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.

dart manipulation by rotating darts

These are a couple of examples I made with the dart going towards the neckline, the centre front and side-seam.

bodice with mid-neck darts

bodice with centre front darts

bodice with french darts

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.

bodice with two shoulder darts

bodice with two shoulder darts

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.

curved darts on a bodice -pattern

bodice with curved darts

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.

turning one dart into 3 darts


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.

princess cut bodice pattern

princess cut bodice example

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.

princess cut bodice example 2

princess cut bodice 2

The third example divides the bodice in two pieces horizontally.

bodice pattern with horizontal styleline

bodice with horizontal styleline

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.

dart manipulation: turning bodice darts into gathered volume

bodice with gathered volume at the centre front

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.

how to draft bodice with stylelines and gathers

bodice with stylelines and gathers

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.

turning bodice darts into pleats

Bodice with folds on the shoulders

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!

circle shape style lines

bodice with circle shape dart manipulation

heart shape dart manipulation

bodice with a heart shape

rhombus shape dart manipulation

bodice with a rhombus shape

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

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  1. This piece was very educative and easy to understand… thank you for sharing

  2. Bimmybrown Reply

    Thanks a lot for being this impactful, I respect and adore you a lot.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thank you! 🙂 No problem. I’m glad you appreciate my works.

  3. Whaooo! 😘😘😘😘 where have you been???? I have been 🤔 looking for such a detailed and easy,highly educative information like this.
    Thank you so very much.
    Oh God bless you. 😍

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Wow! You’re so welcome. 🙂 Yes, this blog is rather new still. I’ve only been on Instagram before. 😀

  4. Folakemi adun Reply

    I have admired fashion for a long while and recently decided to pursue that path, even if it means just sewing for myself and daughter alone.
    Your site has helped in a big measure to ease the path.
    Thank you for giving selflessly.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re welcome! 🙂 I’m glad to help and to share things that I’ve learned. Happy sewing!

  5. Thoko Mdakane Reply

    Ohh what an information thank you so much I’ve been looking for this detailed info thank you once again very helpful

  6. I am in awe of this site/page. It’s filled with gems!!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us… in such a simple manner. Very grateful!!

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I’m glad to hear that.

    • It is really playing around. Thank you for making it so interesting. But please do you have tutorials on how to draft the basic bodice with the darts?

      • shapesoffabric Reply

        You’re welcome. 🙂 Yes, I’m planning on a basic bodice tutorial. Hope to be able to prepare it soon.

  7. Kahekhasha idricy Reply

    Thank you so much it’s very helpful…
    And it’s very useful for whom who can’t afford such expansive classes….

  8. Lilian Mong'are Reply

    Wow, you make it look fun and simple. Very clear and easy to follow.

  9. I like your piece, detailed and neatly presented. I’ll like to get more pattern drafting information always if it’s possible. Thanks a bunch.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re welcome! 🙂 More tutorials are on their way for sure.

  10. Jenna Howell Reply

    Pattern drafting and draping are the most fun things to do. I wish you were around when I was trying to figure out darts. So easily explained! You can never stop learning in sewing no matter how long you’ve been doing it!!

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Completely agree with you. 🙂 It’s so cool being able to always continue learning new tricks in this field. I’m glad you find my website useful.

  11. I am taking a class on this right now! This will be an amazing resource to reference when I inevitably forget everything I am learning.

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