel a lot better to see that every model had to have multiple fittings to get their garments to fit exactly right.  It convinced me that there is no quick way.

    1. WandaJ | | #5

      While you are most likely right about there is no easy way, I still feel like urghhhhhhh :-} when it comes to the pattern alteration, fitting issue.  In my area of the country there is not a known interest in garment making, therefore, the teachers and facilitators that are accessible in other parts of the country just do not come this way.  Reading all of the different books just gets more confusing and frustrating.  Now, I'm considering garment measurement and pattern comparison for fit.  That is based on a 'wonderful' Chanel-like jacket I made a couple of years ago that fit just like it was supposed to...made for me.

      That pattern for the Chanel-like jacket was a Stretch-n-Sew Pattern. On the other hand I made a complementary basic dress from one of this company's patterns and (why I don't remember) added the ease and it's always been somewhat too big, but due to the straight design it was not noticeable to anyone but me.

      Maybe I need to find the 'one' pattern company that I really like their fit and consider fabric and embellishment changes to get what I'm looking for in garments.

      Over the years, periodically, I've looked at the Computer-Aided Patternmaking Software and for some reason I was not sold. I'm glad to know that it is now working for you.


    2. SewNancy | | #8

      I am never happy with ready to wear fit, and most women I know buy clothes that either have too much ease so that they can fit lots of people or just dont' fit well. My time is well spent when I have spent it on fitting a pattern. I do find that I sew mostly with Burda World of Fashion magazine because I can make the same adjustments from pattern to pattern and I understand their ease. But, as you noticed with the French fashion houses, I make many ft adjustments along the way. They're worth it. Most of the fitting books out there, and I have many of them, do have an order to adjust in if you really look. I know that the Palmer Pletch books do. My best fit happened after I made a duct tape double and could really see where and what my figure flaws are. I have been sewing alot lately and with all things, the more you do it the better you get at it. You are right there is no easy way to good fit.

      1. SkiNsew | | #9

        Thanks for writing.  It is nice to hear what others think of my comments.  Whether we agree or disagree we all learn a lot from each other.  I know that my sewing has improved just from all the tips that I have picked up on the boards.

  5. sewingkmulkey | | #6

    Please try not to get discouraged but I have to say that after many years of sewing hundreds (perhaps thousands) of garments for myself, family and clients I have been never able to sew up a pattern "as is".  I've always had to make 'some' adjustment to each and every pattern.  That's why I'm a firm believer in making muslins.  When you are sewing with someone else's fashion fabric you can't afford to make a mistake!

    Regarding ease I heartedly agree that comparing your pattern to a well-fitting garment is an excellent way to start then I'd make a muslin.  Muslins can be sewed up very quickly with a large basting stitch on the machine.  They don't have to be pretty but I iron the seams open as I would on the fashion fabric to clearly see how they fit.

    Best of luck and don't give up!


    1. WandaJ | | #7

      Thank you for the tip about making a muslin.  The got to' have it now in me doesn't want to do that, but I will, as I just love sewing and making clothes.  In that regard, I certainly will not give up and will keep trying, and starting with garment measuring.  Now, I just need to decide what it is that I really want to make now that I'm about finished with my granddaughters beautiful dressy summer dresses :-}.


  6. WandaJ | | #10

    Well, well, well.  Read what I found on a Vogue Pattern Direction Sheet under the heading, Fabric Cutting Layouts: "Measurements refer to circumference of Finished Garment (Body Measurement + Wearing Ease +Design Ease)." 

    Now, I have not gone into my pattern stash to look to see if other pattern companies have this same information, nor did I check any other Vogue Patterns, just the one I finished making a skirt from, which is pattern number 2796.  Oh, I would make this one again and again and again (maybe not 3 times over :-} ).

    Wanda J.

  7. User avater
    Becky-book | | #11

    Dear Wanda,

    I too have my frustrations with making patterns fit the maturing me (all the sand in the lower half of my hour glass!) and I found an intriguing book in my local library.  Finally It Fits by Ruth Amiel & Happy Gerhard.  Now this book is NOT about fixing commercial patterns but taking measurements (lots of them!) and drafting a set of patterns totally based on YOU!  The copyright date is 1973 so the illustrations on the chapter head pages look a bit dated (been there, done that!) I thought I might strike some kind of compromise with this approach and my commercial patterns.  At any rate I hope to have a very educational experience even if the book doesn't really help me sew quicker.  Over the years of sewing (some success, some disasters) I have learned to expect the need for several "mid course corrections" .  The only exception being a second garment from a pattern just recently, successfully completed.


    1. SewNancy | | #12

      Even with a pattern I have perfected I need to fine tune for the fabric used. I had been sewing with stretch wovens and then made a pair of seersucker pants without lycra, well, its a good thing I cut incase large sas or they would be in the trash! I know how discouraging it is to be unable to get the right fit. Pants were very discouraging for me and unitl I had worked out a pattern that fits, it seemed to consume all my sewing energy.

      1. nisee | | #13

        After years of sewing I took a t-shirt fitting class is SF. Time has done me no favors as well and I stopped sewing garments for myself because the frame has stayed the same but the sands have definetly shifted. Fitting oneself is hard, even with a muslin. I read a line somewhere about a women who said at her age she only worried about the front half, she didn't care about the rest anymore.  Well, she probably didn't sew for herself.  About that class- it was great to have someone else zero in on the problems and give hands on advise for corrections.  My t-shirt dress is great. I plan to take as many fitting class as they offer.  Not just because of the fit, but the advise on what really looks good on me.  In the t-shirt dress case - I didn't need the cowl neck. I used to love cowl neck and drapey fronts.  Not a good look for me now.  I also use current clothes to measure for that ease problem and keep on reading Threads as well as this discussion board.  Thanks.

        1. thimbles1260 | | #14

          I'm new to this group and I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through all of the recent comments regarding patterns and fit.  Why is it that RTW seems to fit so easily and pattern companies seem so difficult?  I was told once that patterns are NOT designed by seamstresses but by designers who do not really understand the construction process.  Hmmmm!  Could this be?  If so, it seems to me that there is a whole area of business that is being missed by knowledge seamstresses!

          My own theory is that as we sew we become more knowledgable and particular about how things fit.  I suspect that most RTW garments "get by" but don't fit exactly the way we would like soooooo we sew!  Thoughts anyone?

          1. nisee | | #15

            Hi, there. I have noticed that for RTW I have narrowed down my choices. Took me to 59yrs and several body changes but certain fabrics in certain brands keep showing up in my everyday wear. As a sewer I reserve my sewing time for special occasion wear and it is because I will never find what I have in mind. That seems to be a key phrase for seamstresses. I dream outfits, colors, fabric then struggle with fit.  The process is what is interesting to me not that I don't love a finished product but I have learned a lot about my changes.  I  like detail in my clothes. Your right I want it to fit and add something to me not just be "OK".

          2. Teaf5 | | #16

            I read somewhere that one of the problems with pattern sizing is that most companies are still using standardized measurements from the 1920s or 1940s as the basis for sizing, whereas RTW manufacturers have had to modernize sizing in order to fit the mass market. 

            It makes sense that we might have problems matching our modern bodies to patterns that were sized for our mothers and grandmothers; I'm 8 inches taller than my mother, who was average for her generation, and my daughter is 4 inches taller than me!  The three of us have completely different body shapes, all variations on the hourglass, and we each need completely different alterations for our patterns.

            Add to that the major changes in fit and style--like finally getting rid of those broad-shouldered 80s tops--and it's amazing that anyone can sew anything to fit.  My approach is to use patterns for design details and check the fit against RTW or previous patterns that fit well.  Good thing I'm an optimist and enjoy challenges!


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