Shifting your bust dart: A fuss-free approach
I’m a perfectionist. But I’m also kinda lazy. This can be a disabling combination. I want to make things, but I want to make them properly, but I don’t want to spend ages prepping, but if I don’t prep properly it won’t be perfect… The end result is I often put of projects when I should just jump in and get them done.
Thus far, my perfectionism/laziness is what has prevented me really getting into fitting. However, the time has come to learn more. I’ve started experimenting with basic adjustments. But I’m not keen on making lots of practise garments - it takes so long and I hate the idea of wasting lots of fabric. Because of this, I have recently come up with a fuss-free way to get my bust dart height right. No cutting, sticky-taping or toiling required.
In the following tutorial, I will walk you through the process I’ve been using. This tutorial will show you how to shift a side bust dart down so its in the right position for your body. I want to emphasise, I know very little about fitting! However, I have learnt a lot while trialing this technique (and writing about!) and it’s made a big difference to the fit of my latest garments. I hope you find it helpful!
For this method, you will need:
Your printed pattern (I used the Willow Tank by Grainline Studio)
Some vilene (non-fusible interfacing) for tracing your pattern
And the usual sewing bits and bobs like a ruler, a pen, a measuring tape, scissors, and pins
Cut out your pattern based on your measurements.
I cut a size 8 based on my bust and waist measurements. Although I’m a straight 8 according to the size chart, I knew the bust darts were going to be too high - they always are.
You now need to figure out where your bust apex is. For those of you who don’t know, your apex is the most prominent part of your bust. Before starting, put on the bra you intend to wear with the garment because this can make a difference to your apex height (I learnt this the hard way!).
Once you’ve got the right bra on, measure down from your centre shoulder to your apex and note down the length. My length was 29.5 cm.
Mark the seam allowance on the shoulder of your pattern.
Highlight the dart that corresponds to your correct size. In my case, I highlighted the size 8 dart.
Measure through the centre of your dart by 1.5 cm. Clearly like this point. This is the approximate location of the apex of your pattern.
When a pattern only has one dart, it’s impossible to know exactly where the apex is without making a toile. However, 1.5 cm from the end of the dart is pretty standard and is good enough for now. If you are interested to know more about how to locate the apex of your pattern, I found this tutorial by Made to Sew very helpful.
Measure the distance from the shoulder seam down to the apex on the pattern. On the size 8 of the Willow Tank the distance is 27 cm.
Now I have these two measurements I can work out how far I need to drop my bust dart. I need the dart to be 29.5 cm from the shoulder seam, but it is only 27 cm. This means I need to drop the dart by 2.5 cm (29.5 - 27 cm). In subsequent steps I will call this number the bust height difference.
If your apex is higher than the apex on the pattern, you will need to shift the dart up. This means you will have a negative bust height difference. I haven’t tried shifting a dart up, but all the same principles apply.
Measure three lines through your dart which are parallel to the grainline.
The first should intersect with the apex point you have marked on the pattern.
The second should intersect with the the point of the dart.
The third should intersect the dart close to the edge of the pattern (it doesn’t matter exactly where as lone as it is parallel to the grainline).
Measure down from the apex point by your bust height difference (in my case this is 2.5 cm). Clearly mark this point. Now do the same for the tip of the dart, and the two points where your dart legs intersect your third parallel line.
Use these points to draw a new dart as shown in the picture below.
You have successfully dropped your bust dart. The distance from the shoulder seam to your new apex point should now equal the original measurement you took in step 2. In my case, 29.5 cm.
Trace your pattern piece (with your new dart) onto some vilene.
Before you cut out your new pattern piece, pin the dart and fold it down. Smooth the line out so you have a nice straight edge when you finish sewing the dart.
Cut out your new pattern piece.
Pin your dart again and hold the pattern piece against yourself to check whether the dart is sitting in the right place. Remember to take into account the shoulder seam allowance which you can fold over to keep out of the way. This is your opportunity to correct any final issues so don’t skip this step!
Your new pattern piece is now ready to use!
The only fool-proof way to test a pattern is to try it, so maybe don’t use your best fabric on your first go. However, this adjustment should mean you have a pretty good fit first time around - certainly a lot better than if you had made no adjustment at all. Once you’ve tried the pattern, you can always make additional tweaks if necessary. Below is a photo of my finished Willow Tank.
I hope this has been a helpful tutorial! Let me know how you go. Good luck!