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Published on September 3rd, 2015 | by Merion

3 comments

Understanding positive ease – it’s easy!

Knitting terminology is baffling for beginners.  Let’s begin de-coding with a look at positive and negative ease!

Welcome September on the LoveKnitting blog

Welcome, September by yellowcosmo – a gorgeous cardi with positive ease!

Ease is all about fit.  Some clothes and knits are designed to have a close fitting shape, and some are designed to be loose.  The amount of space between a garment and your body is known as “ease”.

In the beginning, there was fabric, and throughout history, women were stitched into their dresses as tight as a second skin, and skirts were made gigantic to house enormous petticoats.  Seamstresses and tailors the world over were able to mould their fabric shapes with darts, and tucks, and pleats and seams.

Along comes knitwear! Although we don’t have the ability to stitch in darts and tucks to shape garments,  knitwear naturally stretches – and when we knit a garment, we can control its fit by factoring in “positive” and “negative” ease.

A good example of negative ease is in the construction of a hat.  We need hats to fit our heads tightly and not fall off – so we knit them smaller than our actual heads.  The stitches then stretch to fit over the curve of our heads, and fit closely.

White Lightening bobble - Schachenmayer free download on the LoveKnitting blog

White Lightening in Schachenmayr Boston and Bravo Big

Positive ease is used when a garment is designed to be bigger than the person inside it, or where there are curves that might be variable, for example, across the bust line.  Extra space is built into the stitch numbers to give space between the fabric and the body.

It all comes down to style – a garment can be designed to be close fitting, skim the surface or drape loosely.  For example, take a look at this gorgeous Happy Triangles jumper by Kiyomi Burgin. It is designed to be close fitting, and has very little positive ease – this means that the size dimensions stated in the pattern are actual.  The designer has added into the comments, that if you want a jumper that is roomier, select a bigger size to knit.

Happy triangles on the LoveCrochet blog

At the other end of the scale, this gorgeous Redbud pullover from Classic Elite Yarns is designed specifically to have 3-4″ of positive ease (space between the garment and your body) to give it a loose, draped fit.

Redbud jumper from Classic Elite yarns on the LoveKnitting blog

Most patterns will tell you how much positive ease is factored into the shape, so choose your normal size and trust the designer!

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About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.


Last updated: September 3rd, 2015.

3 Responses to Understanding positive ease – it’s easy!

  1. Joetta Devore says:

    I am a big woman. I wear a 4X+ but not a 5X. I have always wondered if I make a sweater that has 4-6 in of ease if it will fit me like one with no ease. I would not mind that. What is your opinion? Not really knowing where most of this ease is put, I really don’t know about it. Would I have to a a few stitches to the sleeves. I believe the head and sleeve openings would be fine. I do know about allowing room fo the stomach with darts. I have just never attempted it. Too afraid it will go wrong. What is your opinion. Jump in there and see or try to buy a larger pattern and make alterations?

    • Sheryl Klein says:

      Look carefully at the garment measurements to ensure that it will fit correctly – have a friend help you with taking your own measurements or measure a sweater made from yarns of the same weight as that you want to knit with THAT YOU LIKE AND FITS WELL. Compare your measurements to those in the pattern – small adjustments can be made to make a larger size fit. I do this quite often as I am a loose knitter and have trouble making gauge.

  2. Judy says:

    Thank you! Nice explanation of ease. I have been knitting for most of my life and until fairly recently had not heard of ease.

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