[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.

You would manipulate out any darts that you did not want to use. In the examples below all darts are closed out and the excess is shifted into the Style Line.

Here a Style Line has been added to the Neckline. It is simply drawn to the point where all other darts will be manipulated to either the Bust Point or the Low Bust Point. Here it has been drawn to the Bust Point. ​​

Darts are then cut. The Style Line is also cut.


In this example all darts are closed out and taped down which shifts the gap to the Style Line.

Paper is added to close the gap.

Once Darts on a bodice have been manipulated into one or two Darts, the volume of the Darts that are required to be sewn will increase.

As there is would make this a very large dart you don’t need the excess fabric bulking up the Neckline so it is removed by adding a Seam Allowance into the dart. The size of the Seam Allowance is up to you, I add ½”.

The Test Garment can be made without a specified seam allowance refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Test Garment Creation, and once tested you would add on Seam Allowance to the finished Flexible Pattern.


If you also true up the dart you can get the correct angle for the ends of the Seam Allowance.


Here it is cut out.


Here is another example for a Centre Front Waist Style Line. The Style Line is drawn in.

All the darts are cut including the Style Line as before.

All the darts are closed and taped shifting the gap to the Style Line.

The space is closed with paper.

​​The dart is trued, and as with all darts choose where the bulk is going to go. Due to the position of this Style Line it makes sense to fold the dart away from the Centre Front so that the other side does not clash with this seam.

Here it is with a Seam Allowance added to the dart, dart outlines smoothed out and the whole thing cut out.


Here is a lowered Side Dart or otherwise known as a French Dart. Now this kind of Dart is often used, especially with a larger bust as it can help with the shaping. By lowering the dart you are making it longer and giving yourself more space to shape into. A very low French Dart can elongate the body, a higher French Dart though can make the bust look perkier!

Choose the location on the Side and draw in the Style Line. ​​

Same as before, cut the darts and the Style Line and close out the Darts.

Paper is added.

A seam is also added as usually this ends up being a wide dart.

On any dart you can bow out the Dart Legs to get more shaping and we have seen this during fitting of a Base Template under the Bust. The French Dart is another good dart to create a bow. A curved Dart in the side or lower can help with the bust shape as a large bust with lots of darts can start to look a little pointy.

You would cut the darts and the Style Line and close out the darts before drawing the bowed lines for the French Dart.

Here is how the French Dart would look with bowed out Dart Legs. The centre of each Dart Leg is found and measured out to create the bow, any amount can be used and the bigger the bust the bigger the bow you can make use of try 1/4” as a starting point if you are not sure.

The French Curve is used to create the bowed line, shown here in green. A tip is to make a note of the measurement point on the curve then flip the curve over to draw the curve on the other side from the same measurement to get equally curved lines on either side of the Dart.

The Seam Allowance follows the new curve. Of course dart excess can be placed into multiple Style Lines to create multiple new darts. This method is also used to enable excess fabric to be shifted to create Gathers or Tucks, Refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft – Pleating for further information on Tucks .

Here is an example of multiple darts taking up all of the excess going into the Neckline.

In this example three Style Lines are drawn into the Neckline from the Bust Point. This would essentially give you three darts on each side of the Neckline. The spacing between the Style Lines is important if you want equal spacing all the way around the Neckline creating a mirror image on the other side. Firstly define where the last dart finishes on the Neckline and draw in this Style Line, you don't want to go too far up the Neckline as you will lose the dart in the turn of the Neck, around 2.5" from Centre Front may be a good starting point. Then from Centre Front to the new Style Line divide this space by two and a half parts with the half a part from the Centre Front. This will then give you equal spacing all the way around.

Here are the Style Lines drawn and cut and all of the other darts cut to the Bust Point.

Here the darts are closed and taped and the new style lines sections are spaced out to share the excess space, you could measure or just do it by eye.


The Style Lines are secured and the darts are trued.

Placing multiple darts in the Neckline is going to result in lots of bulk at the neckline so it would be recommended to either use an interfaced facing on the inside to support all of the fabric or a lining. Obviously this kind of multiple dart treatment would work really well with a lightweight fabric such as a silk or a chiffon.

Backing Off Darts

Darts do not always need to be sewn right to the Bust Point or Lower Bust Point. Especially if you have two Darts to sew to the same point you don’t want them to meet at the point otherwise you risk creating a very pointy bust.

After drawing the Dart you can back it off a little way from the Bust Point/Lower Bust Point but be careful of backing off too far especially with a larger bust as you do need the Dart for shaping. I think keep it to less than one inch in fact ½” to ¾” is the best range in my opinion. But you can test this for yourself.

To back off a dart you would draw the dart as usual, and draw in the Centre Line for the dart. Measure away from the point along the Centre Line then redraw the dart to the new point.

You would remove any bulk or add in Seam Allowances after redrawing the dart to the new position.

Here is an example showing Shoulder/Armhole darts closed out with the bulk going into the Side Dart. The Side Dart is the only dart left going to the Bust Point and the Waist Dart going to the Lower Bust Point with both darts redrawn having been backed off.

If you had a Shoulder Dart and a Side Dart both going to the Bust Point you would either back off one dart or both of them if you prefer.

Back Draft and Dart Manipulation

The Back Draft needs to be dealt with in a slightly different way to the Front Draft as there are only 2 darts and they do not end at the same point position so they cannot be manipulated into each other.

You have a few options here;

  • You can either, sew the darts and use them as they are and mostly this is recommended as the Shoulder Dart is going to give you shaping across the Back Shoulder and the Waist Dart is going to give shaping in the Waist which is useful for most body shapes to help get a good fit in this area.

  • You could ignore them and not sew them in which case you can either do nothing and allow the excess ease into the Back or remove excess fabric off the side of the draft to compensate.

  • You can also move the darts to new positions.

In order to ignore the darts you will need to cross them out and then edit the sides of the draft to remove the same excess.

For example let’s look at the Shoulder Dart first.

You would measure the Shoulder Dart and then measure in from the Shoulder End Point by the same amount. Then redraw the Shoulder blending into the current Armhole at around the same level as the Shoulder Dart Point if possible. You can do the same thing with the Waist however it’s not really recommended as it is better to keep this dart, you would need to test this out if you were going to make this alteration.

You could either shave the full amount of the dart off the Side or split the amount into two and take half of it off the Side and half of the Centre Back, although if you do this you will not be able to cut this pattern on the fold, you will always need to have a Centre Back seam.

If you do this remember that you will need to deal with the Waist Dart in the lower part of the bodice that you cut off earlier. You would deal with this dart in the same way by either taking it off the Side or splitting the difference between the Side and the Centre Back seam.

Incidentally if you wish to shave off darts from a skirt or trouser you would do this in the same way.

Shoulder darts can be moved around the perimeter of the pattern as long as it begins at the apex of the current Shoulder Dart and can end anywhere into the Centre Back, the Neckline or the Armhole.

Here this dart is manipulated around into the Style Line and paper added to fill in the dart then the Dart is trued


Here the Dart is shifted into a Style Line that was drawn from the Dart Point to the Centre Back Neck.

The Waist Dart is shifted in much the same way using Style Lines, from the Waist Dart Point to either the Centre Back, the Hip Bone Line or the Side.

Here the Style Line is going to the Centre Back, Hip Bone Line.


Here is the Dart bulk moved into the Style Line, with paper added and the dart trued.

The idea is to get creative and try out dart manipulation on both the Front and the Back Drafts. Create your drafts and try it out with a Test Garment. If you would like to see how your patterned fabric might look you could always make a mini Test Garment using these mini draft patterns to do your experimentation on to use less fabric. © 2017 Threadelicious. All Rights Reserved.


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