Getting Started With Your Darts: Shoulders to Bust

The First Step: Choosing The Right Pattern Size

For busty gals who want to use darts to help things fit better, here's a little trick: If you want a snug(gish)-fitting sweater, you can use your high-bust measurement, instead of your full bust measurement, to choose which pattern size to make. The fabric stretches over your bustline, then you use the darts to get things back down to proper size at your underbust and waist.

How To Find Your High Bust Measurement: Wrap the tape measure around your bust, just as though you were going to take your full bust measurement. In back, keep the tape measure where it is–level with the floor. In front, move the tape measure up so that it sits right at the place where you can feel your chest wall beginning and your breast tissue ending. This is your high bust measurement.

Why this works: You know how sometimes in the department store, you end up choosing a top that will fit over your bustline, but it's too big for the rest of you? Exactly. That's because, in essence, you just chose the top to match your full bust measurement, and not your torso measurements. Your high-bust measurement is (more or less) a measurement of your upper torso circumference. If you use that to pick a pattern size, then your sweaters will fit better in the shoulder area. Note to very full-busted women: You may need to choose a number that is between your high-bust measurement and your full-bust measurement. A (very) general rule of thumb: Add one additional inch to your high bust measurement for every cup size over a D/DD, and choose a size according to that number.

Don't Forget Your Ease! Remember our ongoing discussions about positive and negative ease? When choosing a size, keep in mind how much ease you prefer. My Hot Tomato fit VERY closely; I chose a size matching my high bust measurement minus about an inch (negative ease). So be sure to consider the stretchiness of your fabric (you did a gauge swatch, right?). In the Tomato, the large gauge of the cotton yarn stretched very nicely to accommodate my full bust. (Hint: After blocking your swatch, pin it down in its unstretched state and measure. Then unpin and stretch it to just before the stitches start to look overly distorted. Pin and measure. The difference between those two numbers gives you an idea of how much the fabric will stretch without distortion.)

Will The Fabric Really Fit Over The Ladies? If you have pickeed the right size according to the above guidelines, the fabric should stretch to accommodate the bust. Of course, the magic of a top-down sweater is that you can try it on as you knit. If you find that things are getting a little tight, work some increases to give yourself and The Ladies more room to breathe.

The Second Step: Knit Shoulders to Bust

For a top-down sweater, the process should look something like this:

  1. Cast on the required number of stitches for the size you chose in order to fit the upper chest and shoulders area properly, keeping in mind your preferred amount of ease.
  2. Knit according to the pattern, down to the fullest part of the bust. (Try on and adjust as needed.)
  3. Work even for about one inch past the fullest part of your bust. (Less than a C cup? Work only a half-inch past the fullest part of the bust.)
  4. Stop. You are ready to start the darts!

Third Step: Dart Game Plan

Here's a general overview of how the darts will work:

The darts begin just under the fullest part of the bust. You don't start right at the fullest part unless you want a very pointy shape. Starting about an inch (or half-inch) down from the fullest part allows a graceful curve to develop. (We like graceful curves.)

In a top-down garment, the darts form decreases from the widest part of the bust to the underbust. In other words, you want to start with the number of stitches which fit around your full bust and then decrease down to the number that fits around your underbust. NOTE: These dartly decreases are in addition to any waist shaping you might also be working.

I worked two vertical lines of decreases on each side in order to reduce the amount of fabric–and thus the bagginess–gradually and gracefully from bust to underbust. Two lines of decreases each side means two decrease stitches each side, or four decreases total per round.

And then…

Wednesday is Formula Day.



Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.


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