Add Side Dart To Fix Gaping Armhole

Side Dart Tutorial Sew Country Chick

armholegaping1I’m back from my trip to Seattle. It was great seeing my relatives up there, watching my younger cousin get married, and I already miss my aunt’s delicious cooking! I left a horrible rainstorm to come back to unseasonably warm weather and yes, an earthquake this morning! But it was just a small one…..

Now back to the business of sewing.

A common problem many women have when sewing tops for themselves is a gaping armhole. Most sewing patterns are drafted for a size B bra cup size so If you are bigger then that, then most likely you have encountered this problem. But how do you fix it, especially if you are sewing from a pattern that doesn’t have any darts? You have to create your own dart. And today I’ll show you how !

But first, I’d like to talk a little to you about the importance of sewing a muslin, which is basically a mock up of the pattern sewn in cheap fabric without any fancy finishing details..While making a muslin isn’t usually necessary for sewing for children, with their straight up and down bodies, getting used to making a quick one for yourself will save you many headaches and wasted fabric in the future. Believe me, you don’t want to cut into a piece of forty dollar a yard fabric until you have made a muslin. And many fitting issues require making one, including fixing the armhole gap. Muslins only take a few minutes, and only need to be basted together quickly.
A gaping armhole occurs when your bust pulls the armhole forward. The only way to solve this problem is by adding a dart, which makes your armhole smaller. You COULD just sew a dart into your fashion fabric and be done with it, and make no muslin at all, but armhole darts don’t look very nice and scream HOMEMADE. A better alternative is to transfer the dart to the side seam of the top. And you have to do the work on the muslin, then change the pattern.finishedtopresizedHere is my finished top I made of silk with leather sleeves, with the side dart sewn into it. It’s fitted to a DD cup size , yet is nicely fitted with no gaping.

FIXING THE GAP: pinnedmuslinresized Sew a muslin of the bodice of the top. Try it on yourself or a dress from that is padded to fit you. You can have someone help you pin it to you. In the case of this pattern, it’s meant to be a pullover top and didn’t need to be pinned. Pin out the excess fabric in the armhole. Trace the dart with a pencil. Make sure to mark the apex, or bust point, while the muslin is on your body or form.gapintute1 Take the muslin and lay it on the sewing pattern. Use transfer paper to trace the dart and the apex to the pattern.gapingtute3Draw a line through the center of the dart to the apex. Draw another line about 3.5 inches below the armhole on the side seam and connect it to the apex as well.gapingtute5Cut through both lines almost to the apex, but not cutting through it. Pivot the armhole dart closed. Voila! The side seam line will open up, creating a new dart. This technique is known as the DART PIVOT METHOD.gapingtute6Patch behind the armhole and side seam dart with scrap paper. Draw a new armhole with a French curve ruler if you have one. A French curve ruler is a great tool for drafting armholes, and every dressmaker should have one. Close the side seam dart and cut on the seam allowance.gapingtute7You will need to redraw the dart about 1.5 inches from the apex. You do NOT want your dart ending at the apex. Trust me. The bigger you are the farther away from the apex the dart should end , BTW 1 inch is normal for a B cup. I’d go up about 3/8 inch for each size.

Once you have fixed your pattern, you can choose to redraw the armhole in the original shape to avoid any problems with fitting the sleeve. Since the body of the pattern has been refitted , the armhole should now fit properly with no tugging.

Happy sewing!

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  1. christina says

    I am blushing furiously but here goes…is the APEX or bust point your nipple?

  2. says

    Thank you! Any suggestions if it’s a gap that requires more than a dart? I keep getting a puckered point at the end of the dart.

  3. says

    Did you adjust the pattern or are you altering a blouse already made?. A pucker can be helped if you sew the dart not in a straight line but curve the dart sewing line .I’d have to show you a drawing. Google “sewing a shaped or curved dart.”
    Also if the dart is really big, like 2 inches or wider, to prevent a pucker, you can divide the dart width into two smaller darts on the side when altering the pattern.

  4. Taryn Cafferty says

    Thank you for sharing this information. Gaping armholes are a huge problem for me. I do have some questions, though.

    I don’t quite understand the part where you say, “Pivot the armhole dart closed.” I understand what pivot means, but how far up do I move, or pivot, the cut piece? Should the widest width of the new dart match the widest width of the original dart? If it does, then can I just pivot the cut piece of pattern to match this measurement?

    Also, since we are redrawing the armhole, the armhole facing (if there is one) should be redrawn as well? Probably on the shorter side, sinse that is the side that will be sewn to the armhole.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  5. Val says

    What a great tutorial. You did a great job of making it simple for me to grasp. Thank you very much and thanks for sharing.

  6. Justine says

    Do you have any guidance for altering an existing item to fix this problem? I ordered a great dress online, but the arm hole gape is almost enough for me to pay the fee to return it.

  7. Peace says

    Please, how do I get rid of gaping armhole after I have already finished the princess style line?

  8. Sarah Martin says

    Now that you’ve made a dart, do you need to do anything so the front and back seems match up? Won’t there be excess length on the back pattern piece now?

  9. says

    No the dart adds length but it’s sewn shut so it’s the same as it was before. But you will need to adjust the fit of the sleeve since the armhole was made smaller.