[Module 6] Creating the Flexible Pattern | 4b. Bodice - Manipulating Darts

Before continuing with this Unit you may wish to review the review Auxiliary Reference Information - Fabric - Moulding Darts and Seams as a refresher for Darts and also review the Style Sheets to see different Dart options.

So far we have added in Darts to the Base Template on both the Front and the Back Draft. The Front Draft darts comprised of the Shoulder Dart the Armhole Dart the Side Dart and the Waist Dart, the Back Draft included the Shoulder Dart and the Waist Dart. We also created a Centre Front Bust Dart to assist with reviewing the Bust Point placement during fitting.

The Positive Ease Working Template inherited all but the Centre Front Bust Dart with the Negative Ease Working Template having no darts.

When drafting your Flexible Patterns you may be working from your designs and you could have made any number of decisions regarding Darts and Style Lines in your drawings. We will start by looking at some common options to manipulate and work with darts on both the Front and the Back Drafts and these Unit will grow over time as more are added.

Let us consider for a moment the extent of what you can do with Darts prior to your final decision on your specific Dart options.

You would trace off one of your Positive Ease Working Templates preferably a close fitting one with perhaps 1” to 1.5” of ease. If you only have a 2” ease Working Template then that is fine you could use that and keep it the same as is or reduce it by ¼” on both the Front and Back Sides for a closer fit after tracing off.

You may have bowed the lines out on the Darts drawn onto your Working Template however you can not manipulate bowed Darts so you will need to just trace the straight Dart Legs. After dart manipulation you can always redraw the bowed lines onto any Dart by finding the centre point on the Dart Leg and measuring out by the same amount on each Dart Leg and drawing the bowed out line from the point to the end of the Dart Leg.

For the purposes of this instruction I have used a mini version of a Positive Ease Working Template, it is around 60% reduced and it fits on A4 paper and it is available to you as a download on the download page look for Mini Drafting Templates. There are a few options of mini drafts to pick from to help things move along faster. There is a Front Draft with Darts drawn as they are in the Working Template, a Back Draft with Darts drawn in, a Front Draft with the Breast Radius marked without darts drawn and a Front Draft with the Breast Radius with all darts drawn to the Lower Bust Point. The Breast Radius has been drawn using a compass set at the Breast Radius measurement taken off the Measurement Sheet. The circle is drawn with the centre point on the Bust Point and it shows the perimeter of the breast. This is useful when determining depth of a Neckline and if a Front Neck Dart is required to stop the Neckline gaping, which is reviewed when deciding on Neckline styles. There is also a full copy of the Bodice Front and Back which is approximately 45% reduced in size.

If you are working from a copy of your own Working Template you will need to cut across the Waist Line to remove the lower part as you can not manipulate darts with the lower section in place as easily.

The Mini Drafting Templates Downloadable document is already drafted from the Waist up.

It is available to you to download and print out as many times as you wish if you prefer to practice whilst reviewing this unit click on this link to find and download the document Mini Drafting Templates.

Reviewing Current Darts

Let’s start by reviewing the current Darts on the Front Draft as there are more of them on the Front Draft than the Back Draft and you are usually manipulating the Front Draft more.

Some Dart manipulation was covered whilst making Test Garments in Auxiliary Reference Information for Test Garment Creation in that we looked at how Darts could be closed up so that when the fabric is cut you would not even know that there was a Dart there. We also created a Centre Front Bust Dart extra to all of the other darts and this one was sewn.

Here is a photo of the Front Draft with Darts drawn the same as the Working Template with the Shoulder, Armhole and Side Dart going to the Bust Point and the Waist to the Lower Bust Point.

Sometimes you may not require a dart in the Shoulder, so you would close it up, for example if the design of the shoulder is too thin in order to fit in a Dart. If you do not have a sleeve in the garment then you would usually not need to sew the Armhole Dart which can create extra weight and cause the Armhole to gape. Although on a larger Bust you may decide to keep it as the larger the Bust the more fabric is needed to mould around the breast and shifting too much fabric around to say the Side Dart might over load it and create wider angles to close, in this instance it is a good idea to think about spreading the balance out.

However you would not usually sew a bodice with all 4 Darts, you would end up with lots of lines in the fabric all pointing to the Bust Point taking attention there, which is not so flattering on any sized Bust.

Getting the right balance is all down to personal choice, design and to some degree experimentation and this will change from person to person. Having two darts at least can help to spread the load so it is recommended to use at least two.

The process to manipulate the darts is to first of all decide where the Darts are going to be drawn to, either the Bust Point or the Lower Bust Point. In order to make that decision you need to consider which darts you will be working with, darts above the Bust Point would usually go to the Bust Point and Darts coming from below would usually go to the Lower Bust Point a general rule of thumb is to try not to have 2 darts going to the same Bust Point as things can start to look a little pointy.

Let’s have a look at drawing all the darts to the Bust Point including the Waist Dart and review how to close out darts.

Here all darts have been cut to the Bust Point but not through it allowing a pivot point to allow them all to be manipulated. If you cut too close and the paper drops off don’t worry it’s not a problem you just need to line up the piece on the pivot point prior to taping down.

As we can see in the following photos you can now close up any of the darts, Shoulder, Armhole, Side, Waist or any combination.

Shoulder Closed.

Armhole closed.


Armhole and Waist Closed.

Shoulder and Armhole Closed.

Shoulder, Armhole and Waist Closed.

As before, once you have settled on which darts are to be closed they are taped down and a strip of paper is added to any gaps that have been created to close it. If there is a lot of bulk bigger than around 2” then you would place a seam allowance in the dart and cut off the bulk. This is shown further down this Unit.

Here you can see the closed out gap and marked in red the area that the new Side Dart now takes up that will be sewn. The dart is then trued up.

When manipulating darts the pattern will change shape to accommodate the gaps that are closed and created.

The outlines are then smoothed out, sometimes this may mean redrawing the Shoulder Line. You can see that the Armhole in this photo needed a little smoothing out to get rid of the little jog that appeared after the dart was closed out.

The process is the same when darts have been drawn to the Lower Bust Point.

​​The Front mini Working Template that was used here has the Bust Radius drawn in and darts undrawn so that you can decide which Bust Point to draw them to.

As a reminder the Bust Radius is a measurement on the Measurement Sheet and is drawn in on the draft using a compass, with the point placed on the Bust Point. It shows an approximate position for the breast which helps with estimating necklines and style options etc.

On this draft the darts have been drawn in to the Lower Bust Point, although a mini Working Template has been provided with darts drawn to the Lower Bust Point for you in the downloadable pack.

Here all the Dart Legs have been cut on all darts.

Again any dart or combination of darts can be closed out.

Here the Shoulder Dart is closed.

Here the Shoulder and the Armhole Darts are closed.


Here the outlines for the Shoulder and the Armhole Darts have been smoothed out.

Style Lines

We have seen how you can manipulate darts that already exist into other darts that already exist. By having the darts in place on the Working Template you have provided yourself with space that you can shift around that you have already seen above.

But really you can place a dart wherever you really want to around the perimeter of the bodice, and you can have as many darts as you want to have.

Using something called a Style Line you can draw a line anywhere and then shift the dart bulk into it to create a dart at that point that would then be sewn. By sewing the dart you create a line on the garment and lines draw the eye along them. Adding a line on a garment does need a little thought as you can make a body look longer or shorter it’s all a matter of illusion.

Here is a photo of some ideas of where you may like to try out placing Style Lines, although obviously it is all your choice.