As a longtime garment sewer one of the most rewarding and fun things to do is to create my own designs. I get a kick out of taking a basic pattern that I can manipulate to create something entirely different and all my own. You can do it too! All it takes is a little know-how and a desire to try something new. How’s it done? It’s as simple as converting a few darts!
Learn how to create your own designs just like the pros with this simple technique.
Craftsy instructor Suzy Furrer manipulating a pattern in her class Patternmaking + Design: Creative Darts & Seam Lines
Many of the designs I “fashion” are from something I’ve have seen in ready-to-wear, but nevertheless, I’m still doing what true designers do everyday. The pros start with a basic sloper, which they then convert into their stylish designs. Darts become princess seams, gathers, tucks or cowls. New style lines are added or moved, necklines are reshaped — you get the picture.
Darts are typically a starting point for creating new looks. They are the most basic form of creating shaping in a garment and are what turns flat two-dimensional pattern pieces into three-dimensional forms. Without them, there’s no room for body parts that protrude or curve, like the bust or hips.
Creating a new look typically starts by moving or converting standard bust and waist darts. The process is surprisingly easy to do (even the beginner sewer!). Darts can be moved from the standard side seam position to the neckline, shoulder line or armhole. The same dart can also be converted into many other forms of shaping, like princess seams.
There are various ways basic bust and waist darts can be converted, moved or adjusted to either create new designs or to adjust fit. Let’s start with learning how to convert standard bust and waist darts into princess seams.
Note: The following instructions are for princess seams that start from the armhole, but the process is the same for those that begin at the shoulder or neckline.
Here is how to convert bust and waist darts to princess seams:
1. Begin with a basic sloper-style bodice with a side bust dart and a waist dart that has been adjusted to fit your bust. This is important for an easy transition to princess seam that will fit properly.
2. Starting from the center point of each dart at their widest end, extend the dart points until they cross one another. This is the dart point.
3. For a princess seam that starts from the armhole, draw a line using a curved ruler from the center of the armhole to the bust point. Draw a notch or cross line 2 inches above the dart point. This will help when sewing the two sections together.
4. Extend the new princess seam from the bust point to the outer edge line of the waist dart nearest the center front.
5. Cut along the new princess line from armhole to waist. This now creates a center front panel and a side front panel.
6. Cut along the lower edge line of the bust dart to the bust point (not the dart point). Bring the cut edge to the top bust dart leg and tape in place leaving a scant 18” spread at the bust point.
7. Fold out or cut out, the waist dart from the bottom wide edge to the bust point (also not the dart point).
8. Align the two pieces together matching the bust point and mark a notch or cross line 2 inches below the bust point.
9. Add grainlines to each section. For the center front panel the grainline should be parallel to the center front seam, or fold. For the side front panel the grainline should be perpendicular to the waist edge.
10. Last step: Add seam allowances to both sides of the new princess seam.
Learn advanced patternmaking skills with lifetime access to lessons from the founder of Apparel Arts Suzy Furrer. Learn to draft darts, gathers, ruching and seam lines in her online Craftsy class Patternmaking + Design: Creative Darts & Seam Lines!