Sweater Knitting: Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

I had a request for images that show more clearly where I actually place darts in my sweaters. My sweater knitting posts get a fair bit of attention, so I’ve been meaning to write a couple of posts explaining my process for altering sweaters to fit and for calculating bust darts and waist shaping. Since those posts will probably be a bit more involved, they are on my list of post-dissertation projects. However, creating images that show the dart placement I use only took about 15 minutes with a free photo editor, so here they are. Please excuse the shaky lines–my digital drawing skills haven’t progressed much since my days of playing around with MS Paint as a kid. All of the images are of my Blank Canvas sweater, although the lines I’ve drawn in reflect the dart location I generally use on fitted sweaters.

Vertical Bust Darts/Front Waist Shaping

Vertical Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

This line of shaping is just where I do a series of decreases and increases to add shape for my waist and bust. I use the bust dart and waist shaping placement recommended by Amy Herzog in her book Fit to Flatter, so I do my shaping about a quarter of the way in on the front. In other words, if I was working the front of the sweater over 100 stitches, I would knit 25 stitches, place a marker for the increase/decrease line, knit 50 stitches, place a market for the second increase/decrease line, and then knit the remaining 25 stitches. Because there is more than a 2″ difference between my full bust and my high bust measurement, I work a series of decreases after the bust apex in order to get to the appropriate stitch count for my shoulders and neckline.

Horizontal Bust Dart

Horizontal Bust Dart Placement

In addition to the vertical bust darts and waist shaping, I add a horizontal bust dart, which is basically a series of short rows that add length to the front to accommodate the depth of a larger bust. (I’ve written more about horizontal bust darts and how they work in this post.) I typically do ~3″ worth of short rows and insert the short rows an inch below my bust apex, or the highest/fullest part of my bust. My bust apex is about 3″ below the point where my armscye begins, so I work the short rows ~4″ below the armscye. When I work the short row wraps, I make sure that they don’t go past the vertical shaping lines I indicated in the first image.

Back Waist Shaping

Back Waist Sweater Shaping

For back waist shaping, I again follow Amy Herzog’s recommendation for shaping placement, which is ~1/3 of the way in on either side of the sweater. So for a sweater back worked over 100 stitches, I would knit 33 stitches, place a marker for the shaping line, knit 34 stitches, place a second marker for the shaping line, and then knit the remaining 33 stitches. The two longer lines in the picture indicate these primary shaping lines which are worked about of a third of the way in on either side of the sweater.

The two smaller lines indicate an additional set of waist darts that I started using because the typical pair of decreases weren’t sufficient. I have a serious back curve and to do all of the shaping I would need to do in a single set of darts would mean decreasing so frequently that the fabric would start to bias and distort. So I work decreases on the primary shaping lines (the longer lines) every 4 rows and incorporate any additional decreases I need beyond that into the two smaller darts. I place the smaller darts halfway between the primary shaping lines and the edge of the sweater.

So that’s the low-down on where I’m placing the darts and waist shaping in my fitted sweaters. I hope this is relatively clear and helpful. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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7 thoughts on “Sweater Knitting: Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

  1. Great explanation! I just finished my first sweater with horizontal bust darts and its great, but not perfect. I think the waist shaping is the problem, so I’m totally going to use your trick on my next sweater!

    • I hope it works out for you! It’s really a process to figure out all the fit modifications that work for you, but it’s really satisfying to see progress from one sweater to the next.

  2. This is excellent! I’ve stopped knitting so much, but the last sweater I knit I did the vertical bust shaping from the Fit to Flatter book. It made such a difference! Unfortunately I knit the button band too wide and threw everything off, and haven’t gotten up the energy to rip it out and knit it again. One day.

    I should look into back shaping, too, since I have a considerable curve there too and any pulling will throw off the front. I’ve never worn a single knitted garment that sat half as nice as that sweater does on you. Something to aim for! 🙂

    • The back shaping really makes a huge difference. Figuring out sweater fitting is tough because it takes so long to knit everything up and then, at least for me, even longer to get up the will to rip it out and reknit it when something goes wrong.

  3. Thank you so much for creating these explanations and pictures on my request! 🙂 That helps a lot.

    Currently, I´m knitting a Blank Canvas sweater, too and am seriously challenged as to how to do the increases and decreases. As I said before, my body looks similar to yours when it comes to curviness. I don´t want this much of a negative ease, though.

    Would you perchance happen to be willing to help me working out the math of those decreases/increases? I´d be forever grateful! (Karletta on ravelry, btw).

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