Knit to Fit: Vertical Bust Darts I (for bottom up sweaters)

Do you have a blouse or shirt that you love but hesitate to wear? Is it that shirt where you need to contort yourself to place a safety pin at the bust line because it wants to gap there? If you wear it without the safety pin you have to hunch your shoulders forward every time you notice. In fact you can probably hardly move once it’s on but it’s the greatest blouse so here we go again with the d#%* safety pin.

Then there is that blouse which is not so great but is soooo comfortable to wear that you reach for it quite often. This blouse might have princess lines – those vertical lines that run from the bottom of the blouse, over your bust to the shoulder. They allow the front of the blouse to widen at the bust and then narrow back down at the shoulder. They fit really well for those of us who are somewhat busty. This style of blouse doesn’t gap at the bust line.princess line blouse

Can this be duplicated in knitting? Yes. Especially easy when working from the BOTTOM-UP.

You can add vertical darts. Widening the fabric at the bust area on the front only means the sweater will not be overly tight across the bust and pull the front of the sweater up at the bottom. The extra width relaxes the front so that it can fall properly at the bottom edge.Vertical Darts body schematic


Starting above the waist, place a marker 1/4 of the width in from each side seam. As you knit up the front, work an increase before the first marker and after the second marker, creating two lines of increases which will widen the front.

I tried to find some clear photos of vertical darts on sweaters but had very little luck. Guess what? They don’t show that well. So no worries about adding the increases since you’ll have to look really closely at this photo to see them. They are there, I checked.Amy Herzog petrea-final-front waist shaping

This is Amy Herzog’s Petrea pattern. If you knit from the bottom up and are looking for expert advice on bust shaping, she is your go-to person. I would recommend her Fit to Flatter book for more information.

Now back to the nitty gritty details. How many extra stitches do you need? That depends on how much extra width (in inches) you want on the front. See Do I Need Bust Darts?

How often do you work the increases? That depends on how many increases you need to work and how much vertical room you have between your waist and your underbust.Body schematic waist to bust


You want to work the increases starting 1-2″/2.5-5cm above your waist to 2-3″/5-7.5cm below the largest part of your bust. Use a measuring tape to check. I barely have 4″/10cm of room but I am very, very short. You may have more room than that.

Let’s say you want to add 3″ to the width of your front and you are working in worsted weight yarn with a gauge of 5 sts = 1″/2.5m. You want to add 16 sts and since you are working them in pairs (2 increases worked on every increase row) you need 8 Increase Rows to achieve this.

Work an Increase Row, then [3 Straight Rows & then an Increase Row] 7 times = 29 rows.

For worsted weight yarn your row gauge is 7 rows = 1″/2.5cm  so 29 rows is going to take approximately 4″/10cm vertically to work.

Do you have at least 4″/10cm of room between 1-2″/2.5-5cm above your waist and 2″/5cm below the largest point of your bust? If you have more room you could work 5 straight rows between increase rows and see how much room that needs. (1 Increase Row + [5 Straight Rows + Increase Row] 7 times = 43 rows = approx. 6″/15cm)

Would this be easy enough to add to your next bottom up sweater? I think with a couple of measurements and a few calculations you could be making a better fitting sweater.

The next question is how do we reduce these stitches above the bust line? The sweater front needs to fit at the shoulder according to the original pattern. There are several ways to do this and I will tackle that next week in Vertical Darts II.

Thanks for reading,


ANY GAUGE and GAUGE-FREE patterns by Deb

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Author: debgemmellmods

I'm a Knitter. The capital K means every day, everywhere. I'm co-owner of Cabin Fever with my sister Lyn. We have published over 100 patterns and 11 books. I'm also working on a new set of patterns for Any Gauge knitting. Dive into your stash and cast on for a Top Down sweater that fits, or an accessory to use up those odd balls of yarn.

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