What is Ease? (Or How to Choose the Size you Want)

What is Ease.png

What is Ease?

In a lot of knitting patterns for garments you'll find something that looks like this:

Sizes 41 1/2 (44 1/2, 47 1/2, 50 1/2, 53 1/2, 57)" bust circumference; shown in size 41 1/2", modeled with 8 1/2" of positive ease

If your pattern includes this, fantastic!

If it also includes something like intended to be worn with 8-10" positive ease, even better!

These two bits of information are going to be very helpful in choosing a size. 

Ease is all about Fit and Style

When I first started knitting, I thought you just picked the size closest to your bust measurement and went from there. That's certainly an option, but it probably won't get you the best fit. 

When I design a garment, I think about two things related to fit (well more than that obviously, but stick with me here) - wearing ease and design ease. Every body has measurements. These measurements are the basic starting point for a good fit, but then as a designer, I add extra fabric to those measurements for ease of movement and style.

Oakdale, designed by me, with zero ease

Oakdale, designed by me, with zero ease

Demonstrating Negative Ease

Demonstrating Negative Ease

Positive Versus Negative Ease

Positive ease means that the garment measurements are larger than your actual measurements. For example, a 40" sweater on a 38" bust has two inches of positive ease. A 37" sweater on that same 38" bust would have 1" of negative ease. A 38" sweater on a 38" bust would have no or zero ease.

Wearing Ease 

Wearing ease contributes to ease of movement. Think of cutting out a piece of sturdy paper to your exact bust measurement and taping it on. Now try taking a deep chest breath, or bending over to pick something up, or reaching forward. We move a lot and moving requires ease, or a little bit of extra space to allow for that movement.

Now a piece of paper is stiff and inflexible, woven fabrics can be fairly rigid too, which is why wearing ease is more important in woven garments. Fortunately knitted fabric has a bit more give, it stretches as you move, so you can get away with little, no, or even negative ease, depending on the flexibility of your knitted fabric. So that super snug, ribbed Lana Turner-esque sweater? The fabric has a lot of give, so you can still breathe, hooray!

But just because you don't necessary need wearing ease in the bust, doesn't mean that you wouldn't want in other places, like the sleeve and  armhole. Because we all like to lift our arms right?

Also, in general, I think that unless you're reinforcing your buttonbands, you want cardigans to have some positive ease so you don't have button-band gappage. (Because nobody wants that)

Cormac with 8 1/2" of positive ease

Cormac with 8 1/2" of positive ease

Toulouse with several inches of positive ease as modeled in Knitscene

Toulouse with several inches of positive ease as modeled in Knitscene

Toulouse with slight positive ease as knitted by  Orlaflo

Toulouse with slight positive ease as knitted by Orlaflo

Design Ease

If wearing ease is about how you move, design ease is about how you look. Fashion goes back on forth a lot on what silhouette is in. In the 1940's, like the photo about, the snug "sweater girl" look was the thing, and they used zero or negative design ease to achieve it. Nowadays, we sport a much more relaxed look, and to create it you need to add design ease on top of the wearing ease.

I recommend about 8" of ease for the Cormac sweater. Clearly you don't need 8 extra inches of fabric around your bust to move,  so this is largely design ease. If you want your sweater to look similar to the one in the mag, you're going to need to choose a size somewhere 6-10 inches larger than your bust measurement. The smaller your bust, the less ease you'd need proportionally than larger bust, i.e. a 32" bust would be fine closer to 6" extra, while a 42" bust would want closer to 9 or 10"  

For a good look at how ease can change the final look, check out the 200+ examples of the Toulouse pullover.  In the magazine it was styled with a great deal of positive ease, which result in a slouchy/boho look, but many knitters have chosen to knit it much closer to their actual measurements with very little positive ease, like the example from Orlaflo on the right.  Both options are equally "right," depending on what you want the final look to be.

One note of caution: if a pattern indicates a "to be worn with xx inches of ease" it usually means that the underlying body measurements used to design the piece are that many inches smaller. For example, if I design a 40" sweater to be worn with 4" of positive ease, it means that when I do my baseline calculations for that sweater I'm starting with the standard measurements that go with a 36" bust, so if you chose to do less ease or more ease than suggested it may not fit as well in the shoulders or arms. 

In Conclusion

With these two types of ease in mind, and good pattern information, you can confidently choose a size that will get you the finished fit you desire!

Cormac and Toulouse Photos courtesy of Knitscene/Harper Point

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Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution

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As a designer, my most frequently asked questions is "why is your gauge so weird?" (A: Everyone is different, and I generally prefer densely knitted fabric?), but the second most frequently asked question is do you think X pattern will work in Y yarn? 

The answer? Probably.

The best way to figure out if a yarn substitution will work is to swatch it out and give it a try.

But that's not always practical.

No Need to Fear Substituting Yarn

There's a good chance that the sample itself was done in a substitute yarn. About 50%+ of the time I do editorial designs (for magazines, books, etc.) the yarn I submitted my design swatches in is not the yarn that's used in the final design.

Sometimes I'll go out and buy something if I'm looking for something specific or need a different color, but  I usually do my design swatches from my stash, which mostly contains a lot of leftovers from previous designs. Sometimes, I'm attached to the yarn I send the design swatch in on, sometimes I'm not, but if it's for editorial purposes, it's best not to get attached because it's likely that its going to change. I'd also advise that if you're designing for magazines that your design isn't yarn-dependent for the same reason.

I'm not an editor, so I don't know how the final yarns are chosen, but I imagine it's a combination of trying to have variety,  relationships with yarn companies, desired color stories, etc. 

Cormac is a bit of an oddity in that the sample in the magazine was knit in the exact yarn I submitted with in the exact color I used.  But some of that was because the submission call specifically called for using chainette-style yarn, and there's not a huge number of those on the market, and I specifically did buy yarn for swatching.

How to Choose a Substitute Yarn (if you don't have something in your stash) - Option #1

Maybe you're allergic to alpaca or the suggested yarn is too expensive, or you want something more attuned to your climate, or it doesn't come in a color you like - there are dozens of reasons to choose a substitute yarn and hundreds of choices to sub. How do you narrow it down?

For now, I'm going to assume you generally want your finished sweater to look more or less like the sample (we'll talk more drastic changes later)

Here's where the Ravelry database is going to be a huge help. 

Finding A Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles

Step #1 - Look at the suggested yarn page on Ravelry (or on the manufacturers site). Even if you know you don't want to use it. What are it's basic qualities? 

 For Shibui Knit's Maai the basics are this - DK weight, 70% alpaca/30% merino.  So it's mostly alpaca, which is fairly drapey and has a bit of a halo/fuzz factor. The chainette construction makes it  light and "springy" per the description.  Looking at the design, the need for drapey is high - otherwise it would be pretty stiff and boxy, the fuzz factor is less evident. The pattern calls for size 8 needles, which is fairly big for DK, and the pattern is open, so that'll provide some drape there too. 

So to replace it, we're looking for a drapey DK weight yarn. 

Alpaca is drapey, so is silk, bamboo, tencel, and linen. But there's the springy factor too. So you might want a firmer fiber like a bit of wool or hemp or cotton in there to help the sweater holds it's shape a little. Something like the 70/30 blend of the original or up to a 50/50 mix of drapey/firm. 

Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles

Step #2 - Back to Ravelry, this time  to the advanced yarn search page. To start off I'm going to looks for the following criteria - Not discontinued, dk weight, contains alpaca and wool. This is going to be the closest to the Maai, without being Maai. 

We've got 203 matches there alone.  Let's look at some of our top-provided options. 

Drops Lima - 65% wool/35% alpaca - this could work, but it's a little heavy on the wool side. 

Classic Elite's Soft Linen - 35% Linen, 35% Wool, 30% Alpaca. That's 65% drapey (linen/alpaca). Looking pretty good here. The linen could help make it an even more transitional piece.

Queensland Collection Rustic Tweed - 63% Wool, 27% Alpaca, 7% Acrylic, 3% Other. Again heavy on the wool. It's also rustic and tweedy, which is a bit style shift. 

The Alpaca Yarn Co's Astral -   50% Tencel, 30% Alpaca, 20% Wool. That's 80% drape, so super drapey. It also looks hand-dyed, which could mean alternating skeins in lace. 

Berroco's Fiora - 40% Cotton, 30% Rayon, 15% Alpaca, 5% Wool. 45% firm/ 45% drape (not sure what the missing 10% is). Could work, be a solid choice for a more summery version, but keep in mind that that is a high percentage of cotton, which is heavier than most other fibers. 

What if you look at Cormac and think - forget fall, that'd be better as an awesome beach pullover for the summer? Then you could search for a linen/cotton  or cotton/bamboo blend (drapey/firm) or something similar. 

How to Choose a Substitute Yarn (if you don't have something in your stash) - Option #2

Alternatively, if scrolling through pictures of yarn isn't your thing, you can do a project based-search. In this case we'll search for similar patterns (DK weight, lace, pullover) and see what other people knit them out of.  There's a lot of options, but most of them aren't as open as Cormac, but Amy Miller's Stonecutter Sweater has a good number of similarities (there's nothing new under the sun, right?)

Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles
Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles

The original Stonecutter was knit in Lion Brand Cotton Bamboo, so that could be a good choice too. But wait, there's more! Stonecutter has been around for a while, and over 100 people have knit it and if you click the little "yarn ideas" tab, it'll show the most popularly used yarn subs and you have another 2 pages of yarn to choose from (back to the scrolling through little photos of yarn, sorry). 

Already Have a Yarn in Mind?

Maybe you've got something in your stash your'e itching to use up. I've had a few message in my inbox regarding more summer-specific yarn subs for this project, specifically: Berroco Weekend DK, and Shibui Linen. 

Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles
Using Ravelry to Find a Yarn Substitution - Ms. Cleaver Chronicles

My first stop when considering a specific yarn substitution is to look at projects on ravelry that have been knit up in the yarn that have some similarities to the project I’m trying to do. In this case, a lace garment of some kind. For the left we have an example for the Weekend DK and one for the Shibui Linen on the right

This can give you a good hint of what the fabric would look like. Both of them seem to work in lace pretty well, though I will note the following two things - the yarn is held double in the lace project and that cotton and acrylic don’t block open as well as animal fibers (though linen blocks fairly well). However there appear to be some well-blocked lace projects in Weekend DK, (Also the sample wasn’t aggressively blocked).

In Conclusion

While I specifically designed the Cormac Sweater with Shibui Maai in mind, and tried to take advantage of the specific qualities of that yarn,  it doesn't mean you have to use it! The great thing about knitting is you can make it your own and you have hundreds of options to choose from that will work. 


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Announcing the Cormac Knit Along!

Cormac KAL

I'm so excited to announce that I'm hosting my first knit along!

The fall issue of Knitscene is  out on newsstands now and in it, my Cormac Sweater. I'm super pleased with how this design turned out, and now that I have my own Ravelry Group - I thought it would be a good candidate for a knit along.  

Like the design? Join us - you end up with a finished sweater and could win a fabulous prize pack! 

How It Works

  1. Join the Knit Along Thread on Ravelry.  (Don't have a Ravelry account? It's free to join!)
  2. Start knitting the Cormac Sweater from the Fall 2015 Issue of Knitscene magazine sometime between August 15 and October 15 (or start early! NBD)..
  3. Have fun and share what you're knitting! Comment in the Ravelry thread and share photos on social media with the hashtag #CormacKAL
  4. Anyone with a FO (Finished Object) or (WIP) in the thread as of October 15, 2015 (midnight EST), is eligible to win prizes!

The cast-on part doesn't officially start until August 15, but before then I'll be posting about choosing a size and yarn substitutions to help you get ready. 

You can also bookmark the official knit along page, where I'll be aggregating all the knit along stuff. 

I hope you'll join in!

Photos Courtesy of Knitscene/Harper Point

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Introducing the Cormac Sweater

Cormac Sweater by Leah B. Thibault, KnitScene Fall 2015
Cormac Sweater by Leah B. Thibault for Knitscene Fall 2015
Cormac Sweater by Leah B. Thibault for Knitscene Fall 2015
Cormac Sweater by Leah B. Thibault for Knitscene Fall 2015
Cormac Sweater by Leah B. Thibault for Knitscene Fall 2015

More often than not, I'm a "come up with a design idea and try to find the right yarn" kind of designer, but in the case of the Cormac Sweater in the new Fall Knitscene? Completely the other way around. 

Knitscene had put out a call for submissions back in October for items featuring chainette-style yarn. Something, I'll admit to never having used before, but my curiosity piqued, I went down to my Local Yarn Store  and picked up a skein of Shibui Maai. They had a sample of it knitted up at the shop, a super cushy garter stitch scarf. But when I got the yarn home and began knitting with it, cushy didn't feel right to me. It was so springy and light, that I wanted to push it even further in that direction, the yarn screamed out "make me lace!" And so I did. 

A simple 4 stitch/4 row lace pattern was quickly decided upon and knit up on larger than usual (for me, anyway) needles. All air and lace and drape, but like eiderdown, the loftiness and halo of Maai fill in the gaps, meaning Cormac is a sweater that is both lacey and warmer than you'd think.

I wanted the fabric to be center stage, but also knew that the drapiness of the fabric could make fancy shaping a bit of a bear, so a boxy construction, with drop-shoulder sleeves made the most sense.  It seemed like something one of those impossibly chic girls would wear for a morning at the cafe, hair in a messy bun, oversized latte with foam art and a paperback novel near at hand. Easy to pull on and as comfortable as a sweatshirt, but a whole lot prettier. 

Because of the minimal shaping and the larger needles and the simple lace, Cormac is also a pretty quick knit. If I had to make one change, I'll probably make the sleeve cuffs a bit snugger and/or the sleeve a tad bit shorter, but when I had seamed the whole thing together and hung it on my mannequin, I thought - yes, that is just what I wanted it to be. 

Cormac, along with a number of other gorgeous designs like Annie Watt's Oddity Scarf, Nadya Stalling's Couturier Jacket and Courtney Spainhower's Caldwell Pullover, are available in the Fall 2015 issue of Knitscene, currently available digitally, and on newsstands on July 14th. In the meantime you can queue or favorite it up on Ravelry.

Do you have a favorite design in this issue? Have you ever worked with chainette yarn? Does your yarn ever get demanding with you like the Maai was with me? 

You can see some of my previous Knitscene designs here or on Ravelry

All Photos: Courtesy of Knitscene/Harper Point Photography

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