Sewing with Knits: Understanding Negative Ease
Good fit is a continuum, and everyone has a different definition. Because spandex threads add stretch to many knit fabrics, it’s possible to get a very close, figure-hugging fit with knit creations. For many sewists of all ages and sizes, this is ideal and can make some aspects of fitting easier. To achieve a very close fit in a moderate to stretchy knit, the pattern will have negative ease.
What is ease? Ease is the extra inches built into a pattern for comfort and movement. For a woven fabric top, the pattern might have a finished hip measurement of 40” even though the actual hip measurement of the wearer is 37 1/2”. The extra 2 1/2” allows the top to move freely around the hips as the body is in motion.
In knit fabrics, ease is not required because the fabric stretches as the body moves. In the previous example, if the top had a 37 1/2” circumference at the hip, this equal measurement, with no ease, would make the top sit close to the body. If the top had negative ease, a 35” to 36” circumference for instance, the top would stretch and curve on the body like a skin.
Knit fabrics with a heavy concentration of spandex and multi-directional stretch, such as performance knits, are designed for patterns that have negative ease. Often, these fabrics don’t drape well and need to fit close to the body.
Knits can also be designed and sewn with a more relaxed fit. Choose knit patterns that aren’t sized for a tight fit and knit fabric with a moderate stretch and soft drape so the fabric falls gracefully around the body with some ease built into the core. Do make sure the shoulders and neckline fit well so you don’t look overwhelmed by your creations. Make a mockup of the pattern in a stretch fabric similar to the fabric chosen for the finished top and assess the fit.
If you’re particularly curvy through the bust, consider knit patterns that include some shaping darts in the bustline. Many knit patterns follow the industry standard and don’t include darts. Consider adding a dart if the top is too clingy in the front, bunches in the armhole or rides up in the center front.
By Rae Cumbie
Read the full article in the April/May 218 issue of Sew News.