Dart Manipulation Techniques for Flat Patterns

What is Dart in Clothing?
Darts are a dressmaker’s punctuation marks. It is an essential part of garment construction. Darts are folds and sewn into fabric to take in ease and provide shape to a garment, especially for a woman’s bust. Darts help in shaping the fabric to fit the body and thus provide comfort to the wearer. They provide fullness to natural body curves. Darts are very rarely used for decorative purposes like providing a design line. The fitting, marking, stitching and pressing of darts should be done accurately. In this article I will discuss details on dart manipulation techniques for flat patterns.

To create new designs for garments, it is specially used for ladies garments. It save fabric wastage and also use to remove excess fabric. Darts are needed to turn two-dimensional shapes into three-dimensional shapes and to fit clothes closely to the body.

Darts in flat patterns
Fig: Darts in flat patterns (Image courtesy: inthemoodforcouture.com)

Application of Dart Manipulation – Introduction to design patterns
The technique is applied when the dart of working patterns (bodice, skirt, sleeve, or any working pattern) are relocated in the process of creating design patterns. To create a design pattern, the design is analyzed first to identify the location of the dart or equivalent before manipulating the pattern.

The following design projects illustrate the beginning of pattern manipulation, and each process should be completed in the order given because each will help to prepare the pattern maker or designer for more advanced work. Both artistic and technical skills are required to successfully create design patterns.

Different Darts Locations:
Darts can be located in a number of different places on a bodice to alter its style.

Different dart locations
Fig-2: Different dart locations

Completing the Dart:
The dart can be finished one of two ways:

1. Trim dart excess to within 1/2 inch of the seam line before stitching the dart.


2. Fold the dart excess under and stitch on the seam line.


Dart Manipulation Techniques:
Dart manipulation is one of the most important techniques when it comes to pattern drafting. Fashion designer must identify the location of the dart before manipulating the pattern and how manipulate the dart. Dart manipulation mainly starts with a basic sloper, which they then convert into their stylish designs. Darts become princess seams, gathers, tucks or cowls. New styles lines are added or moved, necklines are reshaped.

There are three dart manipulation techniques in flat patterns. These are suitable for manipulate dart to any location. The slash and spread or pivot method mostly use to transfer darts to the bust, neck, armhole or anywhere you want!

  1. Pin and pivotal dart transfer technique.
  2. Slash-spread transfer and overlap technique
  3. Dart equivalent technique

1. Pin and Pivotal dart rotation technique:
Pattern designers use pivoting methods to make fashion changes. They move darts or add fullness by anchoring the basic pattern with a pin and moving the pattern in, out, and around. The pattern swings back and forth like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. Use this pivoting motion to change the pattern width.

Pin and pivotal dart transfer technique
Fig-3: Pin and pivotal dart transfer technique

In this method does not require the working be slashed in order to change its original shape into design pattern. It is a transfer method and with experience, it is preferred.

2. Slash-spread dart rotation and overlap technique:
Pattern graders use the slide motion to change pattern sizes. They slide patterns up, down, and to the side to gradually increase or decrease from one size to the next. Use this sliding motion to add or subtract length.

Slash-spread transfer and overlap technique
Fig-4: Slash-spread transfer and overlap technique

Pivot and slide techniques combine these two motions to fit a pattern simply, yet accurately. You make all of the changes on a worksheet (pattern paper or tissue paper), keeping the original pattern intact—no more cutting and taping! By changing the pattern equally on both sides of the grain, the seam and the design lines are kept in proportion to the original pattern. Best of all, each change is easy.

3. Dart equivalents technique:
Pleats or gathers in the fabric can be used as for the same purpose as a normal stitched dart. These are called dart equivalents. Darts can also be worked into style lines. The dart excess can be used to create a wide variety of other design features such as, style lines, multiple, tucks, gathers, pleats, flare and even cowls. Essentially, the dart or its equivalent is always present somewhere in the pattern. The dart or its equivalent will always radiate from the pivot point.

Dart equivalents technique
Fig-5: Dart equivalents technique

Different Types of Darts:
The different types of darts are discussed below:

  1. Straight dart
  2. Curved outward dart
  3. Curved inward dart
  4. Neckline dart
  5. Double pointed dart
  6. Dart in interfacing

1. Straight dart: 
It is a straight line of stitching from the point to the seam line (Fig-6). This can be noticed in the underarm of the front bodice, back skirt, shoulder, elbow and back neckline.

Straight dart
Fig-6: Straight dart

2. Curved outward dart:
The stitch line curves outward along the path from the point to the seam line (Fig-7). This gives a snugger fit to the garment. This is sometimes used on a bodice front to make a mid-body fit snug.

Curved outward dart
Fig-7: Curved outward dart

3. Curved inward dart:
The stitch line curves inward from the point to the seam line. This facilitates a better fit along the body curve (Fig-8). It is frequently used in pant and skirt fronts.

Curved inward dart
Fig-8: Curved inward dart

4. Neckline dart:
This is usually a solid line marking on the back neckline indicating a straight dart of 1/8″ (Fig-9).

Neckline dart
Fig-9: Neckline dart

5. Double pointed dart:
This dart is unique as it tapers in a straight line from the middle to both the ends (Fig-10) and is clipped at the widest part. It is usually made from the waistline (widest point). It finds application in princess and A-line dresses, over blouses and jackets.

Double pointed dart
Fig-10: Double pointed dart

6. Dart in interfacing:
In this case, a slash is made on the fold line. Then the cut ends are lapped along the line of stitching and zigzagged to keep in place (Fig-11).

Dart in interfacing
Fig-11: Dart in interfacing

Basic Dart Manipulation Process:
The diagram above shows different dart locations. You can practice these dart manipulations as an exercise using either full size or half-scale blocks. By moving these darts around the bust point, you will begin to understand the method.

Women’s shirt with dart
Fig-12: Women’s shirt with dart

Follow the step-by-step basic dart manipulation exercise below:
The basic bodice has two darts. Start by consolidating the two darts into one side seam dart.

1. Trace off the front bodice; here the bodice block is made from card, making tracing easier and more accurate.

Basic dart step-1
Fig-13: Basic dart step-1

2. Cut up the front waist dart and the side seam dart.

Basic dart step-2
Fig-14: Basic dart step-2

3. Close the waist dart, and the side seam dart opens. (Remember not to cut right through; keep a small amount of paper attached to act as a hinge.)

Basic dart step-3
Fig-15: Basic dart step-3

To continue this exercise, trace off the front bodice block onto paper. Draw in the lines to the bust point as shown on the diagram. To manipulate the darts, simply slash to the apex each time and then close and open the darts in different locations.

Asymmetric Darts Manipulation:
Asymmetric darts cross center front of the garment. Pattern shapes will change radically from that of the working Pattern. Asymmetric darts require special pattern handling and identification, as do all designs that differ  from side to side. Compare pattern shapes with each design. Cut basic back to complete the design for test fit.

  • A full front pattern is required.
  • Right-side-up instructions are necessary.
  • The existing dart of the working pattern may interfere with the placement of a stylized dart. If so, the dart should be transferred temporarily to another location (such as mid-armhole) before the pattern is plotted.

Seam allowance is illustrated for each pattern because of the dart’s unique shape and location (1/4 inch at neck; 1/2 inch at shoulder, armhole, and waist; and 1/2 to 3/4 inch at side seams).

Types of Asymmetric Darts:
Basic asymmetric darts are applied on design pattern. To get different style on pattern, Asymmetric darts are changes in various ways. Mainly two types of dart variations are common. These are in below

1. Asymmetric radiating darts

Asymmetric Radiating Darts
Fig-16: Asymmetric Radiating Darts

2. Asymmetric curved darts

Asymmetric Curved Darts
Fig-17: Asymmetric Curved Darts

The step-by-step basic Asymmetric dart manipulation exercise in below:

Asymmetric darts
Fig-18: Asymmetric darts

1. To create asymmetric darts, trace off the bodice block fronts, joining the right and left sides at the CF(center front). The full bodice is traced off because the right and left sides are to be different.

Asymmetric darts step-1
Fig-19: Asymmetric darts step-1

2. Cut up both waist and side darts to the apexes. Close the bust dart until its edges meet. The waist darts will open.

Asymmetric darts step-2
Fig-20: Asymmetric darts step-2

3. Draw in the new dart lines.

Asymmetric darts step-3
Fig-21: Asymmetric darts step-3

4. First cut along the long line that passes from left to right.

Asymmetric darts step-4
Fig-22: Asymmetric darts step-4

5. Close the right-hand waist dart, and the long dart opens.

Asymmetric darts step-5
Fig-23: Asymmetric darts step-5

6. Cut up the shorter dart and close the left-hand waist dart. The short dart opens.

Asymmetric darts step-6
Fig-24: Asymmetric darts step-6

7. The pattern development is complete. Trace in new darts and back away from the apex by 4cm (11⁄2in). This is now your pattern plan. Trace this off onto a clean sheet of pattern tracing paper. Now you can add your seam allowance, notches and grain lines.

Asymmetric darts step-7
Fig-25: Asymmetric darts step-7

Changing Darts into Gathers:

Changing Asymmetric dart into Gather dart
Fig-26: Changing Asymmetric dart into Gather dart

Measure the right-hand dart from A to B. Including the dart, the measurement will be longer from A to C; gather the excess fullness between the notches to match the shorter side as shown.

Gather dart
Fig-27: Gather dart

This style has gathering located under the bust instead of the dart. First, repeat the first six steps from ‘Asymmetric darts’, above.

Intersecting Darts:
Intersecting darts resemble asymmetric darts and dart equivalents. The darts cross center front and intersect with each other. To complete the design, use basic back pattern.

Types of Intersecting Darts:
Two common intersecting dart designs are practice in dress pattern. But variations are also available when the generated patterns are correct if they result in exact representations of the designs.

1. Intersecting dart to waist

Intersecting Dart to Waist
Fig-28: Intersecting Dart to Waist

2. Intersecting dart with gathers

Intersecting Dart with Gathers
Fig-29: Intersecting Dart with Gathers


  1. Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman
  2. Patternmaking for Fashion Design, Fifth Edition by Helen Joseph-Armstrong
  3. Pattern Cutting and Making UP-The Professional Approach by Martin Shoben and Janet Ward
  4. Apparel Manufacturing Technology by T. Karthik, P. Ganesan, D. Gopalakrishnan
  5. http://blog.elewa.co.uk/dart-manipulation-part-1/
  6. http://www.threadsmagazine.com/2008/11/02/the-merits-of-a-basic-fitting-pattern
  7. http://en.inthemoodforcouture.com/263/

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1 thought on “Dart Manipulation Techniques for Flat Patterns”

  1. Hi!
    I enrolled in a pattern making class. For my homework assignment. I am asked to do 10 dart manipulation. I was given a front, back, and a sleeve bodices or slopers. Sorry, for knowing the pattern making terminology.
    My question is. My instructor ask all the students to do dart manipulation. We all started with the front bodice. I noticed on the front bodice. There was a dart on the shoulder to the apex. There was another dart from the apex to the waist. Which dart am I suppose to close from the front bodice. Or am I suppose to close both darts? Also, which dart gets cut to start with dart manipulation. The instructor said close the waist dart. What happened to the should dart? Should I leave the dart as is without cutting it? I am very confused 🤔🤔🤔.


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