I realized I should actually write a post about dart manipulation, as that is an important part in practically every design. Darts are fundamental in a fitted garment, unless you’re using knit-fabrics. If you look at the pieces I’ve made, you can see that I often get rid of the darts in one way or another. Usually it’s the first thing I do.
I prepared some examples on dart manipulation. These are pretty basic, and could be turned into many other versions. Different alterations could slightly change the fit though, so make a toile before cutting the final fabric.
Most of the examples start from the basic bodice-block with two darts, but in a couple of them I’ve first united the two darts into one because sometimes it’s easier that way.
So lets see these dart manipulations then!
Moving the darts
You can rotate the darts wherever you want. This doesn’t make them disappear, but you’ll get a different look anyways. Whether you have one or two darts originally, it doesn’t matter.
Draw a new line starting from the bust-point in the direction you like. Cut it open and close the other dart(s). Add paper underneath the opening and draw the new dart ending somewhere around 2-3cm or an inch from the bust-point.
These are a couple of examples I made with the dart going towards the neckline, the centre front and side-seam.
If you’re working on the whole front piece instead of just one half, you’ll have more possibilities with dart manipulation; you can do asymmetrical designs. Just move the original darts around if they are on the way when drawing new darts.
Here’s one with both darts starting on the same shoulder.
The darts could also be curved. Then you just need to do the so called cut-away darts. Draw a few tacks along the lines before cutting. Move the starting point 2-3cm or an inch from the bust-point as usual.
Create more darts
Besides merging two darts into one, it’s also possible to turn them into more darts. Here’s one way you could do that:
First unite the two darts and measure how many cm/in wide the resulting dart is. Then divide it by the number of darts you want, and draw new darts (in this case at the waistline).
At school they taught us never to move the bust-dart horizontally more than 2 cm from the bust-point or it wouldn’t be very useful anymore. Hence I kept the darts close to the bust-point.
Using stylelines makes the darts disappear, because they get absorbed into the seams. Probably the best known examples are these two versions of the princess-seams.
In the first one, you just follow the darts to separate the two pieces.
In the second version you need to draw a curve and close the upper dart.
You’ll find some extra ease in the larger pattern-piece. So you might have to fix that by leaving part of it as ease around the bust point and getting rid of the rest of the difference by blending at waistline.
The third example divides the bodice in two pieces horizontally.
Remember to smoothen the angles around the bust point and add notches.
Turn darts into gathers
This is a way to turn the volume of the darts into gathers that will add nice details into your designs.
In my example I wanted the gathers at the centre front, so I drew lines in the area the gathers would go, slashed them open and closed the darts.
I’d just like to add that all this will be easier if you slash even the darts open, like in the picture, before doing anything.
Also, measure the area before opening, so you’ll know how much to gather. You’ll also need to add notches on both sides of the gathered bit.
I think you could even do this in a more simple way by just doing one slash instead of several.
How about uniting stylelines and gathering in the same design? You can do that by drawing the styleline a bit further away from the bust-point. Then open a new dart starting from the styleline and you’ll get some volume to turn into gathers. As before, draw notches before rotating the dart.
Turn darts into tucks or pleats
Another way to use the volume of the darts is to fold it into tucks or pleats. This doesn’t result in a very fitted bodice though, especially in the case of tucks.
Here I chose to have pleats starting from the shoulder.
I drew two more lines towards the shoulder, slashed them open, closed the lower dart completely and the upper dart partially, dividing the dart-volume between the three openings I now had at the shoulder.
Extra: Darts into flat shapes
My last example is closely related to the stylelines. You can draw any shape that passes through the dart-points to make the darts disappear. Only thing is that there has to be a line that goes all the way to the edge of your bodice at some point. Otherwise the pattern won’t lay flat. For example I left a part of the centre-front open in the first two versions. The last shape instead goes all the way to the waist and neckline so it automatically resolves the problem.
Just remember that you’ll have to sew the shape afterwards! Small curves are surprisingly difficult to handle. Also: Don’t forget notches!
You’ll find lots of resources all over internet on dart manipulation. I don’t want to be too repetitive, so I finish my tour here. I think these were the most useful versions anyways.
Next time you see a fitted garment that has no visible darts, try to figure out where did the darts go!
This tutorial has been updated on 29.3.19