Free EBooks



Getting Started With Your Darts: Shoulders to Bust

Jun 16, 2008

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.


Knit Cardigan Patterns From Knitting Daily: 7 FREE Knitting Patterns

Every knitter has dreamed of the perfect cardigan pattern that he or she might knit some day. From a cozy cable knit to luminous lace, this free ebook will be your dream come true. This is a wonderful and varied collection of cardigans-which is one of the most important pieces in your wardrobe. You'll want to make every one of these knit cardigan patterns, so download your free eBook now and get started (and don’t forget to tell a friend so they can enjoy their own copy!).

Download Your Free eBook Today



Related Posts
+ Add a comment


RebeccaL wrote
on Jul 9, 2008 6:06 PM

I may not be reading in the right area, but does this work with bottom up sweaters and increases?  It seems like it does, but seeing as I just ripped 1/3 of my sweater I want to confirm! Thanks!

JanetB@3 wrote
on Jun 20, 2008 4:05 PM


I have the same prob as DodiR mentioned, the empty side is slightly concave from collar bone to rib wall with no muscle.  I have taken a half measurement across my solitary gal and to centre back and doubled it.

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.

annepants wrote
on Jun 17, 2008 1:25 PM

Wow.  I am so glad I signed up for the Knitting Daily newsletter.   I had no idea!  Sandi, you are awesome.  I am loving the bust dart tutorial, and your wry, informative style of writing.  So helpful!  So funny!  I'd be willing to bet that Knitting Daily receives a flood of bump-dart sweaters soon for your three-legged hurricane Katrina doggie.  Thank you for all the great information, and the wonderful delivery!

JanetP@4 wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 8:14 PM

I hope you are saving all of these excellent instructional articles to put into a book.  I would buy it as soon as it is published!!

Ruth666 wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 6:13 PM


This bust dart deal is the neatest thing EVER.

Bless You for doing it!


elizaduckie wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 4:40 PM

Sandi I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this stuff! Wow! Detailed real time, real life information. I may actually be tempted to knit a sweater instead of flat things for myself!

Camy Tang wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 1:48 PM

I just wanted to say, this is SUCH an awesome series! I am learning SO much! Thanks!


HannyB wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 12:10 PM

Sandi - you've shared lots of useful information with us, but this 'Art of the dart' is not only worth reading, it's for printing out and saving.

You're doing a FINE job, girl!

LindaA wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 12:10 PM

Sandi:  This post about the high bust measurement is very helpful!  I have another question about top-down sweater fitting for large-busted gals.  I have had the experience of having the sleeves turn out big at the top because the upper sleeve increases are also based on the increases which get the front & back of the sweater to the correct size to fit over "The Girls."  My arms aren't huge - just my bust!  How do you correct for this?  Thanks!  (Hope this makes sense!)

Patricia JPG wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 11:52 AM

Sandi got her hair cut!  It's sooo cute!

DodieR wrote
on Jun 16, 2008 11:15 AM

Sandi:  How does one make a high bust measurement when she has had a mastectomy on one side and there is no cleavage on that side?  I have a very hard time seeing that done.  A prosthesis is not going to give as much "high bust" as a real breast does, so please help.  Thank you.  Dodie on the central Oregon coast.