When you are getting ready to start knitting a new pattern, you might come across phrases like “Meant to be worn with positive ease” or “Designed to have 1 inch of negative ease” or even “Zero ease.” What the heck is ease?
Ease is a really easy (sorry, I had to) way for a pattern designer to tell you how fitted (or not) a garment is meant to be. A garment with positive ease (like this sweater) is meant to be worn loosely.
A garment with negative ease (like these socks) are knit slightly smaller than my feet, so they end up nice and snug.
A garment with zero ease (like this hat) has exactly the same dimensions as my head, so the hat is neither too tight nor too loose.
Ease is measured in inches (or centimeters, if you’re not in America). To calculate the ease, you measure both the garment, and the person who will wear it. Then you subtract the person’s measurement from the garment’s measurement.
For example, if a sweater has a bust line of 40 inches, and the person who is meant to wear it has an actual bust line of 36 inches, the ease for the sweater is +4 inches. (40-36=4)
If a different sweater has a bust line of 35 inches, and if the same person wears it, the ease of this sweater is -1 inch. (35-36=-1)
Ease makes a huge difference in how a finished garment looks. You wouldn’t want a fitted, structured sweater with positive ease- it would look baggy and too big. And, you wouldn’t want a slouchy, cozy sweater with negative ease- it would look like you were trying to wear your little sister’s clothes. And the last thing you want to do is knit up an entire sweater, only to have it look like you pulled it from the by-the-pound bin at Goodwill. Ew.