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Introduction to Darts: Vertical and Short-Row

Jun 11, 2008

The now-infamous Bust Darts
Today we continue our adventures into the Land of Bust Darts...

What exactly are Darts?
Darts are ways of adding (or subtracting) fabric in a small area in order to create more (or less) room in a very small, very specific area. The darts are placed so that they give more room for your curves--belly, bust, and booty all can be helped with the judicious addition of dartage.

In knitting, as in sewing, if you work a decreasing dart, you are taking away fabric: decreasing the number of stitches takes away fabric. To illustrate this with ordinary fabric: take a fold of your shirt between your fingers and pinch it closed. This makes the area around the dart smaller.

In knitting, again as in sewing, if you work an increasing dart, you are adding fabric: increasing the number of stitches adds more fabric. To illustrate this with ordinary fabric: Imagine if you were to cut up along the seam line of your pants legs, and then sew in fabric triangles between the seams of each leg. You'd end up with roomier pants legs (bell-bottoms, actually).

How do you work a dart?
There are as many different ways to work darts in knitting as there are clever knitters to invent them. But basically, more or less, you can break them up into Short-Row Darts and Vertical Darts. (Now that I have said that, you folks will come up with sixteen other kinds of darts that I don't know about.)

Differences Between Short-Row Darts and Vertical Darts

Short-row darts are formed by working partial rows to "build up" one small portion of your fabric. Thus: You can work an insert using short-row darts on the armhole side of your bust, and this will give your sweater some room for The Girls. (You may also be familiar with using short-rows to build up the back neck of a sweater, or to make sock heels. In fact...sock heels. Think about the shape of those for a minute. Little miniature bust cups, right? Exactly.) Worked horizontally, these darts add height to a small section of your sweater's bust area.

Vertical darts are worked, well, vertically. They are very similar to tailor's darts that run up and down the front of some blouses--they nip in where you need less room, and increase to give you more room where you need it. Worked vertically, these darts add/subtract width across the front (back) of the garment. In fact, they are the same idea as waist shaping, only used more dramatically. The increases and decreases in waist shaping are worked once every several rows, to make gentle curves; the increases and decreases in darts can be worked every other row (or every row) to quickly add or subtract fabric. Generally, most of us do not have very much vertical distance between bustline and underbust, so the decreases/increases have to be worked very close together--every other row/round, if not every row/round. A line of decreases/increases worked so closely together in a vertical line forms a dart.

Me and my hot Tomato in progress

Where Can You Use Darts?

 Anyplace that needs extra room or extra shaping. My home-economics teacher in middle school used to say, "Girls, you are not refrigerators. Mark those darts and use them!"

Bellies: If you have a round little belly, you can work vertical increases in a top-down garment from the narrowest part of your waist down to the widest part of your belly in order to create more belly room. (For bottom up: Work decreases from the widest part of your belly up to your waist area. Note that you would want to adjust the hem cast-on stitches accordingly.)

Bottoms: If you have a voluptuous backside, work your darts as vertical increases in a top-down garment from the waist down to the widest part of your booty on the back of the sweater to create more booty room. (For bottom up: Work decreases from the widest part of your booty up to your waist. And you would want to adjust the hem cast-on stitches accordingly.)

Anywhere: If you have unusual body curves of any type, a strategically-placed dart might be just the thing to help your sweaters fit better. A rather odd example: My dog, Buddy, had to have his left foreleg amputated due to injuries sustained in Hurricane Katrina. (We're not from there, we got him as a rescue dog months after the storm.) He has a pronounced "bump" where his leg used to be. If I wanted to make him a sweater, the bump isn't big enough to be a stump (thus warranting a sleeve), but it is big enough to make a regular sweater rather ill-fitting. I could use darts to shape the Bump region, thus giving him the best custom-fitted tripod dog sweater from here to Baton Rouge. (Told you it was going to be an odd example!)

Coming up: How to figure out Where The Darts Go; Dart Math.

-- Sandi

P.S. I'm still out of the office, but I am reading comments from my Secret Location. So leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions or nifty things to say!

Past Adventures of the Hot Tomato

You Asked For A Top, We Gave You A Tomato

On The Third Day, I Ripped

My Surreal Knitting Life and That Stripe

In Which The Commenters Chant: Bust Darts, Bust Darts, Bust Darts!

A Hot Tomato

Questions, Questions: The Darts and More

Increases and Decreases for Sweater Knitting

Sandi Wiseheart
is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Remember: It's the Week of Knitting For Your Heart. Knit what you yearn to knit, instead of what you should knit, just for this one week. (I promise, the world won't end.)

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on Jun 18, 2008 10:03 AM

I guarantee that explaining this will take far longer than it will take you to actually DO the math.

Linda@6 wrote
on Jun 17, 2008 5:36 PM

I am trying to work on an older Interweave Knits sweater pattern I downloaded (Sunrise Circle Jacket-Spring 2006).  It has vertical shaping darts with a stitch instruction s2kp2 on the stitch before the marked stitch for decreases.  I'm not sure what the pattern is asking to do.  Can someone help??


CynthiaV@2 wrote
on Jun 15, 2008 12:04 PM

Bless you for giving a home to a three-legged survivor...oh, yeah, and thank you for all the knitty-gritty fun : )

Lynn G. wrote
on Jun 13, 2008 12:46 PM

Wow, I feel so blessed: another KD reader clicked on my KD profile after reading my reply to this particular blog, and she located me on Ravelry and directed me to a blog (Green Apples--a Knitting Blog) written by a woman who has similar sizing issues to me and modifies her knit and crochet pieces to fit her better.  This is the first time that the fact that KD has added "an interactive community element" has directly helped me, and I want to thank KD as well as the reader who wrote to me.

I'm still having issues with the pale gray lettering on the blue background (with vision issues, a better contrast of a strong black typeface on a white background would be easier to read), but I now see that the new and improved KD really is a great thing. Thanks!

StephanieP wrote
on Jun 13, 2008 11:08 AM

Sandi!  I am in DIRE NEED of this tutorial. I am knitting the Apres Hoodie (cause i llove hoodies) but I noticed that my body is not as nicely shaped as that model, and the shaping probably will not work well with me.  I am not doing the waist shapping because, well, my waist is not so well defined.  and i was thinking i could use more shape around my big girls and it will look like i have a waist.  I promise to frog to get it right.  (i've already frogged when i realized that MATHMATICALLY what i cast on and the gauge that i was getting was for a much bigger girl. way bigger.  shaping would have been no hellp at all - a sack is a sack.  (just so everyone understands, this is my 2nd knitted sweater and I can do this FEARLESLY!)  (just may need a little help from my friends.) so i am reading and understanding and can't wait for the next lesson.  Stephanie

Mom2goalies wrote
on Jun 13, 2008 9:19 AM

Kathleen - just saw on another website that they mentioned PPSO as "pass previous stitch over".  Not sure if this makes sense for your pattern.

LadyKRose wrote
on Jun 12, 2008 11:15 AM


I am working on the Icelandic Lace Shawl and came across an abbreviation that I never saw before [50+ years knitting experience] .   The abbreviation is ppso.  The direction is p1, k2, ppso.   When I tried to knit it, I wound up decreasing instead of just making lace.  

I checked the abbreviations section of the site and this abbreviation is not listed.

Does this mean to pass the purl stitch over the "two knit" stitches?    That would sort of make sense and keep the number of stitches correct.    Thanks.  Kathleen

on Jun 12, 2008 10:59 AM

Sandy, thank you for taking the time to explain how to use darts in our knitting.

As a knitter who has been trying to move up to more involved knitting projects, I have a question about planning a project and the use of Excel in planning out a project too.  

How exactly do you plan out a project?  Do you sit down with a paper and pencil and draw out the existing pattern as it is shown and then start remeasuring yourself and moving around the diagrams?  I'm in awe of knitters that can plan out a project before starting to knit it and then have the item fit them perfectly when they are finished knitting it.  I'm not sure how to do the planning or blueprint part of the process...following a pattern is's the planning stage that throws me for a loop.  And how can I use Excel to help me with the process?  

Sorry if you covered this part before, but I couldn't find it in the archives anywhere and I know that planning is everything.

Eliza wrote
on Jun 12, 2008 10:28 AM

Thanks for the lesson!

I'm finally back on Knitting Daily-- got really confused with the switch-- but somehow can't link to those past entries up above. hm.

Francesca wrote
on Jun 12, 2008 1:07 AM

Another request for a Buddy picture!

My own dog came up to me tonight and tried to steal a ball of yarn right out of my lap while I was working from it. The nerve of my dog is incredible! Needless to say, yarn was gently removed from his mouth and he got a firm, "No, but nice try puppy!"

AnnWilliams wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 8:22 PM

Sandy, you are a genius!!

SusanK wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 7:10 PM

I'd really like to have a tutorial on this "dart thing"....  to be able to practice the technique before diving into an actual sweater...

maybe i'd make it into a funky shaped pillow ... !!!!!!

on Jun 11, 2008 6:16 PM

Well.... I was going to nickname you "Dart Mader". (After all the "Vader" in Darth Vader refers to "father".... :)

AmyM wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 5:49 PM

This is some great information.  I have practically no waist, sort of large girls (only because I'm nursing a 3 month old) and a very short rise.  I've yet to knit anything beyond a poncho that I would want to wear in public.  This could be just the thing I need to make garments that I'll love.

P.S.  Sandi, I love your new haircut.  I forgot to mention it before.  Sorry!!

RuthK wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 5:33 PM

Sandi, your comments are not only VERY helpful knit-wise, but your ability to "share" makes me feel like you're a close friend!  I'm pretty much of a loner and haven't had many girlfriends - especially not knitting girlfriends - so your freely given discussions on the trials and tribulations of fitting an "endowed" female body is like having a girlfriend I can get together with daily.  Wow!  Love it!  

And I'll add another plea for a picture of Buddy.  Good for you and your husband for adopting him.  


LaurieB wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 5:32 PM

Sandi -

#1 Thank you for mentioning my hometown in your post.  I've been in Texas a long time, but Baton Rouge is always where my heart will be!  

#2 Thank you for adopting Buddy.  Every little thing that every person does helps the people of the Gulf Coast get back to their "new normal."

And here's another analogy if it helps anyone.  To me, a vertical dart looks just like the thumb gusset on a glove or mitten.

WendyP wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 5:23 PM

Ah, Sandy... you're assuming there is waist there! I've got the big booty that merges into the round tummy - so, I'd be decreasing with the booty darts while increasing the tummy darts. Wouldn't this make a rather strange looking garment?  How do I draw the line between good fit and good style?

(Hope you're having a wonderful time... wherever you are!)

MalissaA wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 4:44 PM

I have learned mor about the technical side of knitting in the last month and a half of your newsletter than I have in the last four years of kintting!  Thanks so much!  And if anyone needs darts- it is this BODY!!!  So THANKS!

JillR wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 3:12 PM

quite waisty, but not particularly busty, I do like shaping to accentuate the curves.  I need to know how to get rid of the exrta stiches and retain a neatly fitted upper chest and armhole so as not to end up with a Madonnaesque bra type look to my garment....

Mom7plus wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 3:10 PM

    Wow!  I haven't knit anything that required meeting a certain gauge, but I will eventually.  (I tend to read and study about what I want to do for months before I actually cast anything on my needles)!  Knowing how to do darts will definitely be useul!  THANJ\K YOU!!

    I also have to say that I enjoy reading your articles immensely!  You are a GREAT writer!  Your personality SHINES through!  And I llloovveee your humor and writing style!  I look forward to reading your articles!   Thank you for being "YOU" so openly!  BEAUTIFUL!

KimberlyM wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 2:58 PM

I love to read your articles, Sandy! They are so understandable. It really helps my knitting.

VanessaV wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 2:05 PM

So, just to clarify, the darts we can see in the picture are from short rows? Or is that two sets of increases?

Do you do short rows that are just a few inches alongside each

curve? I have always done them all along the front.

Maybe I'm jumping ahead. As an owner of an endowed pair myself, I'm really, really, interested in how this is done.

MarinU wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 2:05 PM

You know that in using such and odd example, you prompt some of us to prod you to actually DO this thing.

And take pictures.

And write a pattern.

Because it would be fun to watch.

Lynn G. wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 2:04 PM

I love the "not a refrigerator" comment!!!  I'd like to request that, when you present the dart math, please provide an example for making the smallest size of a sweater (or other garment) SMALLER in various regions in addition to the more obvious example of adding room to fit a larger person's "regional assets."  I'm an hourglass-shaped very thin, petite woman...turning 40 and starting to sag in a few places (otherwise, I'm  the same size as when I graduated from high school).  Store-bought clothing available in small enough sizes (petite 0-2 or girls size 14) is based on a model with a very short rise, short-waist, who doesn't have any curves.  I do have curves, a long rise, and a very long waist (short legs, short height), and I look much better in garments that contain lycra, etc., because they allow my little waist to show, thus enhancing what little I do have to offer in terms of bust and hips (I definitely have curves, just on a very small scale).  I never knit for myself, but now that some patterns are offered ALMOST small enough for my measurements, if I was confident about how to do the math to DECREASE various specific areas in the pattern in order to show off my hips, narrow waist, or small bust, then I think I'd be willing to try knitting myself a summer top!  I don't want to knit a small rectangular item any more than a larger person would because that's not my shape.  I wish that the smallest size offered for most patterns was very small because then I COULD use your bust dart and other enhancements to ADD to my larger areas rather than having to calculate how to make the whole pattern smaller in certain areas, but I have a feeling that your technique could be used in my case with a lot of advance thought.  Not sure how this would affect my yarn requirements, but we're supposed to buy extra anyway.

Lily1214 wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 1:24 PM

Sandi Sweetheart: I love your explanations! I can understand them! This tutorial is terrific. . . I know I'm gushing but I am knitting a cardigan for myself of my design (1st time ever) and I'm pretty sure I'm going to need bust darts (horizontal) on each side of the front to . make for a nicer fit.  I was starting to panic slightly while knitting it.  I knit socks regularly but I can't figure out how to use short rows for bust darts so I'm calmly waiting for the tutorial math explanation.  Also, I really like the way you changed Tomato to fit your body type; it looks terrific on you.  I decided that if it can fit you, it can fit me.  Grazie!!!

P.S. Photo of Buddy, maybe??

AnnaA wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 1:20 PM

Just what I needed! I'm making a lovely knitted pink dress that would fit a A-cup. And I'm a DD (here, it wasn't as lovely anymore). Some Short-Row will solve my little issue. Looking forward to the Dart Math.

By the way, Dart(h) Math sounds like a Star Wars character.

JaneM wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:52 PM

Jane M.    I am in the middle of a sweater and this is EXACTLY what I've been looking for to "allow" (if you will) for my expanded junk in the trunk and the rounded tummy on the other side. This is Fantastic. Thanks!

KareyS wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:49 PM

I love your way of explaining things, and I find your writing part of the great pleasure of reading Knitting Daily.  "Voluptuous" (or un-hidden "assets")  is such a delicious way to describe our generous endowments in certain areas - it's a way to celebrate who we are that feels as important as celebrating ourselves by creating beautiful sweaters we can enjoy wearing.  Thank you!

DebbieR wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:46 PM

I'm fairly new to KD...totally love it!  I have no one local

to chat about knitting with or to knit along with---


here's third request to see Buddy in his sweater.

SusanG@7 wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:31 PM

Thank you for this segment.  I really enjoyed what you did with this sweater.

I too second the request for a photo of Buddy and the aforementioned dog sweater.

LeslieS@5 wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:28 PM

I know that this is a little off-topic, but a friend and I were talking about shawl patterns (Icarus comes to mind)adn the many varieties of gauge and length people choose to make them.  We were wishing that in these patterns, to allow for the modifications we all make to these wonderful patterns that make them uniquely our own, percentages could be included, or in the case of previously published patterns, added, so that we could figure how much yarn we would need for borders, especially with different lengths.

MelissaStar wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:22 PM

I love the discussion of darts, short-rows, etc. It's really helping me understand how to make my garments fit properly. BUT....I'm confused by this notion of darts that add or darts that decrease.  It has always been my understanding that a dart in a garment is a stitched down fold...or in a knitted garment, it is shaping which creates the same effect as a stitched down fold in sewn garments. Adding short-rows for bust shaping, for example is really knitting the fabric that goes over your girls, while simultaneously NOT knitting it (ie. removing it) from the parts that don't need that much fabric....from your bust points to your underarm, for example.

An "increasing dart" isn't really a dart at all, then.  It's a extra triangular piece of fabric knitted or sewn in.

Maybe it's all a moot point and too complicated, but I've always been a word nerd!

Lizard_knits wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:10 PM

We gotta have a picture of Buddy - the survivor dog!

KrudeKnitter wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 12:03 PM

I love this sweater!!!! It is not my style in the book, but the darts really change it, the article is great...and the color is bold and gorgeous too!

SuzanneV wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 11:47 AM

I love this tutorial!  Someday, I may have to knit for someone with an actual bust--but it won't be anyone in my family.  (I come from a long line of flat chested women.)  Still, it's a really useful and interesting technique.  Thanks for sharing it with us.

DoraC wrote
on Jun 11, 2008 11:45 AM

Bust darts... well for those of us endowed and hating to wear sweaters that look like we just put on a potato sack because we have to make a sweater so large to fit our buxom busts, I LOVE this segment.   I will definitely work to incorporate in the next sweater I am making.   I will love adding some shaping to show off curves not have people wondering if I just might be pregnant. :)