Questions about ease and sizing


I don’t get many emails from knitters, but looking back over the years of emails, I can can pretty much lump them into a couple of camps. One of those camps is emails related to the topic of ease and sizing. Yesterday, ease came up in a conversation with a yarnie friend. We discussed how it’s handled in patterns (if at all) and how widely it is or is not understood. We disagreed.

My theory is that a fair chunk of knitters out there don’t fully understand the concept even if they’ve heard of it. My theory was born from the fact that this may be the biggest camp of emails I receive.  A common question might be, “I’m a 36″ bust, which size should I knit?”  I should mention that all my garment patterns include finished sizing, a suggested ease and schematic measurements. So, for example, my Amherst jacket has the following information included for sizing:

Finished Size

Bust: 34 (36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46)”.

Length: 19½ (20, 20½, 21, 21½, 22, 22½)”.

Allow about 2″ of ease for a standard fit.

A knitter who understands ease, (the difference between body measurement and garment measurement), would know to knit the third size listed which will yield a finished garment measuring 38″ around the bust or one with 2″ of ease for her 36″ size.

If you do understand ease, you might wonder how this could be so widely misunderstood. Having been privy to knitter’s questions, I have a feeling many don’t fully understand all the sizing information typically provided in a pattern and how it’s intended to be used. As consumers, we’re used to looking at clothing tags to find our size. It seems there are knitters out there who want to do the same thing with knitting patterns. They’ll scan the list of finished sizes looking for their own bust measurement and then knit that size which completely disregards ease. Luckily, knits are forgiving and they may actually be able to wear their creation.

Here’s a little tip, before knitting your next sweater search through your closet for something that fits well. Look for something with a similar gauge and silhouette to what you plan to knit. Lay the sweater flat and measure the finished bust size  (underarm edge to underarm edge x 2). Find the difference from your actual bust measurement and that’s the ease (it can be positive or negative depending on how closely it fits the body).  Just remember, silhouette and gauge do matter. Just because you love the oversized bulky pullover with drop sleeves and 5″ of ease doesn’t mean a fingering-weight cardigan with set-in sleeves designed to be close-fitting will look good with that much additional ease.

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