Ease is a sewing term used in many pattern instructions. It means to draw the fibers of fabric closer together than they were woven or originally manufactured.
How It Is Done
This is usually achieved with machine basting. When easing in fabric, no tucks or gathers are made in the fabric. Other sewing techniques are performed with the same basic method but the results are different.
Easier Than It Sounds
Many sewing directions will tell you to ease in an area of one pattern piece to fit with another pattern piece between dots or notches on the pattern.
When you match up the dots and notches, the difference in the two pieces of fabric may make it seem like there is no way they will fit together and the task looks impossible. Rest assured, easing will draw the fibers of the fabric closer together on the piece that needs to be eased in so that the pieces will fit together.
Gathering vs. Easing
Just as sewing machine basting stitches are used to create gathers, they also are used to ease in the fabric. The difference when you are easing in the fabric is that the fabric should remain smooth with no tucks or gathers visible, such as when you ease in a full hem.
Whether you are going to ease or to gather a fabric, the process begins with sewing two to three lines of basting stitches in the seam allowance next to the seam line leaving long tails of thread at the beginning and ending of your basting stitches and not backstitching. Sewing two to three lines of stitching creates a much more even gather or easing process than one line of stitching.
Always use quality thread when you are basting so that the thread does not break as you tug the thread to ease or gather the fabric.
When easing, much less fabric will be drawn together than if you are gathering the fabric. Easing changes the shape and size of the fabric. As the threads are eased together, the fabric no longer lies smoothly and flat on a surface and develops a dome or curve in the fabric. The sleeve itself will form a cap as the fabric is eased into the armhole of the garment.
Example of When Easing Is Used
Easing in the fabric allows a curved capped sleeve to fit into the straight line of the jacket body, which can look like an impossible task if you don't ease in the sleeve cap between the markings.
One of the telltale signs of a "homemade garment" is to see puckers or gathers, especially in the sleeve cap of a garment.