How to Rotate a Bust Dart

Listening to (still)…
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Currently, I’m working on two garments with the bust dart rotated from the side to the shoulder and sewn in as gathers. I find this style to be very flattering and I enjoy wearing garments with this type bust shaping. PMB has really freed me–I no longer look at patterns as only the garment that the designer has chosen to offer me. Those pattern pieces are only shapes that I am free to interpret in any way I choose.

The bust dart’s purpose is to release fabric over the bust mound. When you know how to rotate the bust dart, you can create your own design releasing fabric in any way you choose, be it pleats, gathers, multiple darts, or anything you can dream up.

So how do you rotate a bust dart to another place? (If this is your first try at this–or even if it isn’t, be *sure* you make up a practice garment in muslin or other throwaway fabric.)

Plain bodice front Consider this plain blouse front. It has a jewel neck, a little waist shaping, and a side bust dart. I’ve cut away the seam allowances, but will add them back before I sew.Notice that my bust point is clearly marked, and the dart stops about 1 inch from the point. I’ve read numerous discourses on where to end the dart, but the average is about 1 inch. Women with larger busts might end the dart further from the bust point.Analyze your new design and plan where best to rotate the dart. Perhaps you’d like to use gathers at the center front, instead of a dart. Maybe you want a French dart for your blouse, rather than a side dart. Or, like me, perhaps you’d like gathers at the shoulder, instead of the side bust dart.
Extend the dart to the bust point To prepare to rotate the dart, first extend the dart to the bust point. Use your ruler to draw a straight line from the end of each dart leg to the bust point.Next, cut away the pattern paper inside the dart.
Choose new location for dart Mark the new position for the dart. Here I’ve chosen to move my dart to the shoulder. Slash your pattern from the new location down to the bust point. Leave a tiny “hinge” of paper between the end of your slash and the point
Rotate the dart to the shoulder To rotate the dart to the shoulder, slide the paper down, with a slightly counter-clockwise motion, and close the original dart. Your new dart has opened at the shoulder.Tape the old dart closed, and fill in the space for the new dart with pattern paper. Your new dart may be larger or smaller than the original, so don’t count on the piece you cut away before filling up the new opening.You are now free to treat this as gathers, or pleats, or to sew it as a dart. If you choose to sew in the dart, be sure to back the end of the dart away from the bust point by 1 inch or so. (Draw it in with your pencil and ruler.)
Rotate the dart to the Center Front A popular look in Ready to Wear (RTW) has been gathers at the center front. You can do this easily without searching for a new pattern. Simply rotate the dart to the center front and sew it in gathers. In this instance, you might slightly curve the center front seam line from the lower dart leg to the neck edge.
Rotate the dart to make a French Dart If you like French darts, you can easily rotate the dart to that position, back it away from the bust point 1 inch and sew it in. Lots of women find this style dart to be a very flattering.
Rotate the dart to the waist To achieve a tent- or swing-style silhouette, I might rotate the dart to the hem and let the fabric hang freely. I would definitely curve the hem, if I chose to sew this draft.

Edited 4/21/2006 to add: After you’ve rotated your bust dart, you’ll want to shape the seam line to give the dart enough “leg room”. I found an excellent video on the Threads site which shows how to do this. Have a look at http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/tvt020.asp to see that.

3 Comments

  1. Dawn

    Thank you for this GREAT information!

  2. Towanda

    That was one of the easiest explanation for rotating darts that I have ever seen. Thanks

    Towanda

  3. Debbie C

    Thanks for taking the time to do this, Beth. I’m sure I’ll be sending ladies to your blog to read it.

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