Manipulating Darts

Manipulating Darts

All darts can be moved to some extent; the extent depends on the block in question.  The Bodice Block has more options for manipulation than do other blocks such as Skirt or Sleeve. This ‘movement’ of darts is achieved by closing the dart value in one place, and opening the same value in another, with the movement occurring around a central pivot point. Moving, or manipulating the darts, if done correctly, will not change the final shape and fit of the garment. Darts can be moved by either cutting and spreading, or by pivoting. A step-by-step_ example of moving a dart with both of these methods can be seen in the Terminology pages, click on the links below: You will use which method makes more sense at the time you need it.  Use pivoting where possible (as it saves cutting up and sticking back together), and use the cut and spread when pivoting isn’t possible.  Sometimes you need to do both in one pattern; you may even need to cut and spread a couple of times in the one pattern. If you want to practice manipulating darts, there are many examples with step-by-step directions in the other pages in this menu; e.g. Bodice Front, Bodice Back, etc.  However, if you want to understand better how pivoting really works, and why there is more options to pivot darts in the Bodice Front than other blocks, then the rest of this article will help with that.

Darts on the Bodice Front

The darts on your Bodice Block Front can be moved to anywhere around the edge of that block.

Example: Moving a dart in the Bodice Block

Figure 1 shows Bodice Block on the left, and a pattern on the right where the side seam dart from the block has been moved into the shoulder. Note that in Figure 1, only the side seam dart was moved, and the waist dart stayed the same.  If the design called for it, I could have moved both darts into the shoulder.  I could have moved the side seam dart into the shoulder but the waist dart into the center front.   They are just some of the many options available for moving darts in the Bodice Front.    There is a great deal of flexibility with the Bodice Front; you can move either or both of the darts to anywhere around the edge of the block.

Moving Darts in the Bodice: Many Options

Figure 2 below gives an example of where you could move the side seam dart around the edges of the block.  In this case, I have only moved the value of the side seam dart, so the waist dart would be the same in each case.  Of course the actual pivoting has not been done; this is just to show some examples of WHERE the dart can be moved to, and it shows what the dart value would be at the edge of the block.

Dart Values

Before we move on to how darts can be moved in a skirt, it will pay to understand how dart values change when you move darts.  Understanding this first in the Bodice Block will help in understanding why the options of moving darts in the skirt are more limited. In Image 3 below, we have the same image as at the top of the page; the basic Bodice Block that has a waist and a side seam dart, and a pattern where the side seam dart has been moved to the shoulder seam.  the Dart Values of the side seam dart and the shoulder dart are indicated.  The dart value is the width of the dart; and you can see that the shoulder dart is bigger; it has a greater value that the side seam dart. The dart value is the width of the dart; and you can see that the shoulder dart is bigger; it has a greater value that the side seam dart. This is because the dart is moved from a central pivot point, the Bust Point, and the Bust Point is the center of a circle. The radius of the circle is from the Bust Point to furthest edge of the block; in this case, the Shoulder Tip.  See Image 4 below: I will take this circle and cut out a wedge where the side seam dart is; see Image 5: In Figure 6, I have just moved the circle, with the wedge cut out, around to the shoulder.   You will see that the value of the wedge is the same, but the shoulder dart is bigger because the shoulder line is further out towards the edge of the circle. In Figure 7, I have moved the same circle (with the same wedge cut out) around to the armhole and the Center Front in line iwth the Dart Point.   You can see that the further in the circle, the smaller the dart value. In Figure 8, that circle is moved around to various places on the block.  The black lines indicate the dart value for the different placements of the dart.

Darts in the Skirt

Now with the Bodice Front above, we closed a dart to open up a dart in another place.  There are a few different reasons for doing this on the Bodice; moving a dart for the sole purpose of having the dart in a different place on the garment as that creates a different style, moving the dart in preparation for a design line (e.g. a Armhole Princess Line or a Shoulder Princess Line, etc), or moving the dart to create a style that will have a dart equivalent (tucks, gathers, pleats, etc). This is not the same with the skirt.  In Image 9, I have created the same circle with a slice cut out to show you the consequence of moving a dart in the skirt. The pivot point for the skirt is the same as the Dart Point.  You can see that if we closed one of the darts in the skirt waist, how much would open up on the skirt hem. In this case, it would not make sense to move the waist dart into the hem JUST to use that wedge as a dart; this would be a waste of  fabric. (Note: Of course you could choose to ‘cut out’ the fabric and have a seam line instead, but in that case you do not need to manipulate the dart. See Figure 10 below to understand the difference.) The reason you would close this waist dart and open up the value in the hem is to create an A-line skirt.  If you closed both darts, the skirt would be contoured in the waist, without having waist darts, but of course it would have an even wider hem width. So, to summarize: moving the dart into the hem only works if you want an A-line skirt. ** In Figure 10: Compare removing dart by creating a seam-line and incorporating that dart into the seam-line, and using dart manipulating to move the dart to the hemline.

Moving the dart elsewhere in the skirt

OK, so we manipulated the dart to move it from the waist to the skirt.  However with the Bodice Front we could move it all the way around the Bodice Front, not just from one side to the other. Can we do this with the skirt? In Figure 11 below, let’s look at what we get. The questions are: Does it makes sense to move the darts there?  What will it look like with a dart there?  Will it look strange and make a garment that nobody would dream of wearing? Rather than a dart, would a design line be better?  Would a design line elsewhere achieve a better look?   All of this comes down to design and what you want to create; there’s nothing stopping you moving that dart into any of those places, if that’s the design you want.  But…it might not be a good idea for a range of reasons.

Darts in other Blocks such as Bodice Back and Sleeve

If you take the above theory and apply it to the Bodice Back, Sleeve and Pants darts, you should be able to work out to what extent, if any, those darts can be moved, if you would want to move them,  and why or why not.     Like the Skirt, any movement of darts in the sleeve and pants would be done less often than in the Bodice Front. For the Skirt, Pants and Bodice Back, manipulating the darts isn’t done as often as with the Bodice Front; other options like incorporating the shaping that the dart provides by creating a garment part like a yoke may be preferable.

More Complex Dart Manipulation

The examples of dart manipulation on this page apply when  moving a dart from one location on the edge of the block to another.  Using this theory, you can follow along with the step-by-step examples to create Styles 1 – 27. See View 1-Dart Styles for Styles 1 – 9,  View 2-Dart Styles for Styles 10 – 16, &   View Other Styles for Styles 17 – 27.  (These links will open in a new window). There is more complex dart manipulation that requires a bit more theory than covered on this page.  This includes styling such as Parallel Darts and Asymmetric Darts.  The theory for these more complex manipulations are found on the page Complex Dart Manipulation.  Once you have covered the theory on more complex darts, you can follow along and attempt to make the rest of the Styles (28 – 45) listed in the View Other Styles page.

13 Responses

  1. Hi, Maria. I have a some questions about adding ease and darts. If I want to add ease at side seam to a fitted bodice, in order to create a more relaxed fit garnment or even a more closest to oversize style, the value of the darts at side seam (i.e: a bust dart or a french dart) should proportionally increase it (in the way at appears in the images) or should it maintain its original width ?
    and consequently, redraw the dart at the new side seam line,then check lenght of new side seam line, to match with back, etc, etc.?
    I have always had this question.
    PD: I used to use bust dart to absorb difference between my full length front and full lenght back (4.5 cms. approx). The method that I learned years ago (método teniente) only considers the bust measurement (1/4 full bust, withouth adding ease), not mention the upper bust, and the teacher encouraged us to use the exact measurements, without adding any ease, with the result of having not excess of fabric at underarm, but very tight and uncomfortable in the bust and waist… I’m very interested in your method, I enjoy and learn when reading your articles. Greetings. Sara.

  2. Hello Sara

    Just to let you know I’ve seen this comment, and will hopefully have time to write an answer this weekend (Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 April).


  3. Hi Maria,

    I’m needing to the bodice patterning and have read and watched a lot of videos. The whole contouring process still confuses me. I understand the basic darts for contouring when sleeveless and a low neckline, but watching some YouTubers how do you know where to put darts if you haven’t put the garment together and tried it on? I have an overthinking issue, but so I don’t know if I’m overthinking everything.
    I plan on making this corset dress (will leave images below) but was wondering would it be fine if I used the torso bodice and used sleeveless contouring for the dress? [img][/img][img][/img]

  4. Hi Malikah

    I actually couldn’t access the image via the link you shared.

    If it is sleeveless and/or has a low neckline it may need contouring. How much contouring it needs will depend on your body. I cannot make a guess as to whether or not, or how much contouring you would need.
    You need to make a toile from your Bodice Block, then cut it down (in increments) and see how much gaping occurs. You measure the darts you need and mark those on the block. I have covered this in my Contouring Page.

    You really need to do that work. It may take you a couple of hours, and you may need to make a couple of toiles so you can do sleeveless and cutaway armholes as well. Do it properly and you only need to do it once. You mark those gape darts on your Bodice Block and have the information there every time you make garment that needs contouring.

    (You could, if you want, use the standard contouring amounts; they are covered in the pages I have linked below. However, if they don’t work then your dress will not end up fitting well… It’s best to work out your contouring yourself).

    Have you seen the information in my Contouring Menu?

  5. I have a question regarding dart manipulation and sleeves. I have a sloper that on the front has a shoulder, armhole and bust dart. I made one shirt with princess seams, leaving the armhole dart open to accommodate a sleeve and it worked well. I want to manipulate darts into, say, a french dart. If I close all the darts into a french dart, I will lose the armhole dart and it makes my armhole too small. If I lower the armhole, then my side seams do not match up front to back. So I guess my question is, if I want to have a sleeve, should I just leave the armhole dart open and not manipulate it into the french dart? Or, if I close it into the french dart and lower the armhole, how do I accommodate the side seams so that they match in length (just lengthen the front side seam down to match the back?)?? I hope this makes sense…

  6. Hello

    Hello Paula

    The only reason to create an account is to make comments more easily; i.e. you don’t have to keep filling in the RECAPTCHA (I’m not a robot’) field.

    I don’t provide formal classes – I just write articles and step-by-step instructions. Written instructions on this website, and videos on YouTube.

    You do not need an account to access the information.


  7. Hello Alka

    All the information on Manipulating Darts can be found under the Principles menu; here are some links.

    (1) Main Menu

    (2) Bodice Front

    Here is a link to one of the 40 step-by-step examples, you should be able to find the other 39 easily from there (on the left hand side menu).


    The menu has 40 examples of dart manipulation for the Bodice Front. If you work through them you should eventually be able to work out any dart manipulation on your own.

    I cannot provide individual one-on-one help. The free help I provide are the article and step-by-step instructions on this website, and my videos on my YouTube channel.


  8. Thanks Maria. So, I want to make a short fitted blouse with four darts. Do you have any instructions or article on that. Can your two dart blouse be converted to four dart by manipulating darts instructions in your article

  9. I currently only have 4 dress patterns and 4 top patterns on my website – those are written instructions and can be found through the Patterns Menu, but here is a link to the View All Patterns page:

    I am working on a series of videos for drafting dresses (Princess/Empire bodice with a variety of flared skirts) for my YouTube channel. Details of that can be found in my Planned Content 2022 video on my YouTube channel. Those videos will take me four or five months to finish.

    Other than that, I’m sorry I can’t help you.

    I have the patternmaking theory on my website, so you could work through my Tops Patterns (x 4), then try to work out how to make the necessary changes to the darts (by working through the manipulating darts exercises) to get the top you want.

    Again, other than that I can only suggest you look elsewhere for what you need.

  10. Maria- I want to learn to make a pattern for a four dart and princess cut very well fitted c top top length blouse. I am tired of tying v dry I’ll fitted blouse stitched. Please guide ma where do I start and where can I find information and/or classes to learn that. Thanks

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