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need help understanding bodice draft

sewelegant | Posted in Fitting on

I have been using the Connie Amaden “Patternmaking Made Easy” instructions for a basic bodice draft.  Has anyone used this book for this project?  I come to a stumbling block in step 11.  It tells me to draw a line from the front waist to the Princess seam (first leg of the waist dart).  “square and draw a straight line from center front/waist the distance measured for center front to princess seam”. Since I have to accomodate a D cup the pattern is looking so out of whack with commercial ones I have a hard time believing I am doing it right.  (But then, this is why I am doing this!!! I do not fit the stereotype)

Nowhere can I find how to establish the Princess seam.  I think it is implied, but not printed out and I am needing it all spelled out for me.  What I have done previously is to find the midpoint in the shoulder seam and mark this as the Princess line start.  I have the bust apex marked in the proper position and have drawn a line from the shoulder to the bust apex.  NOW – my question is:  where is that princess line on the waist line?  Is it the same distance from the center front as the bust apex?  That seems logical to me, but I do not understand about that being the first leg of the waist dart.  Is the first leg square with the bust point? 


  1. starzoe | | #1

    I don't know the book, but it appears that the "first leg of the waist dart" would be part of the princess seam (along with the second leg of the waist dart which you will probably come to later on in the instructions).

    The location of this dart really depends on your judgement as to where the dart (beginning of princess seam) should be according to your body type. It may or may not be the same distance from the cf as the bust apex. Do you want the seam to run straight up and over the bust? - I hardly think so. The princess seams I like are the ones that sit just to the side of the bust apex - just where a side dart would end, about 1" or so toward the side seam.

    1. sewelegant | | #2

      Thank you for your reply.  I have written an email to the company and they will have her answer my question when she gets back from her latest trip.  I have a problem looking at the pictures and they do not appear like how I imagine I am supposed to be doing this.

  2. marymary | | #3

    I have the same book and ran into the same problem.  I am also stumped as to how to determine the princess point on the waistline.  I think I just guessed.  It has been a few months ago and I never got the draft finished.  Would love to know the answer you get back from the company.

  3. marymary | | #4

    sewelegant, I sent an email and asked the question, also to let them know that there is more than one person questioning the instructions.

    1. sewelegant | | #5

      I'm glad you sent the e-mail marymary, I have not sent it yet because I haven't quite figured out what it is I am wanting to know?!  I noticed I left off Crawford from the authors name on that book!  I had called the company and they told me to send an in-depth question and Coni would get back to me when she returned from her latest trip and managed her mail.

      I will tell you that I used the draft I have so far to see which size I should use in her dartless top pattern that I purchased and it helped because the top fits well, but I am wanting to make some more fitted bodices and was hoping to get that dart just right.  I'll let you know when I get a reply, but maybe you will get one before I do.

      On another post there was a question about pants pattern fitting and I recommended the draft from this book because I had great luck with it.  Have you tried it?

      Edited 2/3/2009 11:51 pm by sewelegant

      1. marymary | | #6

        sewelegant, no I have not made the pants draft, but I intend to.

        I bought Pattern Master Boutique and Coni"s book about the same time.  I also decided it was time to lose some weight.  Not particularly well planned, I know.  I made all the "Fit Garments" with PMB and was not real pleased with the fit.  That's when I decided to try Coni's book.

        Since I dropped one size rather quickly I decided not to try to sew anything for myself right away.  I did make a knit top with PMB thinking it would last through size changes only to find it sloppy looking a couple months later. 

        I did state in my email that there were at least two of us with the same question and said we were discussing it on Gatherings.  I thought you had already sent an email, so I didn't go into great detail about the question.  I think what you wrote in the beginning of this post more than adequately states the question.

        I have a number of pattern drafting books but I think I like Coni's the best.  I have a couple of Armstrong's books and find them frustrating to use because I found a mistake in one of them.  It makes it hard to trust the rest of the information when you know there is something wrong with part of it.

        1. sewelegant | | #7

          I don't know Pattern Master Boutique but have heard of the Armstrong book.  It has been mentioned extensively in past fitting threads.  In fact one "sewing expert" compared the two books and seemed to favor the one by Connie Crawford for ease in understanding.  Since I have no formal training in sewing I do need a good written guide and even then get a little lost when it comes to the art of covering a round shape.  My math skills have always been lagging.

          I understand your reasoning regarding the wt. loss.  That has been my challenge over the years too.  That is the big reason I now want to make a good bodice draft so I can understand how to fit my clothes better as I gradually lose.  As a diabetic I am now committed to watching what I eat and changing my attitudes and it is resulting in a slow loss of maybe one pound a month, but that is better than not losing at all.  Doing it slowly is helping me to accept a healthier eating plan that I can live with.

          P.S. I sent my email

          Edited 2/4/2009 11:53 am by sewelegant

          1. marymary | | #8

            sewelegant, I received an email from Connie, but it wasn't as helpful as I would have hoped.  She referred me to step 11 where it has (3") as the placement for the princess seam.  I explained to her that we are trying to fit our not-dress-form bodies rather than a dress form and need to know how to determine this measurement on our bodies.  Hopefully, she will explain it to me/us.

          2. sewelegant | | #9

            I just received an email from Connie too and she quoted from her book that the missing number I needed was 3" so I feel I had my question answered.  I have the first copy of her pattern making made easy with the purple cover and it did not specify that 3".  I think she is well aware that we are not dressform bodies since her specialty is fitting a real plus size woman to make her patterns.  She doesn't just grade up.  I'm trying to remember what size she uses and I want to say 2X but can't say for sure, but it is definitely one of the x's.  Maybe if you write a specific problem you are having she could answer better, but I did note she referred me to a new pattern that might take care of the problem and just skip the draft!  Hmmm.

            My edit is:  The reason I am trying to make a draft is because I want to move the dart to the armscye and I feel I need to know how big that dart should actually be. Or I might look better with the dart fullness divided into several different areas.  I could divide it between the top and the bottom and maybe I would like the way the bodice fits better.  I do not like the side dart.  I also think I would like a French dart at the side so I wouldn't have all that fullness at the hemline.  It all may get too technical for me but I would like to try.

            Edited 2/4/2009 10:29 pm by sewelegant

          3. marymary | | #10

            sewelegant, I have the second edition of the book.  It does have 3" as the measurement of the front waist to princess seam.  However, throughout the instructions there are numbers in parenthesis that will create a standard size.  Can't find what size that would actually be.  Did you use any of those numbers on other parts of your draft rather than your own measurements?  All the other steps show where on the body to take the measurements, except step 11.  I want to know how to determine where the princess seam should be located on any body.  If your front waist line is 7", then 3" would be correct.  It has been a long time since my waist was anywhere close to 28".  I think I just figured it out!  If you multiply your/my front waist by 3/7, it would give you the placement for the princess seam.

            An example: waist 40".  Front waist: 10".  10 x 3/7 = 4.29.  I realize that front and back waist are not always the same.  I just used these numbers for ease of math.  That is more than an inch difference that can make a huge difference in the dart.

            If you look at the various dress forms on page 36, you will see that the princess seam is not 3" from the center waist on all of them.

            What pattern did Connie refer you to?

          4. sewelegant | | #12

            B5300 a blouse pattern in the Butterick line

            I am going to send you an email with an attachment so you can read what she said about the draft.  It's not long, but you may find it interesting.

          5. starzoe | | #11

            If your bodice fits now, you can move the dart anywhere you like and still have it fit. You don't have to re-design the whole pattern. Perhaps there is something in your book about shifting darts. It's as simple as cutting out the original dart, drawing a line from the point of the dart to wherever you want it and closing the original dart.Two rules: work without seam allowances and add them later. Use the bust POINT as as a beginning and after moving the dart(s) draw the dart(s) to where you want them to end - 1" or so from the bust. It's possible to make smaller multiple darts in almost any location around the pattern, spread the space between the new darts.If you are hesitant, try this on a small-size sloper. Just hand-draw one, in this sample you don't need to be to scale.

          6. sewelegant | | #13

            Thank you for your note.  My problem is I like things to be perfect and my old draft wasn't because I didn't think I got the dart right.  So I was trying again.  With the answer I got from Ms. Crawford maybe it will turn out to my liking this time.

          7. starzoe | | #14

            If you have the bodice part perfect, without the dart, have you thought of someone fitting the rest for you? Most of us don't have someone knowledgeable enough to do this, but from experience I know it is a way to get a really good fit, a perfect location and shape of any dart suited to your body.

  4. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #15

    Just a question here...do you already have a basic pattern that fits you with a waist dart? Or possibly one with a bust dart?

    If you do, the location of your princess seam at the waist is the same as that of any regular waist dart. Coni's response to your question, 3", is pretty much an average..but your body could be slightly different. You will have an opportunity to adjust that when you make a muslin and fit it to your body.

    If you have a bodice with only a bust dart, simply transfer the dart to the waist by drawing a line straight down from the bust point parallel to center front. Slash the line to the BP and close the bust dart. Voila! You now have a waist dart that is the lower portion of your princess seam.

    1. sewelegant | | #16

      I think my original inquiry has been lost in that I am not yet fine tuning a bodice, I am trying to draft a bodice pattern from my measurements onto paper following the guidelines by the Patternmaking Made Easy book by Connie Amaden Crawford.  I have her earlier version and it did not specify where to crossmark the waistline for the Princess seam.  She answered my e-mail and said it was 3" (but like you imply, that is just an average number) I will be able to change that if I want after I finish the draft according to the instructions.  I am just wanting to be able to see how large my dart should be.  Because I have very little space between my waist and bust apex to work with everything looks pretty out of whack.  I have always had to lower the bustline, even when I weighed 118, but with the addition of age and gravity, I can't even see my waistline anymore.  Maybe I should do the bodice draft with the bust apex in a more normal position and then after the draft is finished, do the lower bust alteration?  I do wish God had seen fit to give me a more boyish figure.

      1. marymary | | #17

        sewelegant, I think if you put the bust apex in a "normal" position, you will be defeating the purpose of doing the draft.  Remember the bust apex is just where you stick out the farthest.  It isn't a place on your body.

        BTW, Connie did not respond to my email asking how to determine the princess seam placement on a human body.  I have a number of pattern drafting books and will look through them to see if anyone offers a formula.  Will get back to you.

        1. User avater
          artfulenterprises | | #19

          Just a note as to where to place a princess line. For a Basic Princess Line Block, the line should pass through the Bust Point since all darts should point to the bust apex. You can certainly change the direction or curves of the Princess Line to end pretty much anywhere you choose. And, there are variations such as Starzoe mentioned, although technically, that's not exactly a true princess line. It is basically using a french dart and an armhole dart (which would end about 1 to 1 1/2" from bust point) and connecting them with a design line to create a "side front piece". And Starzoe is right, it is a very attractive alternative.

          Edited 2/7/2009 1:52 pm by artfulenterprises

          1. sewelegant | | #20

            Thank you for your advice.  I copied and pasted it to my fitting files in word.  Maybe it will all all come together or a lightbulb will come on eventually.  I finished my draft and it looks ok, but I went ahead and bought the pattern Connie Crawford suggested for my figure type.  My draft fits in there almost perfectly for the size I need to follow.  Now to make a muslin. 

            Her pattern only has the side dart with optional waist level darts to pull in the fullness so I will be trying to figure out how to get that side dart changed over into the princess line.  All in all, I am quite happy with my finished draft and Mary Mary, I too think moving the apex is a no no.  Interestingly enough the apex on the purchased pattern is just about perfect.

          2. marymary | | #21

            sewelegant, I am glad you have a working pattern.  I am really more interested in drafting on my computer than adjusting paper patterns.  It is so much faster.

            I did find in Pattern Drafting & Grading by M. Rohr that the placement for the princess line on the waistline is the distance from the center front to the bust point, called the apex in the book, minus 1/2".  This is an older book, 1968 date, and the drafts seem to be for A,B, & C cups.  I think I read that, but can't find the reference right now.  I wonder what women with larger cup sizes did back then?  A lot of the drafting books I have assume that you already have a working sloper or block.  A couple tell you how to design a single dart sloper using a two dart sloper.  Not particularly helpful for what we have been trying to do.


          3. sewelegant | | #22

            I find ths "minus 1/2" interesting mainly because I could see that in the Connie Crawford book there was definitely a minus factor in placing the waist princess line.  There must be a reason for this minus factor and it is not explained.  So maybe it is not that important.  This blouse pattern #5300 does not have a princess line to study, but I feel I do have a "working pattern".  Isn't self education wonderful!

            What computer program do you use?  I have pondered entering that arena, but have not given in yet.

          4. marymary | | #23

            sewelegant, I have Pattern Master Boutique by Wild Ginger.  It has two "sides" to it.  First you measure yourself, or rather have someone else do it, and do fitting garments.  From those, you can then create using the selections you choose, such as short sleeve, long sleeve, collar type, etc.  The other side is the editor.  You can edit your design or create from scratch.  That is the simple version.  It isn't quite as easy as it sounds.  There are lots of tiny manipulations you have to make to make it fit you properly.  You regulate the amount of ease, can change the sleeve cap ease, etc.  There are lots of variations.  Without some idea of how much to do that, it can be very difficult.  However, there is great help both from the company and other users.

            You print out your patterns and then tape the pages together.  Some people find that troublesome, but I don't.  I use legal paper and it goes pretty fast.

          5. marymary | | #24

            sewelegant, the point where the princess seam at the waistline is located has to be less than the distance from the CF to the BP.  It represents the inside leg of the dart.  If it came straight down from the BP the dart would slant to the side.  That is OK if that is the dart you are trying to make for design purposes.  But, for a first draft, you need the center of the dart to come straight down from the BP, not the first leg of the dart.  If you were draping the bodice, you would not need to know the distance from the CF to the princess seam, you would just align the straight grain of the fabric and the left over would create the dart.

            Because the difference between an A,B,&C cup is not that great, you can use a number such as minus 1/2".  But, when you get above into D,DD,etc. the differences are greater and the amount in the dart will be greater, hence the first leg of the dart at the waist (princess placement) needs to be closer to the CF.

            I can visualize what I am trying to say, not sure I have explained it very well.  Ask again, if you don't understand.

            Even though Connie suggested that we forget it and just work with her pattern, I want to be able to create this draft.  It might take some time with lots of muslins, but I shall persevere.

          6. sewelegant | | #25

            I am looking at my draft and can see that starting that first leg at 3" seems just about perfect with the midline coming down straight from the BP.  My dart ends up being about 2 1/2 inches at the seamline.  This seems ok for seeing how well a pattern is going to fit, but I am wanting to make a double of ME to use for a mannequin cover so will have to probably do some more tweaking.  I hope you find your END in the not too distant future.  This has been an informative Thread for me.

          7. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #26

            The formulas for pattern drafting have been developed over many decades based on the fundamental "geometry" of the human form. If you are following a particular draft formula, just go with it...it's not important (unless you are a math geek) that you understand why you are directed to add or subtract 1/2" from a particular measurement. Furthermore, for the very same reason, that they are "averages", pattern drafts are never (unless by some weird fluke of nature) going to be "perfect"...they can only come pretty darn close! Over time, and lots of patternmaking, all those arcane and mysterious directions start to make correlations in your brain to the relationships of your own body parts.Hence, there is no substitute for fine tuning your draft in a muslin, which once adjusted, is transferred to your drafted pattern to make it truly a custom fit.I'm pleased to see you are doing this work to develop a dress form cover. It's a wonderful learning experience and the cover, when finished, will be the most valuable tool in your sewing room.

      2. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #18

        Okay...I'm attaching an image from Helen Armstrong's "Patternmaking for Fashion Design" for you to compare to the directions you've been given by Coni Crawford. (I don't have that book so can't speak to what she has directed you to do). Essentially, the two waist line arcs should equal the CF to Side Seam measurement from your body measurement chart. Whatever is left over on your draft is the width of your dart excess. Since, as you say, the distance from the bust apex to waistline is very short, you will undoubtedly want to change your dart from a straight sided one to a custom curved dart. Do not change the location of your bust point!I would follow Coni's directions and proceed by making that first waist arc marker 3" from CF. Once you've established the other waist arc you can adjust the dart legs as needed (making sure the dart legs are even or shifting the angle slightly so that when closed, the dart is parallel to CF). Most people find that first dart leg is between 3" and 4" from CF anyway.And by the way, just as an aside. I understand your desire to have your draft perfect. That's most commendable. However, I never yet have seen a pattern "draft" that didn't need to be tweaked once it was cut into muslin and tried on.Hope this helps.

        Edited 2/7/2009 1:50 pm by artfulenterprises

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