Hobbies have their own language. Runners talk about intervals, LSDs, (this does not refer to drugs) and tempos. Dr. Who fans know the names, spellings and pronunciations of all the planets that were fictionally rescued by eleven Doctors over the years. Math people make jokes about pi day and use binary clocks, because they think they’re so cool.
Sewing is no different. Crafters, master seamstresses and novices alike all need to know and be able to apply certain terms in order to sew pieces of fabric together with some degree of polish and accuracy. We know seam allowance, darts, casing, and bodice. We think about hand and selvage. My favorite sewing term, though, is easing in the fullness.
You might see this term when setting sleeves into a garment or if applying a straight waistband to a pencil skirt. The curve of the shoulder or the skirt is not a direct match for the sleeve or waistband. It means that the sewer must adjust how the fabrics meet so that it joins beautifully. Sewing a straight seam is infinitely easier than a curved seam for this reason.
When joining a sleeve to a shoulder, a seamstress who can ease the fullness well will set a perfect sleeve. If, during the sewing, she doesn’t allow for the curve of the sleeve fabric and how it might differentiate slightly from the curve of the shoulder, when she or he is finished sewing, the garment will have a tangled mess of tucked and pulled fabric.
To ease in the fullness means to account for curves, to allow for pull in each piece of fabric. It is tricky to master but when understood makes finished home sewing projects appear expertly crafted.
Easing in the fullness. Such richly textured words. Easing suggests a sort of willingness to go with it, like sitting in a bright blue tube drifting down a Lazy River at a water park; you just have to kind of let the current take you. It suggests a relaxing of the rules or parameters, like an exhalation of expectation, replaced with an inhalation of “let’s just see what happens.”
Fullness is even more complex because fullness can be either uncomfortable, think of the waistband of your pants after Thanksgiving dinner. Or it can refer to an abundance of beauty or love or hope or promise. I think we can agree that’s a good kind of fullness. Sometimes fullness can overwhelm; we are left staring wide-eyed at the plate we’ve just licked clean, or gazing at the utter superfluity of blessings.
Human nature might try to dictate we deal with this, this, this overflowing fullness. We must put a stop to it. We must fast for days or do a cleanse. Or we must line up all these blessings in some kind of tangible and peaceable order so that we can hold them, clutching our trinkets to our chest like children.
Or we could just sink down into it. We can allow for the curves, the extra fabric that doesn’t line up quite right and we can adjust, bend and flow. We can ease in the fullness. In fact, it’s a rule of sewing. You can put together a garment without it, but your results will be shoddy.
I find myself toying with this phrase, rolling it over in my mind, thinking that a big lesson lies buried in the overstuffed words. But really, I simply enjoy the phrase, I feel confident that at least in sewing terms I know how to do it well. Maybe not everything has a lesson. Maybe some things are just lovely.