A Simple Dart Throw

1 Skirt back

1 Back on dummyIf you’re playing around with your basic skirt block and thinking of moving the back dart from the waist seam where it’s typically found, there aren’t that many places it can go.  This is why so often we make the dart just disappear into figure-hugging princess seams!  In making this pencil skirt, I moved the dart onto the centre back, halfway between the lapped zip and the kick pleat.  It’s very long and the angle is sharp: not a particularly attractive feature.  So why did I bother?

The answer is: this is a muslin and the first step towards something more difficult.

1 fishtailA couple of posts ago, I asked for your ideas on skirts and Ruth suggested I make a close-fitting pencil with a fish tail.  I went straight to Pinterest to look for mermaidy images and found one particular design that appealed, which you see on the left. Unfortunately I haven’t the original source for the picture.  My version will, I hope, be subtler with less fabric involved: more like what you see here in fact.  But first I needed to be satisfied that the simple elements work and give a good fit.

1 Pencil skirt1 Front darts

Hm, I might need to make it longer and more narrow at the knees but that’s easy enough.

This makes a useful addition to the wardrobe and cost nothing.  The zip was salvaged; the fabric a leftover (from Vogue 1247) and the lining fabric just appeared as I was trying to stuff some drawers shut!

Check this out: something weird happens when I put the skirt front down on the table. See how it refuses to lie flat? It’s like this skirt wants to turn into a wok!

1 Skirt back on tableI suspect this dart placement is  good choice if you want to hug a fashionably big bottom.

It’s all about that bass, I’m told.

How to:

If you’re not familiar with moving darts using the slash n’ spread method, you might benefit from this crude tutorial.  The process is really easy.  You do need 2 large lots of paper.

Step 1.  Make a copy of the skirt back.  Extend the waist dart so the dart point is at the base of your bottom.




Step 2. Draw a line from the dart point to the centre back seam.  Cut along the new line, then cut along one of the original dart legs.



Step 3. Close the waist dart.  The new dart will open.  To complete the pattern, pin in this position onto another paper layer.  Draw around.  Remove original.  On the new layer, fold the dart closed and pin in this position (I like to pin darts down).  Draw seam and hem allowances all around and cut out pattern.  Unpin dart.



1 Got it

Links:  Excellent Lapped Zip Tutorial: Part 1 and Part 2.


1 Chunky pleatsThis is a demo of the simplest method of dart manipulation which is slash and spread.  If you’re to alter your block by adding design lines like I’ve done to the neckline here, you might first need to move any darts that may be in the way.

Before you begin, make at least one copy of your bodice block/sloper.  Unlike with the ‘pivot method’ (explained here), you’ll be cutting and I don’t want you to destroy your original!

If, on the other hand, you came here because of the filthy-sounding post title or ’cause you’re stalking the Guitar Hero dude, go away!  There’s nothing to see 🙄


EXAMPLE 1: moving the shoulder dart into the armscye.

Step 1
Trace the bodice front.  Draw a line from the bust point to where you want your new dart to lie on the armhole1t Bodice front move shoulder dart to armscye

Step 2

Cut the new line to bust point.  Cut one of the dart lines (legs) from the shoulder dart to the bust point and ‘close’ the dart by joining the dart legs together (use some tape).  The new dart will swing open.  1t Shoulder dart opens in armhole


EXAMPLE 2: moving the shoulder dart to the neckline

You can put the dart anywhere between a seam and the bust point.  You can also join the two darts into one big one.  In the second example, we’re moving the dart from the shoulder seam to the neckline.

Step 1 Draw a line from bust point to a point on the neckline

1t Bodice front move shoulder dart to neck

Step 2 Cut the new line to bust point.  Cut one of the dart legs to bust point and tape the dart closed 1t Shoulder dart moved


Challenge  Want some homework to see if you’ve got it?  OK, this time, move the shoulder dart into the waist dart.  Your bodice front will end up having a single dart, rather wide, in the waist seam.  In the next post, I’ll show you how to go from here to making a chunky pleated neckline pattern, Vivienne Westwood-style.  It’s not too difficult.  In the meantime, why not experiment a little by doodling where you want the pleats to be?1 Sketching pleat positions

Dart Manipulation

In my next post, I’ll be using my bodice block (or sloper) to draft a pleated neckline pattern such as the one I used to make Nicotine Surprise.  This won’t be a process of great complexity, but it does take quite a few steps (and then some paper).  Dart manipulation is the first of these steps and I thought it deserved a tutorial of its own since you can use the technique in other drafting projects.

But what is dart manipulation?  Is it as sinister as it sounds?

It means moving the darts around the block for a purpose.  Typically, the bodice blocks have waist and shoulder darts and look like this:

We’re going to move the shoulder darts out of the way.  Once the neck and shoulder areas are dart-free, we can add style lines here and create a design such as a pleated neckline.

You’ll need: your front and back bodice blocks, two pieces of paper slightly larger than the blocks and a pencil.  I’m using a bradawl for pivoting but the point of a pencil works just fine.

FRONT BODICE Moving the shoulder dart from the shoulder seam to the armscye using the pivot method.

a) Place the front bodice block on the target paper with a bit of space all round the block.

b) Mark the left leg of the shoulder dart on target paper.  Label Point 1.

c) Decide where on the armscye the dart will be repositioned to and mark this on the block. Label 2.  Exactly where you place the dart is up to you, but avoid putting it too close to the balance point (the sleeve attachment mark).

d) Moving anti-clockwise, draw around the block from 1 on target paper to 2 on the block.  On the way, mark the ends of the waist darts.  When you get to 2, mark it also on the target paper.

e) Prick a small hole in the bust point.  Poke your pencil into the point and pivot the block anti-clockwise until the right leg of the block dart is in line with 1 on target paper.  Moving clockwise, draw around the block from point 1 till point 2 on the block.  Remove block.

f) Mark the bust point on target paper.

g) Draw in the dart legs for armhole and waist darts.

BACK BODICE Same process as above but all movement is mirrored.

a) Place block on target paper with a bit of room all around to pivot.

b) Mark the right leg of the shoulder dart on target paper.  Label 1.

c) Decide where on the armscye the dart will be repositioned to and mark this on the block. Label 2.  Avoid putting it too close to the balance point.

d) Moving clockwise, draw around the block from 1 on target paper to 2 on the block.  Remember to mark the ends of the waist darts.  When you get to 2, mark it also on the target paper.

e) Poke a hole in the shoulder dart point.  Place pencil in the point and pivot the block clockwise till the left leg of the block dart is in line with 1 on target paper.  Going anti-clockwise, draw from 1 to point 2 on the block. Remove block.

f) Draw the dart point.  Do the same for the waist dart point.

g) Draw the legs for the armhole and waist darts.

BALANCE POINTS Draw these in by placing the original blocks on the new ones.