Block with Sleeves

Example of how the problem is addressed

Understanding this concept, that gape darts will appear in the neckline and/or armhole when using the basic Bodice Block to create garments is essential.  These 'gape darts'  need to indicated on the Bodice block, and they need to be taken into account (pivoted into other darts) in the patternmaking process.

There are a couple of ways to determine the size of these gape darts...

Gaping will occur at various places on the bodice block, to various degrees

This information is put on the block and it is used to make the necessary adjustments.

When gaping occurs, it requires a dart to make the garment sit closer to the body

These gape darts are pivoted into existing darts

Contouring marks are put on the block to indicate how much gaping occurs and where it occurs.

It is possible to put all the gape darts on the Bodice Block and use this to make garments with sleeves and without sleeves, but I find that is too time-consuming.  I prefer to mark only the neck gape-ines on the Bodice Block (which is for sleeve garments, therefore won't have cutaway arms), and also create a Sleeveless Block which the gape-lines noted for both the armhole and the neckline.

Example of Gaping

Contour Markings

This follows on from The Need for Contouring (an Example).

Contour markings are necessary for both the Bodice Front and the Bodice Back. The purpose of these lines is to show if and/or where gape darts are required, and the size of the gape darts.  In the images below, these contour markings are shown on the standard Bodice (Sleeves) Block.

The circle shown on the block indicates the Bust Mound; the circle is drawn with the Bust Radius measurement.

This page just shows the contour markings on the Bodice Front and the Bodice Back.   Details such as the amount of contouring will be found on one of the following pages.

Bodice Front: Six Contour Markings

Figure 1 shows the Bodice Block (Sleeves) with seven contour markings.

  1. Reduction in block ease
  2. Reduction in Armhole ease
  3. Cutaway armhole gape dart
  4. Mid-shoulder dip adjustment
  5. Low neckline gape dart
  6. Between-bust gape dart
  7. Empire line gape dart for waist dart (plus additional Empire Line markings)


Bodice Back: Three Contour Markings

Figure 2 shows the Bodice Block (Sleeves) with four contour markings.

  1. Reduction in block ease
  2. Change in shape of the shoulder line. (Mid-shoulder-dip adjustment)
  3. Increase in length of waist dart.
  4. Increase in width of waist dart for Empire Line (plus other Empire Line markings)


Continued in Sleeveless Block.

In Action: Example

This follows on from Strapless.


In the previous pages we marked contouring information on the Bodice block, but what do we do with this information, how do we use it?

Contouring marks indicate where gaping will occur.   Gaping means that a dart is required, so the solution is to put in a dart. 

In the example in Figure 1, the design line crosses one of the gape dart lines, so a dart is required.  This does not mean putting a dart in the neckline** -  the gape dart needs to be incorporated into the design.   In this case, it will be moved into the side seam dart.

Moving darts to difference places in the Bodice Block is covered in detail in the Manipulating Darts section of the Principles pages, and is a skill you need to learn before attempting to make your own patterns.  Below in an example of how this gape dart information is applied; in this example you can see the difference in the shape of the pattern piece when the gape dart is moved to the side seam dart. 

** Note:  You can put a dart in the neckline if the design calls for it, but in this case it doesn't.

The Gape Dart Moved

In Figures 2 & 3 below, the gape dart has been moved into the side seam dart.



Individual Contouring Amounts

This continues on from Standard Contouring.


Working out your individual contouring amounts does take some time and effort, but it is worth spending the time up front to get it right.

Some instructions suggest using a ruler against the body at the relevant points, as the example shown in Figure 1, and measuring the depth of the gaps, but I could not get accurate contouring with this method.  As I had to make a toile to test tand cut down the neckline and cut away the armholes, I think that one may as well go directly to the toile to work out the contouring.

In order to be accurate, I think it's necessary to make at least two toiles; one for the neckline and one for the armhole.  Once you have determined those amounts, you can then use those same two toiles again to cut out the other (e.g. with the one you used for the neckline, you then also cut away the armholes and visa versa).   If you want to make extremely low necklines or strapless garments, you will probably need to make further toiles.

I use the Sleeveless Block to make the toile to work out the contouring.  The sleeveless block has some of the block ease removed, and the armhole it raised up.  In the following example, a Sleeveless Block is used. 

These examples give you an idea of what you need to do, you will need to apply these ideas to contouring for which I have not supplied examples.  The information I am giving is a general guide, in some cases you will need to apply some logical thinking to solve some issues.

Note that the Empire Line contouring is not covered here; see the Empire Line page under the Elements Menu.


On your Sleeveless blocks, draw the following guides:

Bodice Front:

  • Your Bust Circle, shown by the purple dashed line.  See the contouring page - Contouring Overview - if  you are unsure of this measurement.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the shoulder tip. This is the cutaway arm line, and is shown in orange.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the mid-neck. This is the low neckline line, and is shown in green.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the Centre Front. This is for very low necklines that go below the Bust Point, and is shown in red.
  • The contouring line for the shoulder.  This is for the dip that is usual for the shoulder, and is shown in blue. Use the standard measurement to begin with - see the Standard Contouring page for details.

Bodice Back:

  • Extend the height of the waist dart up to the Across Back line.  This placement of this line is 1/4 of the CB measurement, measuring down from the CB neck point.  The line is drawn at right angles to the CB line.
  • The contouring line for the shoulder.  This is the same measurement you used for the Bodice Front shoulder line.


Important Note: Shoulder line

The shoulder line may confuse some people, and suggest that a curve line is required.  That is not the case. (Note that there is nothing wrong with a curve, but this is not what the guideline is about).

See below find four examples of how the shoulder line is used.  Examples given are the Bodice Front, but they apply in the same manner to the Bodice Back.  The colored shapes are the garment; look closely at the shoulder lines - in all these cases the shoulder line is straight.

In these cases, the shapes that are shown have not had the contouring done for the cutaway arm or necklines; these shapes are just to clarify how the shoulder line guide is used.



Toile 1:  Low Necklines

Mark the neckline design lines

On your Bodice Front block, draw four necklines, going progressively lower.  Line up your Bodice Back at the shoulder line and continue the curve to draw the Bodice Back neckline.  Don't cut dow the back neckline very far.


Note: Having a very low cut back as well as a low cut front will create further problems (e.g. the garment falling off the shoulder), so to begin with it's better to cut the back down just a small amount (as per the image above) to concentrate on the front. Once you determined the contouring for the front, you can then take on the task of working out how far you can cut the back down before the garment starts falling off the shoulder. Low back necklines will not be covered here, you can apply the steps below to a low cut Bodice Back at a later stage if making garments with a low cut back is something you want.

Transfer markings to your toile, make and fit

  • draw the bust mound, the three gape dart guides and the necklines onto your toile.
  • create the toile at the first neckline (the Bodice Back is made with the contouring adjustments)
  • try the toile on on and use pins to fit the garment: creating a dart at the green line (with the green line at the centre), on both sides of the boy
  • remove the toile and transfer the information, the pinned amount, to the Block
  • remove pins
  • cut at the second line
  • pin, measure, transfer information to block
  • One you have pinned No.3,  leave that dart pinned in place when fitting dart No.4.  (You may have to sew it in place to get an accurate fit).
  • Note that this is a good time to mark the block with your preferred neckline depths.


Markings on Bodice Block

Of the first three necklines, No.3. should have the largest dart.  You should be able to draw the dart information like this:


Toile 1: Cutaway Armholes

Repeat the process with a toile for determining the cutaway arm gape darts.

Note that you will need to remove the shoulder dart in the Bodice Back.  However the shoulder line should still dip in the middle.


This continues in Strapless.

Sleeveless Block

This follows on from Contour Markings (Gape Darts).

The Sleeveless Bodice Block is a deritative block; it is created from the Bodice (Sleeves) Block, with a few changes made.   Like all derivative blocks, it is not essential; you could just use the Bodice (Sleeves) Block and make the changes each time you make a sleeveless garment.

Creating a Sleeveless Block saves having to reduce the block and armhole ease each and every time you make a sleeveless pattern.  While it might not sound much, if you make a lot of Sleeveless garments, it is worth the effort.

Below find a few images that show you the difference between the two blocks.

 Bodice Front with Contour Markings: Sleeves & Sleeveless

Figure 1 shows the Bodice Front with Countour Markings: the contour markings No.1 & No.2. (reducing the ease at the underarm level of the garment, and the armhole ease) that are shown on the Bodice Front (sleeves) do not appear on the Sleeveless Block because those changes have been incorporated into the block.  These two changes are necessary for all sleeveless garments.  The other possible changes (indicated by the contour markings) may or may not be required depending on the design.


Bodice Back with Contour Markings: Sleeves & Sleeveless

Figure 2 shows the Bodice Back (sleeves) compared to the Sleeveless Bodice Back: the contour mark reducing the underam ease (indicated by No.1) in the Bodice (Sleeves) has been incorporated into the Sleeveless Block


Comparison Bodice (Sleeves) and Sleeveless Bodice

Figure 3: The Bodice (Sleeves) and Sleeveless Bodice have been superimposed for comparison.


Continued in Standard Contouring Amounts.

Standard Contouring Amounts

This follows on from Sleeveless Block.

The standard contouring amounts (i.e. for the Standard Figure) are as shown in the images below, for the front and the back.

Bodice Front

Front Figure 1:  Reduction in block width

The reduction is 0.5-inch.

When creating the Bodice Block, the amount of ease added to the body measurement, at the undearm level, was 5 inches.  This is ideal for garments with sleeves.  This reduction of  0.5-inch on the half-blocks front and back will reduce the total amount of ease to 3 inches for the fitted sleeveless garment.  (Half inch x 2 front, half inch x 2 back = 2 inches).


Front Figure 2:  Reduction in armhole ease

The reduction is 0.25-inch.

The curve of the armhole is closer to the body without a sleeve.  When this excess amount is removed it reduces the armhole measurement and also raises the armhole.


Front Figure 3:  Cutaway armhole

Reduction of 0.5-inch at bust circle, tapering to zero at both the shoulder and the Bust Point.

A cutaway arm will cause gaping between the shoulder and the bust mound.  As this line will be on the bias stretch, the gape dart amount is more than the actual gape.


Front Figure 4: Shoulder line shaping

Reduction of 0.13-inch at mid-shoulder.

The shoulder usually dips a little in the middle.  (See the Examples for an application of using this guideline).


Front Figure 5:  Low neckline guide

Reduction of 0.25-inch at the bust circle, tapering to zero at both the neckline and the Bust Point.

The lower the neckline, the more the gape.  Note that when the neckline dips to near or below the Bust Point, coutouring line No.6. applies in addition to this one.


Front Figure 6:  Low neckline

Very near and below the Bust Point; 0.75 inch total at Centre Front.

Necklines that dip to the Bust Poin and below need even more contouring.


Front Figure 7: Empire Line Guides

The dart width increases 0.75-inch at the bust circle.

The Empire Line style ends beneath the bust, therefore the dart ends at the bust circle rather than extending to the waist. The dart needs to be wider for the garment to return to the body under the bust.   See Figure 7b if you do not understand this.


Front Figure 7b: The Empire Line return

The Empire Line returns to the body under the bust, rather than falling from the bust to the waist.


Bodice Back

Back Figure 1: Reduction in block width

The reduction is 0.5-inch.

When creating the Bodice Block, the amount of ease added to the body measurement, at the undearm level, was 6 inches.  This is ideal for garments with sleeves.  This reduction of 0.5-inch on the half-blocks front and back will rthe total amount of ease to 4 inches for the fitted sleeveless garment.


Back Figure 2: Shoulder line shaping

Reduction of 0.13-inch at mid-shoulder.

The shoulder usually dips a little in the middle.  (See the Examples for an application of using this guideline).


Back Figure 3:  Increase height of waist dart

Increase hte height of the waist dart by extending the dart point up to the Across Back line.

The placement of the Across-Back line is 1/4 of the CB measurement - down from the CB neck point.  This line is drawn at right angles to the CB line.


Back Figure 4:  Increase of dart

The dart, which was previously at the waist levelm, is now under the bust. The width increases 0.75-inch at Empire Line level.

The placement of the Empire Line is another matter - it is based on the Bodice Front Empire Line.  See the page  Empire Line Styling in the Elements Menu.


Continued in Individual Contouring.


This follows on from Individual Contouring, and is the final page in the Contouring menu.

For strapless garments, the armhole gape dart, the neckline gape dart and the Centre Front gape dart are all rolled into one big gape dart.  Note that this is using the Sleeveless Block.  If you are using the Sleeve Block, you will also have to include the armhole gape dart.

If you are unsure how to merge these three darts (or any number of darts) into one, see the Manipulating Darts section of the Principals Menu.

See the image below for an example of the three gape darts merged into one.


 Continued in In Action: Example 1.

The Need for Contouring (an Example)

This follows on from Contouring (Definition).

This example (the body form is a replica of my body) is to show that how that using the Bodice Block (made for use with Sleeves) to make a garment with cutaway arms and/or low neckline willl result in gaping.  As mentioned before, this will be a problem to a greater or lesser degree depending on your individual body.


In Figure 1, the white tape shows how the Bodice Block will fall from the neck, over the bust, down to the waist.  (It would sit out a bit further from the waist than in the image). 

This would be how a garment made with the Bodice Block, with a high neckline and sleeves, would sit on my body.


In Figure 2, the photo is taken on an angle that shows how much space there in between the tape (the fabric) and the body.

While this space is not an issue for a garment with a high neckline and sleeves, if a garment with a low neckline or cutaway arms was made with this block (and with no further adjustments), the result would be a lot of gaping, i.e. the garment would be loose in the neckline and armhole and therefore not fit well.    (And also the armhole, but that is not so evident in this photo).

In order to create a garment with a low neckline, it is necessary to make some contouring adjustments.

Continued in Contour Markings (Gape Darts).

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