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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Roadtrip: Rhinebeck!!

Sheep Puppet

I'm leaving for a business/fun trip to Chicago today, but before I left I wanted to jot down a few words on my trip to Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck Flair

As group of seven of us left bright and early Friday morning, divided into, as the running gag was all weekend - an old people and a young people car - henceforth referred to as OPs and YPs.

The YPs car before:

Car Before

We left early so we could make a detour to Northhampton, MA to visit WEBS: "America's Yarn Store." Yes, we stopped to buy yarn, before we spent a weekend at a sheep & wool festival, buying yarn.

The Gang Outside Webs

WEBS is huge.

Webs is Amazing

We even spotted a Great American Afghan (Karen's nemesis) live and in the wool.

Great American Afghan!

And if the main store wasn't big enough, there's a warehouse.

Webs warehouse

We, as a group, found a thing or two... I ended up with a sweater's worth of Williamstown for my 2010 knitalution (to design and knit a full-sized sweater).

Webs haul

That night we landed at our hotel, ordered in some Chinese food (that came with a complimentary bottle of Grapette Soda), and read aloud from the Amish romance Novel, The Parting.

Saturday morning, we made sure we were at the gate at opening:

Line to Enter

Our first stop was the Evergreen Farms booth for an angora. Maggie had recently lost her bunny Cocoa Bean and was debating whether she was ready for a new one. Petunia convinced her she was.

Maggie & Petunia

After a quick stop at She Shoots Sheep Rhinebeck Style photoshoot (I think  Maggie, Bristol and myself were models  #9, #8, and #7, respectively. I'll post a link when the slideshow is up), we headed out for the vendors.

Vendor Tents

After the first two barns I had checked off my three must-haves from my shopping list: 1750 yards fingering weight yarn in a natural grey for a Pas de Valse sweater from Snowshoe Farm Alpacas,  semi-solid sock yarn from Persimmon Tree Farm, and an eye-catching spinning fiber from Gnomespun Yarn Fiber Arts. Fortunately for my wallet I slowed my pace and bit and my final two pruchases of the day, buttons for my knitalution sweater from Jennie the Potter and a BFL/Silk braid of roving from Gale's Art waited until after lunch.

Ravelry MeetUp

After lunch, we headed to the Ravelry lunch meet up and got to meet Sarah, Casey and Mary Heather.

Mary Heather

We also made dead center behind the banner in the official meet-up photo, which hasn't been posted yet. Ravelry Lunch Meet Up

We spent a bunch of time with some folks who raised Soay sheep, an primitive sheep breed . I didn't note the farm unfortunately.

American Soay

By 3ish - we were tuckered out and stopped for a apple cider doughtnut break, before leaping back into the fray.

Karen & Doughtnut

We left the fairgrounds at 4:45. We left the parking lot an hour and a half later. (Noting for future trips, leave early!!)

After a break back at the hotel, the OPs went out to dinner and the YPs went to the Ravelry party in RedHook. We arrived too late for the goodie bags and cupcakes, but did get a chance to hop in the photobooth and chat with some lovely folks.

Ravelry Party

On Sunday, we packed up the cars (don't worry, we didn't really store the bunny in the back), had breakfast at a local diner and headed back for a few last hours at the fair. Car After

We caught a sheep shearing (the sheep's not a fan) Shearing

and picked up a few more items. I snagged another sock yarn, this time from Sliver Moon Farm, and fought off Maggie for some into the whirled roving. I have received much mocking from my knitting group for my color pallette/phases and how my knitting often matches my outfit. I have been firmly ensconced in a blue and yellow phase (my Manu and a pattern I'm releasing at month's end is a good example), but it seems pretty clear that my next phase is definitely leaning green.

My Rhinebeck Haul

All in all, the trip was fantastic and totally worth the drive and slightly sketchy hotel. We're aiming for a return trip in 2012. If you're planning a Rhinebeck trip, I'd make the following suggestions:

  • Book your hotel early. We did it about 3 months in advance and everything good had been booked by then.
  • Break up your days and catch some events. We wish we had seen some more of the events or taken a class. It all gets a bit over whelming, just doing vendor after vendor.
  • If you're doing both days, leave early on the first day. The traffic out of the parking lot was awful day one.
  • Talk to as many strangers as you can. Every person I talked to (usually started by one of us complimenting the other's knit-wear) was super nice and friendly and you have an automatic topic of conversation. I wish I had takend the time to chat more.

Now off to Chicago! Be back Sunday.

Don't Think I'm Gonna Make It

Andersonville Socks

I've been participating in an Sock UFO (Un-Finished Object) Knit-A-Long in the Maine Knitters group on Ravelry. It was the KAL for the Month of March. I don't think I'm gonna make it by the end of the night....

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Quick Catch Up

I try to be a good blogger and post at least once a week, twice on a good week - but last week that just didn't happen. 

So here's a quick catch up on what I've been up to since last we met:

  • I've watched two more documentaries on Everest (for a total of three) and am starting my fifth book on the subject.
  • I went to a REM concert at the United Center.

(photo via marcusglimer)

  • I went to the Printer's Row Book Fair and saw a recent library science grad win the Define-A-Thon

(photo via pantagrapher)

  • I went to the sale at Vogue Fabrics and am stashed up for at least five projects. 
  • I went to my knitting circle and continued working on the pattern I'm devising. 
  • Smocked Tank in Progres

  • My  knitting circle decided (jokingly?) that it would be a great idea to make a calendar of knitted bikini's that we each designed. I started a Ravelry group for it - and started sketching some designs, because I think it's fun - even if no one else intends to do it.
  • I cut out one sewing project...
  • Pattern all taped together

  • and started putting it together. 
  • Preview Shot

  • I worked a rental with nearly 800 patrons on three floors with three front of house staff (not fun).
  • I watched Chicago do really well at the Tonys
  • I helped strike a set.
  • I spent 7 hours in meetings.

And that's about it - I mean, I ate and slept and went to work in the midst of all that, which was a crazy, yet really fun week and half. So I hope you'll forgive me for not posting!

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The Slippery Stash Slope

For the first 2½ years of my knitting life, I managed to avoid accumulating a stash, even prided myself on it.

I only had yarn for my current project and you'd be hard-pressed to get me to select a yarn without a specific project mind (though it did occasionally happen - leading, for instance to the Honeymoon Mini-Cardi, but in full disclosure I probably made my brand-new husband nuts in my indecision to purchase that yarn while on our honeymoon). I even was obsessive about using up the leftovers of the yarn I had.

And then it happened.

I went into my local yarn shop to pick up some sock yarn and "lo-and-behold!" all the yarn in the bins on the floor was only a dollar. Even I couldn't resist that bargain and so I grabbed these five balls of silk.

Berroco Silk Stash

What am I going to make with it? Who knows! Though Ravelry has provided some intriguing options, namely this and this.

Not too long after I purchased the silk, I went back to the same store to buy some stitch markers for a sweater I'm knitting up and came out with these:

Sock Stash

Granted, this is for a specific project, but one I likely won't start for some time.

And then that same old yarn shop, in honor of Mother's Day and Government Rebate checks decided to have a 25% off of everything sale. So I got this sock yarn that I was ogling when I bought the last sock yarn.

Lorna's Sand Ridges Sock Stash

Now, I'm sure some hard-cord yarn collectors will scoff at my measly 9 skeins, but it's a slippery slope I say! A very slippery slope.

At least I'm using some of my yarn...

Dahlia in Progress

But I'm fairly certain I'm going to have a ball leftover.

I think I'll make it into a hippo. 

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Knit Extravaganza!

I have no problem taking pictures of the food I cook, but for some reason, I totally have a brain fart when it comes to photographing my more craft-orientated projects. So I'm going to do a few quick posts to catch up on my current and recently completed projects. Today's post focus on the knitting, the next will focus on the sewing projects.

Project #1 - Salina Sweater from Rowan's Vintage Knits.

Salina Sweater - Collar

Pretty much the entirety of my Christmas vacation in Maine was spent working on the front portion of this sweater. I was a little iffy about the color at first - I bought it off the internet and it wassuppossedly a pale blue, but in reality is a very pale grey with a lovely rainbow tweed flecks. In any case, it will be something different in the sea of green sweaters Iam no longer allowed to buy/make.

I haven't casted on the sleeves yet, because I'm taking/took a break to work on two items I actually need/needed.  See projects #2 and #3.

 Project #2 - MK Carroll's Tillie Cloche 

 Tillie Hat Millie Hat - assemetrical brim in back

A week before Christmas, I lost my favorite warm hat to the CTA. It was a lovely maroon crocheted bobbly thing that was purchased at a church craft fair as a Christmas gift by a family friend several years ago. But alas, it is no more. It is, however, still cold in Chicago and my windowpane-style beret, wasn't cutting it in the wind. So I needed a new hat, fast.

Thanks to the beauty that is Ravelry I was able to find an excellent cloche pattern by MK Carroll.  Thanks to the awesomeness that is Mr. Cleaver I got some lovely yarn for Christmas and pretty much instantaneously went to knitting it up. I made it through the crown and half of the brim before we even left Maine.

But the brim, oh boy, did I have trouble with that brim. Which is no one's  fault but my own.

First - I did not use any of the suggest yarns, instead I used Reynold's Lite Lopi, but I did do gauge check and adjusted accordingly. My problem was that I arbitrarily decided that after the initial decrease and increase on the brim that I would say "to hell!" with the pattern and just eyeball the length. Let us just say that this decision did not work out well and was woefully long on the first and second attempts. There was much grafting, ungrafting, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the end however, my ears are warm and I really like the hat. It's not 100% done in the above photos. I haven't blocked it lacking a head form other than my own and I haven't added the i-cord trim, but it's cold outside and like all my projects minute finishing can wait until I've worn the thing a half dozen times.

Project #3 - Hello Yarn's Squirrel and Oak Leaf Mittens 

Squirrel Mitten

I lost my warm hat and a month later I had made a new one. I lost my warm gloves and it's taken me oh, eight months to replace them.

That's because the last pair of mittens I made were so disastrous that I refuse to display them here. Well, since Mr. Cleaver was getting me yarn for a hat, I batted my eyelids, looked at him with sad puppy eyes and got a few more skeins for a pair of  mittens to match the hat.

Now I still look at those two skeins of yarn in the photo above and think - surely those would be sufficently contrasting to make a pair of Norwegian-style mittens, surely! The purple is so bright and the grey is so, well, grey! However, as is evidenced in the same above photo this is clearly not the case. So my squirrel mittens are subtle.

But I'm okay with this, figuring that since this is my first colorwork pattern (which I'm really enjoying) it's okay to be subtle, since the mistakes will be less obvious. And as, one of the ladies in my knitting group said on Tuesday - they're like "Magic Eye" mittens, stare long enough and you'll see the image. And I quite like that idea.

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