Here’s a long overdue sequel to my Dart Manipulation basics tutorial. Initially I felt like I didn’t have much to add, but once I started thinking I found more ways to manipulate darts.

This will be more like a picture tutorial. I made quite a lot of drawings to demonstrate the steps.

In most of the examples the starting point is a bodice where the darts have already been united and/or rotated. Depending on the design, the dart can be either at the side seam..

Dart rotation example: side seam

..or at the waist.

Dart rotation example: waist

In case you wonder: as this is just a temporary move, I didn’t re-center the dart point yet. That is done later. You can also leave the dart “empty” at this point, no need to fill it with paper.

There are also a few examples with a full length bodice. The reason for not having more examples on how to manipulate darts of a hip length bodice, is that it’s too limited and you can’t really do much.

But let’s go in order.

Stylelines + Darts

Here’s the first group of examples.

As you know, you can absorb the bodice darts by drawing stylelines that pass through the dart tips. However, you can also draw stylelines that Don’t touch the dart tips, but in that case you’ll either have smaller darts or you can turn the remaining darts into gathers.

So basically it’s a mix of stylelines and darts. In this case, the styleline forms a separate triangular piece, but you can draw it in any shape you want. Remember to re-center the remaining dart at about 2cm or 3/4in. from the bust point.

How to manipulate darts with stylelines

Here’s the same example with gathers. Add notches around the area of the gathers before separating the pieces so that you’ll know how much to gather.

By adding another styleline you’ll create three pieces:

Multiple Darts

As seen already in the previous Dart Manipulation tutorial, one way to manipulate darts is to spread the dart volume into multiple tiny darts to create design motifs.

Here are two more examples. The technique is the same in both:

Draw lines where you’d like the darts to be, each ending at the bust point. Then cut them open, close the original dart, and divide the volume evenly between the new darts. Re-center the dart tips further away from the bust point as usual and cut the pattern edge with the darts folded to get the correct dart allowance shapes.

How to manipulate darts: one dart into multiple darts

If one of the darts is already there, close it partially to divide the volume.

You’ll get a different look by leaving the dart allowance on the right side of the bodice.

How to manipulate darts: one dart into multiple darts

Curved Darts

Building on the idea of curved darts, here are a couple of ideas.

In this case you’ll need to trace the full front bodice piece.

Draw the curves, but before cutting, add a notch or two along the curved line.

Notice that even in this case you re-center the dart points, but instead of dart allowance, you just add normal seam allowance to make it easier to sew the curved darts.

Curved darts pattern

After the previous example, this one will be easy.

To enhance the dart, you can add a strip of bias tape in a contrasting color in the seams.

I used this idea originally in a bamboo bodice, so if you feel like a challenge, you can try this, too! There’s a tutorial that goes with it here.

Curved bamboo bodice

Bamboo Bodice Inspired Darts

Speaking of the bamboo bodice, here are a few ideas to manipulate darts deriving from it.

In the first example the darts are “empty”, so you just re-center the dart tips and add seam allowance.

The second example is more like the classic bamboo bodice with folded dart allowance. (Fold the darts downwards.) Check out the bamboo bodice tutorial I mentioned if you need help.

You can also make this in the same way as the previous example (=with seams).

This next example is just stylelines, although I got the idea from the bamboo lines by uniting the previous two designs into one.

Stylelines and the Full Length Bodice

So how would you go about manipulating the darts of a full length bodice? There are both bust and waist darts. The easiest way is to just manipulate them separately, for example like this.

The bust dart is absorbed into a styleline and the waist dart is divided into two smaller darts that are then sewn leaving the dart allowance on the right side.

But if you’d like to absorb both darts into stylelines, you have to invent shapes that allow you to pass through both darts, at the tips and at the waist.

In the next examples I separate side panels with curved lines.

You can move the darts up to 2cm or 3/4in. in any direction from the bust point: up, down, left, or right in order to get nicer shapes. Here I moved the bust point slightly.

The waist dart volume remains between the two pieces in a curved shape.

Remember to add notches!

Dart manipulation: full length bodice

After separating the first piece, you can also separate another slice for a different look. Add notches.

Dart manipulation: full length bodice

Finally, here’s an example of stylelines that pass through each dart, dividing the bodice into several slices. The circles show you which points you need the stylelines to pass through to absorb the darts.

This requires some planning. There’s a certain order to draw the lines so that the darts won’t get in the way. I lowered the right bust point to make it coincide with the styleline. Add notches before cutting.

Decorating Stylelines: Ruffles

When there’s a seam, it means that you can add ruffles or flounces to it! For example this princess seam bodice.

Draw the princess seams by uniting the darts as shown. You can move the back darts if they won’t create a nice shape otherwise. Add notches.

Then measure the seams to calculate the ruffle length. I made the ruffle piece double the length of the seam.

The ruffle pattern is just a rectangle. You can add notches to divide the length evenly, for example, by dividing the piece into 4 sections. Just ensure that you add the corresponding notches to the bodice pieces, too.

Stylelines and ruffles

Decorating with Pleats

Once you’ve divided your bodice into different sections with stylelines, you can add pleats to some, or all of them to create interesting textures. I have a few pleating tutorials here on my blog, so check them out if needed.

Here’s a bodice with a pleated neckline: first I separated the neckline section with a styleline and then added two knife pleats to it. The pleat allowance shouldn’t be wider than twice the distance between the pleats to avoid creating bulk. Cut the edge of the piece with the pleats folded to get the correct pleat allowance shape.

It’s easier to fold the pleats if the grainline follows the direction of the pleats.

How about this pleated motif in the center of the bodice?

First you separate the area with stylelines, absorbing the dart.

And then you add pleats to the piece you just separated.

Bodice with pleated motif

Finally, if you want to fill the whole bodice with pleats, here’s one example. However, the lower piece consists of layers, because you can’t do curved pleats. Here‘s a tutorial on layering.

Begin by separating the upper and lower sections of the bodice, absorbing the dart. Then draw lines where you’d like the pleats and layers to be. Number the sections.

Add pleat allowance between the numbered sections and copy the layer & layer facing pieces. In the example it shows how to trace layer number 3 and its facing.

Layer 1 doesn’t have a separate facing as you simply cut it twice.

So there you have it: Some more ideas on how to manipulate darts! I hope you got some inspiration for your sewing projects.

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  1. simply fabulous. I’ve tried a classic bamboo top but need so much more practice to get it right.

  2. falowo simbiat Reply

    You are an angel from heaven,after purchasing my machine am gonna implement all these
    You are an amazing life saver

  3. Robyn Fisken Reply

    Well all I can say is wow, what great content to absorb, thank you.

  4. Αμαλία Μαστρογιάννη Reply

    You are a fantastic teacher!!!!

  5. Amazing. And so beautifully explained. Thank you. I made a bodice pattern inspired by your website. I have a ways to go before I can make it look as polished. I’d love to share a pic but am not sure how. 🙁

    • You’re welcome. 🙂 That’s wonderful. I’m sure you’ll manage to get it right. If you’re on instagram you can tag me @behind_shapesoffabric or you can send a picture via email.

  6. This is dart manipulation on a whole other level. Thank you so much for the thorough explanation and clear illustrated diagrams. I can’t wait to experiment with it!

  7. Thank you ma’am so much for the illustrations and explanation so well detailed.

  8. I am so blessed because of you.
    This is absolutely mind-blowing. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Wow thank you I have learnt so much from just making one of your designs I have aptly named it humbug twist hope you can guess which one I have had a go at I will be doing more.

    • Oh that’s awesome! 🙂 Googling humbug I bumped into stripy sweets, so I’m guessing the one with diagonal stripes?

  10. Thank you indeed for your kindness to share your valuable knowledge to us.
    Be blessed.

  11. I really love your work…and you are so generous with your knowledge…thank you.
    Please do I get to add sewing allowance before joining the pieces together? I’m referring to the style lines in the full bodice, as well as the other dart manipulations… ?

    • Thank you. 🙂 Yes, you add the seam allowance either to the pattern pieces at the end, or directly when cutting fabric.

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