One of the most common questions for sweater knitters is how to figure out their ease. Whether you need the basics (What is ease?) or are just trying to figure out how much wiggle room you should have in your sweaters, we’ve got you covered.
Ease is about how a garment fits your body. If a sweater is loose, we’d say that it has positive ease. If a sweater fits quite close we would say that it has either zero ease, or negative ease. It’s all determined by the difference between your bust/chest measurements (or the measurements of the person wearing it) and the finished measurements of the sweater. This difference is known as ease.
If your bust/chest circumference is 48 in/122 cm and the finished measurement of your sweater around the bust/chest area is 50 in/127 cm, then there is a 2 in/5 cm difference between you and the sweater. In this example, the sweater has 2 in/5 cm of positive ease. Positive ease creates a comfortable fit, especially for sweaters that will be worn over other clothes. You may like a little bit of positive ease (1-2 in/2.5-5 cm) or a lot (4-6 in/10-15 cm+), and there is no one right answer; it depends on you and the pattern you are knitting. You can create your own positive ease by determining the fit you like and choosing the size with the finished measurements that gives you the amount of ease you prefer. For example, if the sweater is designed for 2 in/5 cm of positive ease, but you’d rather have 4 in/10 cm of ease, then you might choose one size larger to get a finished measurement that is 4 in/10 cm larger than your actual bust/chest measurement. (You can find out for sure by confirming the finished sweater measurements in the pattern and comparing them to yours.)
If your bust/chest circumference t is 48 in/122 cm and the finished measurement of your sweater around the bust/chest area is 48 in/122 cm, then you and the sweater measure the same. This means the sweater has zero ease, meaning there is no extra room. Zero ease can be helpful for those with larger busts who are smaller in the neck, shoulders and tummies. In those cases, zero ease means a tighter fit right around the bust area, but maintains a proper fit in the neck and shoulders without getting too loose. You can create your own zero ease fit by choosing a size that has a finished chest measurement that is equal to your bust circumference (if the pattern is designed with positive ease, then you would generally choose a smaller size in order to get zero ease).
If your bust/chest circumference is 48 in/122 cm and the finished measurement of your sweater around the bust/chest area is 46 in/115 cm, then the sweater measures smaller than you. This means the sweater has negative ease. Negative ease is designed for sweaters that should fit quite tight (think of how you’d want a knit swimsuit to fit). This is less common for sweaters, but some styles – such as vintage cardigans – do fit into this bracket. Negative ease is useful when knitting hats and socks because it keeps them from sliding off.
Knitting a sweater that fits is all about ease. If you’re new to knitting sweaters, start with the recommended ease in the pattern until you determine your preferences. The more sweaters you knit, the easier it will be to choose the size and ease that feels best for you.
Sign up to the access list for the Bellish knitting app to explore our free customizable sweater pattern generator, check out the ease in different sweater and size selections, and start knitting your new favorite sweater (that fits!) right away.