Prior to manipulating any of our shaping darts, we should mark our new neckline. Over the course our neckline draft may change ever so slightly, however it will end up reflecting this first line.
Step 1: Remove Shoulder Dart
For this top we are going to draft a basic neckline with a slightly oval shape to just give it a nice look.
If you have a shoulder dart, you should slash one leg all the way down to the bust point. Along another dart, generally a waist or side dart, slash the dart leg as well. Try to keep a bit of paper between the darts to form a hinge. I used a side dart in this step.
Tip: If you have a french dart and not a “side dart” where the french dart points to the lower bust point, you can redraw the dart legs to the high bust point and slash and cut on those lines.
Simply spin your sloper so that you close up the shoulder dart. Tape it closed, for now.
Step 2: Draw Your New Neckline
Note that I am marking temporary drafting and guide lines in pencil so you won’t be confused in later steps.
The first step is to decide how low, or high, you want the centre front neckline. Measure from the dip between your two collar bones to decide your ideal length. I decided that I wanted my neckline to go down as far at 7.6cm or 3″.
The next step is to decide how far along the shoulder we want our neckline to extend. It’s always a good idea to consider what might be worn under and over the clothing items you draft. Will the wearer need to hide bra straps or a camisole, for example? I know from personal experience that my bra strap rests exactly where my shoulder dart is drafted, thus I want to avoid getting too close to this point. I decided that 3.8cm or 1.5″ from my neck point would give me about 1.3cm or 1/2″ of space for my bra straps to settle.
The next step is to blend my guidelines together to form a nice curve.
At the centre front you will need to square out about 1cm or 0.25-0.5″. This is so that when we sew our fabric, we won’t have an unwanted dip or rise at the very centre of the neck. Of course if you were drafting a V-neck for example, you would not need to square out the way we have.
Step 3: Determine Pleat Length and Mark Ends (Optional)
If you want your pleats to be partially stitched down, such as with edge stitching, then now is the time to mark that length.
I want pleats that are about 2cm or 3/4″ long, so I simply mark 2.5cm or 1″ from my new neckline (light blue line). You can increase or decrease these pleats as long as you want, within reason.
Step 4: Determine Pleat Locations on Neckline
I want three pleats for this top. You can choose to add more, or less, if you wish. Since our pleats are radiating directly out from the neckline, you generally don’t want to go too high onto the upperbust or shoulder region as the fabric tends to droop more.
You can eyeball the highest pleat if you wish, or take the more mathematical approach. Some pattern designers, such as Helen Joseph-Armstrong in the book Patternmaking For Fashion Design, recommend using half your neckline measurement and placing the middle dart here. It’s entirely your choice of which method you want to pick; for example you might not want your pleats to start as high up as Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s.
In order to achieve symmetry in my patterns, I use a ruler to mark a line directly upwards from my waist dart to my neckline, marking where the two intersect.
Measure your neckline from centre front to the mark you just placed. Now for some more maths: divide this measurement by the (number of pleats minus one and a half).
Let me elaborate. I want three pleats on each side of this top, so I will be cutting the final neckline into four sections (the centre front, the first section, the second section and finally the shoulder section).
We have to remember that since our pattern is designed to be placed on the fabric fold, any measurement from the center-front will end up appearing twice as wide. So if we draft a 1″ pleat at centre front and 1″ pleats for each other section, the centre front pleat will end up being 2″. So we really want three sections and one half of a section. If you want five pleats, for example, then you want 4 and 1/2 sections…
The above rule of course is debunked if you purposely want a larger centre front pleat… In that case, just don’t add the extra half to your maths.
My maths looks something like this: 12cm divided by 2.5 = 4.8cm. That’s 4.75″ divided by 2.5 = 1.9″ (roughly).
From the centre front, measure half the above distance (remember we want it half the size since it’s on the fold), then the full distance for each remaining pleat. Mark each point along the neckline.
Draw a line from the middle most pleat to your bust point. If you have an even number of pleats, draw a line from between the two most middle ones. This is a guide line for drawing the pleats and how “radiant” they are.
Step 5: Determine Pleat Radiance
Some designers suggest you find the midpoint of the pleat guideline. I instead suggest you determine the height of your bust curve. Have a look at our post How To Correctly Measure Your Breasts and Fit a Bra. Whilst most breast shapes aren’t circular, in fact the majority of breasts hold most of the volume on the bottom of the breast, you can simplify your pattern drafting: measure the horizontal distance between your bust point and the centre front of your pattern. Measure that same distance up from your bust point and mark your guideline.
We now mark the radiance of our darts; that is just how much they flare outwards on our pattern.
Square a line out at the point the new guideline meets the dart line, perpendicular to your guide line. Note that you can extend this line out as long as it doesn’t extend horizontally further than the pleats closest to your centre front, else you will end up with a triangular shaped pleat.
I could extend this line as far as 4.5cm or 1.75″. If you want a quick and easy length to extend by, just go for 1″ (though this length won’t give you the most dramatic radiance possible). Mark each distance on this perpendicular guideline. I chose to make my pleats radiate at 1 5/8″.
I actually want my centre pleat to flare out ever so slightly, so I reduced the distance to 4cm or 1 3/4″. I also chose to radiate the external most pleat slightly more, thus increasing it to 2″.
Draw lines from your pleat tops (on the neckline) to the matching perpendicular guideline, then continue down to meet at bust point.