Lesson 3

Dress block with darts and ease + sleeve

In this lesson we'll see how to create a dress block with darts and matching sleeve. It' the most used block.

Since wearing ease can change a lot according to the style you are working on, we gave 2 different wearing ease options:

  • first, we'll work on the block with 8cm at bust circumference and fitted sleeve - you can follow this construction for all fitted dresses with sleeves - just to see a different style we made this block a bit flared
  • then, we'll see how to change this block into one with 16cm ease at bust, wider sleeve and drop shoulder - you'll use this construction later whenever you need a more relaxed/loose fit, but still you need to have darts (loose fit and no darts was lesson n.1)

Let's start from the first construction: fitted dress block with 8cm ease at bust, flared skirt, fitted sleeve.
We distribute wearing ease this way: 20% on across back, 80%  on armhole section and 0% on front width. Remember that a basic block is created on half body, so first of all you should calculate half of bust wearing ease, then ease on all the following measurements:

E. g. 1/2 wearing ease on bust is 8cm/2 = 4cm
So, wearing ease on back width is 4cm*0,2 = 0,8cm
Wearing ease on armhole section is 5,5cm*0,8 = 3,2cm
Wearing ease on front width is 0cm

Then, wearing ease on waist circumference = ease on bust*(from 0,6 to 1)
E. g.: 8cm*0,6 = 4,8 cm

and wearing ease on hip circumference = ease on bust*(from 0,4 to 0,6)
E. g.: 8cm*0,6 = 4,8 cm

Wearing ease on back waist length 1cm, standard
Armhole depth ease 2,5cm.

In the second part of the lesson we'll draft a looser dress with dropped shoulder and sleeve with low cap.

Step 1
Foundation Chart for Fitted Dress

a-w = back waist length (meas. n.10) +1cm ease

w-h = hip level

w-n = knee length

a-b = 1/2 bust circumference +1/2 ease on bust

a-c = bust circumference/6 +6cm

c-c2 = 1/2 across back (meas. n.15) +0,8cm ease

c1-c3 =1/2 across front (meas. n.13)

Check armhole section c2-c3: it should be roughly c2-c3 = bust circ/8 ±1cm

c2-c4 = (c2-c3)/3

Step 2

a-a2 = bust circ/12

w-a3 = center back waist length (meas. n.11) +1cm ease.
Join points
a2 to a3 to draw back neckline.

To find shoulder line and shoulder point you have to draw two arches as done in previous block, and mark their intersection:

  • first arc is obtained by pointing on a2 and radius as shoulder top (meas. n.14)
  • second arc is obtained by pointing on w and using back shoulder slope as radius (meas. n. 12). Draw an arc in direction to a1.

Where the two arches meet, mark point a4
Point a4 (shoulder point) can sit either on left or on right side of line a1-c2 (across back) – so do not worry if the position you get is different then the one in the photo!

Join points a2 to a4 with a straight line: this is shoulder line.
To draw armhole find the following points:

  • from point a4 draw the perpendicular to line a1-c2. Name a5 the intersection point
  • divide a5-c2 in half and name a6 the point you find
  • draw the bisector of right angle in c2 and measure 3cm on this line, name the point a7.

To draw back armhole join points a4-a6-a7-c4 with a smooth curve. Point c4 could be raised by 0,3 to 0,5cm.
The curve might not pass exactly through the points (especially through a7 – the line could be few millimeters away) as they help achieving a nice shape – but give the priority to a continuous and smooth line. 

Step 3
Front neckline and bust dart

w1-b1′= front waist length (meas. n.6)

b1′-b2 (front neckline span) = a-a2 (back neckline span)

b1′-b3 = (b1-b2)+1cm. Draw front neckline connecting b2 and b3.

b1′-c5 = bust height (meas. n.7)

c5-c6 = 1/2 breast distance (meas. n.8) +0,5cm

Join points b2 to c6, then on this line (first leg of shoulder dart)find
c6-c7 = (breast distance/2) -1,5cm

c7-c8 = (bust circ – chest circ)/2

c6-c9 (passing through c8) = b2-c6

Step 4
Front shoulder and armhole

Then find shoulder line on front, you should draw two arches as done on back (and on previous block) and mark the point where they intersect:

  • first measure the shoulder line on back as a2-a4, then use it as radius to draw an arc whose center is c9
  • then, draw another arc starting from point c6 using front shoulder slope (meas. n. 9).

Where arches meet mark the point b5. Join points c9 to b5 with a straight line: this is front shoulder line.

Then find some reference points to draw armhole:

c3-b6 = (c2-c3)/3 +1cm

b6-b7 = c7-c8

c3-b8 = bisector approx 3cm long

Join points b5b7b8c4 with a smooth line.
Curve might not pass exactly through points b7 and b8 – it is fine, the priority is given to a good shape.

Draw also underbust line as done on previous block
c5-c10= c6-c7
then extend the line from c10 perpendicular to center front all the way to the left and mark c11 where the underbust line meets center back.

Step 5
Focus on underbust to hem section

This dress block has a fitted silhouette so it needs waist darts to follow the body shape. As done for the skirt and the contoured bodice, we calculate the total dart amount for the block (so for half of the body) as
Σdarts = [(bust circ + ease on bust) – (waist circ + ease on waist)]/2

Usually half of this amount is discarded in side seam, so
Σside = Σdarts/2

If Σside is bigger than 5cm the excess should be discarded in additional darts on front and/or on back as done in the skirt block, so:

  • if Σside <5cm, w2-w3 w2-w4 = Σside/2 (so, move from point w2 half of Σside on the left and a matching amount on the right and find w3 and w4)
  • if Σside >5cm, w2-w3 w2-w4 = 2,5cm (so move 2,5cm to find w3 and w4) and the exceeding amount will create additional darts on front and/or back as done in the skirt
    If the slope is bigger then those 2,5cm, side seam might give fitting issues as diagonal wrinkles.

To find side seam points on hips [(hip circ + ease on hips) – (bust circ + ease on bust)]/4 should be calculated first. Then, add this number:

  • to the right of point h2 for back, mark point h3
  • to the left of point h2 for front, mark point h4.

If you want a straight skirt, draw side seam as in the contoured block:

  • square down from h3 until you meet knee line and mark n3, then connect c4-w3-h3-n3for back side seam
  • square down from h4 to knee line to find n4 and connect points c4-w4-h4-n4 for front side seam.

We thought about making the skirt slightly flared, so to draw side seam from hip to hem adding 4cm to hem section compared to hip one:

  • n-n3′= n-n3 +4cm; back side seam is c4-w3-h3-n3′
  • n1-n4′ = n1-n4 +4cm; front side seam is c4-w4-h4-n4′.
Step 6
Waist darts

In this block front and back darts are calculated as (Σdarts -Σside)/2

Front dart center is given from the line coming downward from c6: from c6 point draw the parallel to center front and label c12 where the line meets underbust line, w6 the waist, h5 the hip line. Draw half of dart depth to the left and half to the right of point w6. Draw the same number to both sides of point c12. Dart upper apex is 2cm below c6 and dart lower apex is 5cm above h5. Front dart is shaped as a rocket in the upper section (you know this already) and as a triangle from waist down.

Back dart position is halfway between points w and w3: mark it as w5. Starting from this point draw a parallel to center back and label c13 where the line hits c line and h6 where the line meets hip line. Draw dart points with half of dart depth to the left and half to the right of point w5. Dart upper apex is 2cm below c13 and dart lower apex is 5cm above h5. Back dart is shaped as a rhombus.

Step 7
New armhole

Let’s see how to create a fitted sleeve (we saw in lesson 1 how to create a loose sleeve for a loose bodice without darts).

First, measure carefully the armhole line on dress block as the line a4-a6-a7-c4b8-b7-b5 (here a short video on how to do it). Note down the measurement and compare it to your bust circ/2: you expect the two measurements to be quite similar.

Drop points c2, c4,c3 by 2,5cm as done on the bodice block without darts. Label the new points c2′, c4′, c3′.

On back a6′ needs to be calculated
c2′-a6′ = (a5-c2′)/3+2

And so points b6′ and b7′ on front
c3′-b6′ = (c2-c3)/3+1
b6′-b7′ = b6-b7

Keep the bodice part handy while drawing the sleeve cap because you will need to take some additional measurements from it.

Step 8
Foundation Chart for Fitted Sleeve

In the upper part, center of a new sheet mark point o and draw a vertical line downwards from it. This line will be sleeve center.

Sleeve cap height is o-o1 and depends on armhole depth on the bodice, so measure back armhole depth as the line a5-c2′ and then calculate its 3/4
o-o1 (on sleeve) = 3/4(a5-c2′) (on back bodice)

Find point e as the elbow measurement (meas. n.17) and w as sleeve length (meas. n.18)
o-e = elbow length
o-w = sleeve length

Draw the horizontal lines from points o1, e, w both to the left and to the right.

Sleeve width o2-o3 is calculated by adding wearing ease to bicep circumference (meas. n.19 ); for a fitted sleeve we suggest to try 3cm – but you can try different ones according to the chart in lesson 1, step 18)
o2-o3 = bicep circ + 3cm ease
Draw half of this measurement to the left of point o and half on the right of it.

From 02 and o3 square down the lines parallel to sleeve center.
From o3 down mark
 o5 at armpit level, e2 at elbow level, w2 at wrist level.
From o2 stop the line at armpit level and mark o4.

Mark from armpit level o5 and o4 some reference points to draw sleeve cap – their measurements match the bodice ones
o5-o6 = move up as line c3′-b6′ of front bodice/armhole, then move out 0,5cm
o4-o7 = as c2′-a6′ of back armhole.

Step 9
Reference points for sleeve cap

o-o8 = (o-o3)/2+2
Join point
o8 to o6. Draw the bisector 2-2,5cm long and mark point 1.

o-o9 = (o-o2)/2
Join point
o9 to o7. Draw the bisector 1-2cm long and mark point 2.

Join points 07-2-o-1-o6 with a smooth curve.

o4-o10 = (o2-o3)/2
o5-o11 = (o2-o3)/2

Join points o7 to o10 with a straight line and divide it in 3 even parts, mark the points that divide the sections. From the point closer to o10, lower a perpendicular 1cm long, from the point closer to o7 lower a perpendicular a tiny bit shorter (0,7 to 1cm).
Draw the line for back sleeve cap passing through these points.

Join points o6 to 011 with a straight line and divide it in 2 parts. Mark the center of the line and lower a perpendicular 1,5cm long. Draw front sleeve cap passing through this point.

Measure 1,5cm to the left from e2 and mark e3.
Along line 05-w2 measure 1cm up from w2 and mark w3.
Join points
o5, e3, w3.

Step 10
Sleeve bottom

For a fitted sleeve with no opening at bottom, you can calculate the bottom as wrist circumference + 4 to 5cm ease (grab a measurement tape and make sure your hand passes through it).

Join point w3 to w and extend the line to the left as this calculation
w3-w4 = (wrist circumference + ease)/2 

Join points o4 to w4 with a straight line. Mark e1 where this line meets elbow line. Move 1,5cm from this point to the left and find e4.

Join points o4,e4, w4.

Step 11

Draw the new line for sleeve center passing halfway from all points:
e3-e5 = e4-e5
w1-w3 = w1-w4

Join points 01, e5, w1. This is the new sleeve center, slightly angled. – you know those nicely hanging sleeves in tailored jackets? we’re doing something similar 🙂

Step 12
Front sleeve

For the front part of the sleeve
e3-e6 = e3-e5
w3-w5 = w3-w1
Point w5 sits on the horizontal line of sleeve bottom, while w3 is 1cm higher – this gives a slightly shaped sleeve hem.

Join points o11, e6, w5.

Step 13
Back sleeve & elbow dart

For the back part of the sleeve
e4-e7 = e4-e5
e4-e8 = e4-e7
Line e4-e8 MUST BE perpendicular to e4-w4 of back fold line.

w4-w6 = w4-w1, extending line w1-w4 to the left.
Line w4-w6 MUST BE perpendicular to e4-w4 of back fold line.

Join points o10-e7 and e8-w6.

Dart ends 2cm before point e4. Adjust dart width so that
(o10-e7) + (e8-w6) = (o11-e6-w5)

Step 14
Adjust sleeve sides

Check sleeve sides to have right angles at armpit:

  • from point o4 draw the perpendicular to line o10-e7
  • from point o5 draw the perpendicular to line o11-e6

Lower the outer points of sleeve cap so that they sit on the new perpendicular lines and label them 010′ and o11′ .

Step 15
Fitted sleeve is almost ready!

Smoothen the angles at elbow and wrist and get your finished sleeve pattern.

You need to check ease at sleeve cap (remember lesson 1, step 25?). With a measurement tape pass through points o10′,o7,o, o6, o11′ and note down the sleeve cap measurement.

This should be slightly bigger than armhole measurement: calculate the difference among measurements. For light to medium weight garments (so shirts, tops, blouses, dresses…) the ease at cap should be
sleeve cap = armhole *(from 0,06 to 0,08)

If cap is bigger than armhole*0,08 double check sleeve calculation first. If all of them are correct, reduce a little the ease to bicep circumference until you get the right measurement – but make sure your sleeve fits the arm. If you cannot reduce the ease, consider widening the armhole by dropping it by more than 2,5cm or adding more ease to bust circumference.
If cap is smaller than armhole*0,06 double check sleeve calculation first. If all of them are correct, add a bigger ease to bicep circumference until you get the right measurement.

Step 16
Distributing notches

Not to struggle when sewing the sleeve we carefully put notches that partition the ease amount.

To mark notches, measure along the armhole/cap line carefully with a measurement tape – you want to be extremely precise.

Along front armhole:

  • measure 9cm down from point b5 and mark a notch
  • mark another notch where point b6 is.

On back armhole:

  • measure 9cm down from point a4 and mark a notch, then mark a second notch 1cm below the first one.

On sleeve the first notch is on point o (when sewing sleeve into armhole, this notch meets the shoulder seam), then:

  • along sleeve cap curve, measure down from o to the right as  9cm+1/2 ease at sleeve cap and mark a notch for front
  • the second front notch is measured down from the first one using the same measurement of points from notch to b6 on front bodice.
  • for back notches, measure down from o point to the left along sleeve cap by 9cm+1/2 ease at sleeve cap and mark a notch. Mark the second notch 1cm below.
Step 17
Loose dress with drop shoulder and lower sleeve cap

Now let’s speak about a different type of style that you create starting from a similar block. We still use darts but wearing ease is bigger for a more relaxed fit, shoulder line is extended so the armhole drops and the sleeve is wider at bicep and has a shorter cap.
The main difference between the previous block and this one is that the armpit line in bodice drops to allow arm movement, so the armhole and sleeve are shaped in a different way – the more you drop shoulder, the flatter the sleeve cap is.

Also, when you create something with a looser fit the bust dart measurement is reduce – so front becomes flatter – and the ease increases in other areas, as across back.
Pay attention not to use this construction for too little wearing ease on bust (it depends on fabric and personal measurements, but I wouldn’t do it with less than 14cm at bust): a tight dress with drop shoulder and low sleeve cap is just wired and uncomfortable.

In this example we consider 16cm ease on bust circumference, and we distribute it

  • 30% on across back
  • 50%  on armhole section
  • 20% on across front.

Remember that our block considers half of the body, so first divide ease in half and then make all calculations.

E. g. 1/2 wearing ease on bust is 16/2 = 8cm
Ease on across back 8*0,3 = 2,4cm
Ease on armhole section 8*0,5 = 4cm
Ease on front width 8*0,2 = 1,6cm

You don’t need to calculate ease on waist circumference because a loose silhouette doesn’t need waist darts.

Ease on hips follows the classic rule: ease on bust*(from 0,4 to 0,6).
E.g.: 16*0,6 = 9,6cm

Also ease on back waist length is the classic 1cm.

You can follow all the previous instructions to draft this new block, but:

  • the side seam starts exactly halfway in armhole section
    c2-c4 = c4-c3
  • when working on front the shoulder dart is reduced by 1/3
    c7-c8 = [(bust circ – chest circ)/2]*0,66
  • when drawing side seam, you can reduce at waist from 0 to 2cm on each side
    w2-w3 = w2-w4 = 0 to 2cm.

To draw side seam from waist to hip you need to calculate
[(hip circ + ease on hips) – (bust circ + ease on bust)]/4
and add the result to both sides of point h2, marking h3 (for back) and  h4 (for front).
Square down from h3 and h4 to hemline.
Join points c4-w3-c2-n3 to draw back side seam and c4-w4-c2-n4 for front one.

Step 18
Redraw shoulder line

When working on a loose block, you need to raise back shoulder line by 2cm (measured on perpendicular lines to a2-a4). Extend that line by 2cm outwards. Label the edges of new shoulder line a2′ and a4′. 

On front, from point b2 move down 2cm along the neckline and mark b2′. Draw the perpendicular to front neckline starting from b2′ until you meet dart leg b2-c6.
Move down 2cm from shoulder line c9-b5 by redrawing it in a parallel way and extending the line by 2cm outwards. Label b5′ the point where the  line meets front armhole.

Measure back and front new shoulder lines and make sure that
a2′-a4′ = b2′-b5′
(remember to skip the front dart when measuring the shoulder line!).

Step 19
New armhole

To drop the armhole, first drop points c2, c4, c3 by 6cm. Label the new points c2′, c4′, c3′.

Draw back armhole joining a4′ to c4′ and front armhole joining b5′ to c4′. The new armhole should be much flatter than the old one: that’s why a6 on back armhole and b7 on front one get closer and are moved towards the center by 0,5 to 1cm until a very flat curve is shaped.

Step 20
New shoulder top

Shoulder line can be extended up to 10 to 15cm  – as a consequence, armhole width is squeezed up to few cm.
If you extend shoulder line by more than 4cm, we suggest to drop the new  shoulder points 
a4′ and b5′ by 1 to 3cm better to shape the shoulder area.
The more you extend shoulder line, the more you need to drop armhole, the more ease on bust you need. The limit is armhole level at waist level. 

Step 21
Sleeve cap heights

Per costruire la manica adatta alla base con stalla e incavo scesi dobbiamo misurare l’incavo sulla base del dietro e davanti della base con il metro da sarta e calcolare l’altezza del colmo manica o-o1 a secondo di quanto abbiamo abbassato l’incavo della base:

  • se l’incavo si abbassa meno di 6 cm l’altezza colmo manica o-o1 si calcola come  (a5-c2′)/2 (foto 14),
  • se l’incavo si abbassa da 6 a 12 cm – altezza colmo manica o-o1 deve essere da 8 a 10 cm,
  • se l’incavo si abbassa da 12cm fino al livello della vita – altezza colmo manica o-o1 deve essere da 2 a 8cm.

Si vede chiaramente che con l’abbassamento dell’incavo si appiattisce il colmo manica.

Step 22

In the upper part of your sheet draw a point o. From o, draw a vertical line downwards and mark o1 as the above mentioned measurement list. Square out to left and right, then using half of the armhole measurement draw the slanted lines that start from o and whose ends sit on the perpendicular you just drafted

o-o10 = o-011 = armhole measurement/2 

This segment o10-o11 gives you the sleeve maximum width.

Step 23
Reference points for sleeve cap

Find the center of both horizontal segments
o4-o1 = o4-o11
o5-o1 = o5-o11

And square out from o and square up from o4 and o5 until you meet the horizontal line coming from o, marking the intersection points
o4-o2 = o5-o3 = o1-o

Then divide segments to find other reference points
= (o5-o3)/2
o4-o7 = (o4-o2)/2+1

Join points o-o7, o7-o10, o-o6, o6-o11 with straight lines.

Step 24
Draw the sleeve cap

Mark the center of each segment and label the points as 1,2,3,4.
1 and 2 relate to back sleeve cap, 3 and 4 to its front.

Square up from points 2 and 3. The measurements change according to the cap height:

  • 1,5 cm if o-o1 > 12cm
  • 1 cm if 8 < o-o1 < 12cm
  • 0,5cm if o-o1 < 7cm.

Square down from point 4 as (o-o1)/10

Square down from point 1 as (o-o1)/20

Join all points drawing a smooth curve. This is your sleeve cap.

Step 25
Sleeve hem

Sleeve length is shorter as the shoulder line was extended
o-w = sleeve length – shoulder line extension (e.g. 2 cm)

Square out from w for sleeve bottom width:
w1-w2 = [wrist circ + ease (> 6 cm)]/2

w2-w5 = w2-w
= w1-w
w2-w3 = 0,7cm
w1-w4 = 1cm

Draw the hemline passing through points w6-w4-w-w3-w5.
Back sleeve is slightly longer for ease at elbow.

Step 26
Sleeve is ready!

Square up from w6 and w5 to draw the forearm part of the sleeve
w6-e1 = w5-e2 = sleeve length – elbow length

Join points o10-e1 for back sleeve and o11-e2 for front sleeve with a curved line (shaped a bit like a parenthesis).

Check the sleeve cap measurement as done for the previous sleeve.
In this case, there should be from 0 to 2cm maximum ease at cap. If you get more or less difference, double check all sleeve calculations first, then consider widening or reducing o10-o11 line (increasing or reducing sleeve upper width).

If you get ease, to make sewing easier, distribute notches as in the previous sleeve so that you have some reference points for sewing.

Your new blocks are ready! Can’t wait to see both of them on you, and to know which is your favourite ease across all circumferences!

You’re welcome to join our Facebook group and to share there any question you might have, as well as photos from your patterns/muslins so that we can discuss about them!

We prepared some pdfs that are available there and will be handy to draft your patterns – today I added a chart on wearing ease on bicep circumferences that you can use anytime you need to choose ease to draft a sleeve.

In next 2 lessons, we’ll see the most common fitting issues and alterations for bodices and sleeves. It’s going to be an interesting overview of different body shapes, please drop us a line if you would like us to deepen a specific one!