I just read a message from a very popular pdf pattern company, announcing updates to an existing pattern, and one of the revisions is:
“Even grading for exact ease in all sizes”.
This is an improvement for sure, because their darling patterns are notorious for having inconsistent grading:
some have lots of ease in the small sizes and negligible ease in large sizes
some have backwards grading: the inside-neckline width gets smaller as sizes get larger
some of their gathered skirts are all cut width-of-fabric, giving enormous fullness to the baby sizes and not-so-much for the bigger girls
This leads to frequent discussions in their FB from customers arguing whether a pattern “runs small” or “runs large”…when in fact it does both, depending on which size you make. I was aware that their newest pattern just released has exactly the same amount of ease across the size range, from reading a discussion online.
And while this is an improvement, the goal is not to have EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT of ease in all sizes; it is to have PROPORTIONATE ease.
Ease should be added to the pattern as a PERCENTAGE of the circumference, not as a specific AMOUNT. As Kathleen Fasanella explains in her Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing: “as people get bigger, they get proportionately bigger“. And as reader Theresa in Tucson commented (and this is brilliantly said): “A plus size women is going to need more actual ease in a skirt than her slim and trim sister. ” Thanks also to reader Robin for adding that Barbara Deckert (a plus-size expert) “talks about wearing ease in her book ‘Sewing for Plus Sizes’. She suggests what the added ease should be proportionate to size.”
I had a design professor who explained the concept like this: think of tying a piece of string around a can of soda (9″ circumference), and around a liter bottle (13″ circumference).
Percentage: if you cut both strings with the same 25% PERCENTAGE of ease (11 1/4″ for the can and 16 1/4″ for the bottle), they would have proportionately identical “fit”
Amount: if you cut both strings with the same AMOUNT of ease, let’s say 2″ for both (11″ for the can and 15″ for the bottle) then the “fit” would be looser on the can than on the bottle:
The lesson was:
Adding the same AMOUNT results in a different PERCENTAGE
Adding the same PERCENTAGE results in a different AMOUNT
For example, what happens if you use the same specific amount of ease across the whole size range in childrenswear? Let’s say the patternmaker adds the same 3″ AMOUNT of ease in all sizes from toddlers through teens:
Size Two: 20″ chest plus 3″ = 23″ or 15% ease
Size Twelve: 32″ chest plus 3″ = 35″ or 9% ease
The result is that Size Two has far more PERCENTAGE of ease than Size Twelve.
Now let’s try adding the same PERCENTAGE of ease:
Size 2: 20″ chest plus 15% ease = 23″, or 3″
Size 12: 32″ chest plus 15% ease = 37″, or 5″
The result is that both sizes have the same fit percentage, but different ease AMOUNTS.
Since it’s easier to grade with consistent “rules” (amounts) of measurement than to adjust the percentage for each size, professional patterns are broken down into limited size ranges (also to accommodate for changing body shapes), for example if the goal is 15% of ease:
Infant sizes could have 2.5″ ease
Girls 2 through 6 could have 3″ ease
Girls 8 through 12 could have 3.5″ ease
Tweens could have 4″ ease
Ladies could have 5″ ease
Ladies Plus could have 6″ ease
So, while I’m glad to see that the inconsistent (or jumpy) grading is being addressed by this pattern company, I hope that the amount of ease is not exactly the same across the entire extended size range. I hope that it’s proportionate.
Postscript: Another consideration was just brought up by reader Shelley: “Wearing ease is also different in different areas of the body. For instance, I’m a 5′ plus-size and have found that in a knit garment with 25% stretch I can get away with 1.5 in. minimal wearing ease at chest level, but by waist level, I need 3 in. and then to 4 in. by hip level because of body spread.” Very good point! You cannot add the same amount of ease at all body areas and expect the garment to fit. As several readers also brought up, it’s critical to have enough ease at the full-hip level to allow for sitting down…a garment that is comfortable while standing may be terribly uncomfortable sitting! I’ve heard of Hollywood actresses on the red carpet whose gowns are so tight they know that they won’t even be able to sit down…..