Pattern Drafting 101: How to Close a Bust Dart and Move the Fullness to the Hem

comments (2) August 1st, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Trace the front and back of your favorite shirt pattern with a bust dart.
Draw a yoke around the neck on the front and back pattern pieces.
Reshape the armhole to the yoke from its original position at the tip of the shoulder seam.
Trace the front and back of your favorite shirt pattern with a bust dart.

Trace the front and back of your favorite shirt pattern with a bust dart.

Photo: jen stern
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Another of my many crafting loves is pattern drafting. I'm in the final stage of launching my own pattern line (jeans, tees, and such), and I thought it would be fun to share some simple pattern-drafting ideas as I go along. In this post, I'm going to show you how easy it is to close a bust dart and move the fullness to the hem, along with a few other simple adjustments that will transform a basic shirt pattern into a stylish tunic. Then join me in the companion embroidery post to make the tunic—if you don't own an embroidery machine, don't worry, you don't need one! I found an embroidered beach cover-up on Cape Cod in a thrift store last week while on vacation. It has beautiful, bright floral embroidery around the neckline and on the front and back...perfect to transform into one of those trendy tunics with the circular yoke around the neck!

What you'll need to draft the tunic pattern:

A traced copy of your favorite shirt pattern
Pattern tracing paper
Clear ruler
French curve or Variform curved ruler
Sharp pencil
Clear tape

Usually pattern drafting is an exact science. When I'm working on a pattern that will be included in my collection, I test, retest, and test again by making sure all the paper pieces "sew" together before I even make my first test muslin garment. I thought it would be fun to start with something really easy. You don't have to measure perfectly or worry if the pieces don't match up. The pattern that we are going to draft here is very forgiving, and I want you to feel free to try it even if you've never even adjusted a pattern before. There are two things you do need to pay attention to. First, draw all your straight lines using a ruler. Second, curved lines need to be smooth. If you don't have a french curve or other curved ruler, you can use a bowl or other circular-edged objects. Because we are going to create a yoke neckline from an existing neckline on another garment, we will fine-tune the pattern pieces as we cut them out and sew them together. So relax, anything that does not measure up perfectly or match can be fixed as we put the tunic together!

Start by tracing a copy of your favorite shirt pattern. Omit any button plackets or facings that may be attached to the center front. Carefully trace the bust dart. If your pattern has waist darts, draw a vertical line through the center of the darts. If your pattern does not have waist darts, measure 1 inch to the right of the bust dart. Draw a vertical line parallel to the center front through this point from shoulder to hem. Measure 1 inch from the point where the shoulder seam starts from the neck opening. Draw a vertical line parallel to the center back, shoulder to hem.

Trace a copy of your favorite shirt pattern
My pattern had waist darts. I traced them from the top point to the bottom point. Later when we split the pattern into center and side sections, we will extend these lines from shoulder to hem.

Measure in 1-1/4 inches from the tip of the shoulder on the shoulder seam front and back. Measure approximately 2 inches down from the center front and back. Using a french curve, draw a curved line connecting these two points. This curved line will represent the edge of the yoke for our tunic.

Draw a yoke on your pattern
The actual yoke will be created later from a scoop-neck beach cover-up or top.

Measure down the curve representing the yoke approximately 1-1/4 inches. Using a french curve, blend the armhole curve to meet this point.

reshape the armhole so it attaches to the yoke
On the finished garment, the top of the armhole is created by the yoke going over the shoulder. The front armhole meets the yoke in the front.


and the back arm
The armhole in the back also meets the yoke.

Draw a vertical line from the tip of the bust dart down to the hem. This line should be parallel to the center-front edge.

Draw a vertical line from bust point to hem
I colored in the dart to make it easier to see.

Put a piece of clear tape over the tip of the bust dart to reinforce the paper. Cut out the dart. Then, cut the vertical line almost up to the bust point. This will create a hinge used to close the bust dart.

Cut out dart and slash vertical line
When you slash the vertical line, start at the edge of the pattern paper and cut straight through the hem as you work toward the tip of the bust dart.

Place a piece of pattern paper under the pattern we are working on. Anchor the center front of the pattern so that it stays straight. Swing the side piece up, closing the bust dart.

tape to hold in place
Notice that as the side swings out, it creates a wedge shape that opens up the hem. Essentially we created a new dart with a much larger opening.

The reason why the opening of this dart is much bigger is because the legs (or sides) of the dart are much longer. The size of the dart is identical to the bust dart. If you want to test this, measure the length of the closed bust dart. Then measure that distance down the side of the new dart. At that point, the opening of the new dart is the same as the end of the bust dart.

tape in place
Tape the bust dart closed and the new dart open. All the fullness from the bust dart is now at the hem.

We will add fullness to the back pattern piece using the waist dart or the vertical line. Place a small piece of clear tape over the intersection of the vertical line and yoke. Cut the vertical line, starting at the edge of the paper. Continue through the hem and straight up to, but not through, the yoke line.

draw a vertical line through waist dart
If you traced the waist darts from your pattern, extend these lines to the shoulder and hem.

To make a hinge to spread the pattern, clip in through the top edge of the pattern paper, through the shoulder just to the yoke line. Leave about 1/8 inch of paper between the two cuts so you can hinge the side of the pattern out to the right. Put a piece of pattern paper under the pattern we are working with. Place a pattern weight along the center back to keep it straight. Pivot the right side of the pattern out until there is a 2-inch gap in the hemline.

slash vertical line make a hinge
As you pivot the pattern piece, the paper above the hinge will overlap slightly.

After you spread the pattern 2 inches at the hem, tape the pieces in place.

spread pattern 2
Now we have added fullness to the hem in the back.

Look at your pattern pieces. Starting with the front pattern piece (the one on the left), the section to the left of the vertical line that extends yoke to hem is the center-front piece. The remaining section of the front pattern piece is the side-front piece. The back pattern piece (on the right) is going to be separated into two pieces as well. The section to the left of the vertical line is the center back. The remaining section is the side-back piece.

draw vertical lines through waist darts
The original shoulder seams and the top of the original armholes will not be used.

Cut the pattern pieces apart and add 1/2-inch seam allowances. Now your tunic pieces are ready to use.


cut the pattern pieces apart
You will cut the center front/back out on the fold. The front/back side pieces will be cut on a double layer of fabric.


Congratulations! You just drafted your first pattern! Gather up the pattern pieces and find a scoop-neck beach cover-up or top and join me to make a trendy tunic with a circular yoke! If you have any questions about drafting this pattern, shoot me a comment.


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Comments (2)

JenniferStern writes: You're welcome! If you need any help visit my website and send me an email!
Posted: 6:03 am on August 5th
bee2200 writes: I have been sewing for years, but never felt comfortable with making my own patterns or altering them, other than adding pockets, until now. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I do plan on coming back to this one from time to time. It was so detailed; I really appreciated that.
Posted: 10:00 am on August 1st
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