Dartless Raglan Fitted Knit Top Block the end

Warning, more boring hair splitting / fit tweaking ahead. So let’s get the style shots out of the way first. Then you can tune out if you’re so incline!

Problems recapped

My complaints about my Dartless Raglan wearable muslin Test 1 were…

  1. position of the raglan seams looked off and unbalanced
  2. armholes felt a bit tight
  3. more sleeve drape at underarm than I would have liked

Tests 2 & 3

First, I started with my latest revised Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block and its re-drafted from scratch sleeves (turned into Camden Kids Wannabe top). I had hope the new sleeve draft would magically make my mis-matching bodice vs sleeve raglan seam lengths go away. No such luck. So the question is how to increase the bodice raglan seam length and/or reduce the sleeve raglan seam length. The problem is partly caused by the sleeve cap height.

  • In Test 1 I reduced the sleeve cap height by allowing it to overlap the bodice armscye.
  • For Test 2, I tried simply extending the bodice raglan seams at the side seams. But this caused unsightly bagginess on the bodice under the armpits.
  • So for Test 3 I tried lengthening the bodice raglan seam by lowering the underarm 1/2 the overlap amount from Test 1, and shortening the sleeve raglan seam by raising the bicep the remaining 1/2 of the Test 1 overlap amount. This has the added benefit moving the position of the raglan seams so that it’s more diagonal and to my taste.

Test 3 Mug Shots

The Verdicts

Problem 1 (weird raglan seam positioning) I think I solved.

Problem 2 (tight armholes) is marginally better. I think my base block is probably just such close-fitting pattern that any derivatives will have the same claustrophobic armholes unless I lower the bodice underarm further and increase bicep width. My uneven shoulders also don’t help – I haven’t made any adjustment for this in these muslins…because I was lazy and hoped the stretch alone would be enough. Again, lowering UA would probably help if it continues to bother me.

Problem 3 (too much sleeve drapes at underarm) I tried to solve, but I don’t think it’s any better. Re-reading Stretch Pattern School’s instruction again, I think the problem is the fact that I removed the negative ease which keep the sleeve and bodice under balanced tension to prevent tension draglines. Once the negative ease was removed, the shallow cap / arms up horizontally sleeve draft inevitably shows the natural excess of fabric that bulk up under the arms when the arms are down.

Now this last observation about the effect of holding the garment under balanced tension is fascinating and mind boggling. I still don’t completely grasp the principles. But I have definitely seen in my recent test how frequently the muslins with more ease actually look worse (more draglines and seemingly random bagginess) than the tighter fitting muslins. Even breathing in vs out affects draglines from waist side seam to bust point. With breathe in (ie rib cage expanded & garment under more tension) the draglines disappear, but with breathe out (ie rib cage contracted & garment hangs looser) the draglines appear.

And as I mentioned before, the fiber content also seem to affect this, with rayon / cotton more accommodating and molding to the body, but then staying stretched and baggy under it’s steamed out. That’s even with decent amount of lycra content. The polyester-lycra I tried on the other hand recovers easily, but also shows the tension draglines more easily.

Mind twisting isn’t it? Hopefully with more experience I will eventually grasp the tension concept and know how to adjust patterns to create the fit I want for each garment and fabric. But for now I think that’s enough fitting tweaks for a while, don’t you?

Camden Kids Wannabe Top

OK, so I did go back & tweaked my Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block a bit more. But after the fitting muslin had served its purpose, I decided I deserved some fun. So I let my creative side loose when turning the fitting muslin into a wearable muslin. And here’s the result.

Style Shots & Mug Shots


WORN WITH: 1&4 Self-drafted straight skirt; 2&3 Self-drafted pencil skirt; 5-7 TopShop Martha jeans; 10-11 Self-drafted pleated dirndl skirt;

Fabric & Notions Used

The design this time took its cue from the fabric. So let’s talk about fabric first.

  • 95% polyester 5% lycra black micro semi-wet-look knit from Tissu Fabrics with 50% horizontal + 20% vertical stretch. As this was first and foremost a fitting muslin, I shopped my stash for a fabric that I wouldn’t miss if I messed up. It was relatively cheap (the price seem to have gone up a bit now). And when it arrived it looked cheap too. Maybe this sort of vinyl / pvc looking fake leather will always look cheap. Anyway I was on the fence and stumped as to what to make with it. So fitting muslin seemed like a good way to use it up. The wrong side looks velvety matt and good enough to use as the right side too. It wasn’t too difficult to sew. But like many jerseys it curls at the edges, which I tame with spray starch.
  • Notions: Vilene Bias Tape.
  • Tools: Walking foot, spray starch

The Design & Pattern

Block Used:

Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block (Bodice & Sleeve)

So the fitting tweaks I made were

  • Made the shoulder slope steeper by adding teeny bit more height to the shoulder seam at the neck side on both Front & Back.
  • Shifted the side seam above the bust towards the front to make matching seam intersection at underarm easier for my wonky arms!
  • Re-drafted the sleeve from scratch just in case my first draft was not done correctly. But nope, my pattern still looks a bit odd. To avoid uncomfortably twisted sleeves, I still had to slant the sleeve below the bicep towards the front. The sleeve cap does look a bit more ‘normal’ in this second attempt though.

Design Changes Made

  • I was originally going to make this into a simple replacement for a RTW top I wore to death. That top had a fitted silhouette with envelope neckline.
  • I was a bit nervous about looking too S&M, so decided to go with a skiming silhouette (with a tiny bit of ease rather than going into skin-tight negative ease territory) and ‘color block’ with the matt side for a bit of artsy fartsy black-on-black Constructivist action.
  • To take the dominatrix vibe down another notch I added the puff over-sleeves inspired by an early 90’s Pam Hogg design from my clipping stash. The pattern for this was drafted using the top of my new Fitted Knit Top Sleeve Block and puff sleeve instruction from Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern. To keep sewing simple, the puff sleeves’ sleeve seams are sewn into the main sleeves’ sleeve seams – ie treating the two layers as one.
  • For the hem I shortened to a casual just below high hip length with side seam vents. And to reinforce the ‘color blocking’ layered-look sleeves as an intentional design, I added a matt band to the hem and made it look like an underlayer rather than just a hem border. My band is shaped – I was worried a straight band might not hang right. So I also had to cut a facing for the hem band.
  • One design element that I haven’t done yet which I might still do is to add a painted / transfer print design to the back. Again this would hopefully be matt black on black. I’m thinking a bull skull might go well with the slightly Camden punkish vibe of this top. I haven’t quite figure out how to do it yet.

Construction Notes

Again, in case I want to sew something similar again I’m jotting down here what I did. Feel free to try it yourself. But this isn’t intended as a properly written sewing instruction. The usual pressing, grading, neat seam finishing along the way applies if you want to try it yourself.

  • Stablize the F&B necklines. Sew on/overlock the folded neckline bands & topstitch SA down towards the bodice. Overlap F&B at armscye shoulder area and baste.
  • Gather puff over-sleeve at armscye and hem (from notch to notch at armscye, and from 2″ in from sleeve seam at hem). Sew on/overlock folded puff over-sleeve hem band & topstitch SA up towards the puff over-sleeve in the ungathered areas.
  • Baste and sew/overlock the armscye, sandwiching the puff sleeves between the bodice and sleeves, right sides of both sleeve layers towards right side of bodice.
  • Overlock the sleeve hems. Sew/overlock the sleeve seams – side seams, catching both the sleeves and puff over-sleeve in the sleeve seam at the bicep area and leaving the side seam vents open. Turn and twin needle stitch the sleeve hems.
  • Overlock the hem band side vents seam allowance top and side edges and the hem band facing top edge. Sew the hem band to bodice hem right sides together with bodice hem side vents seam allowances folded to the wrong side. Sew the hem band and facing bottom edges right sides together. (I metered my corners at the side vents, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary. The resulting corners actually look a bit lumpy in this uninterfaced stretch fabric.) Turn band inside out. Align the bodice and hem band side vent tops and press a fold to the bodice hem (in the same way as jacket lining hem). Baste, then top-stitch bodice hem and side vents in place, stitching through the hem band and facing. I used single needle for the side vent top-stitching and twin needle for the bodice hem.

The Verdict

Yeah I’m feeling a bit smug. For something I was willing to send to the recycling center if it turned out poorly, this ended up being a fun top with attitude. Afterward I discovered that Burda 2014-11-113 is a somewhat similar design…

…But I still like mine better. If you’re going to do puff sleeve you might as well do it with conviction.

Now all I need are some spiky studs, safety pins, ripped black jeans & Dr Martens and I’d fit right in with the kids in Camden. Or alternatively maybe a crinoline skirt and laced up boots for a spot of Steampunkish cos-play?

Breton Odyssey Adrift

My quest for Raglan & Semi-Fitted variations to my Fitted Breton T wasn’t quite the smooth sailing that I had hoped. While not Titanic disasters, they have not delivered me to safe design harbors yet. So I see more fussing with fit ahead.

The Raglan Experiment

Mug Shots & Style Shots

What went wrong

The muslin is wearable, but the position of the raglan seams just look wrong. Unbalanced as the GBSB judges might have said. And the armholes feel a bit tight. There’s also a bit more drape underarm than I would have liked.

I think the problem stems from trying to follow standard flat-pattern design drafting instruction using my non-standard Blocks. Sometimes the steps are just impossible to follow once you’ve altered your Basic Blocks to fit your figure quirks.

I first tried Stretch Pattern School’s instruction for Raglan Sleeve. But I failed at step 3. I couldn’t get the corresponding raglan seamlines to be the same lengths. So I gave up and tried the instruction in Designing and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics instead.

This instruction was just about possible to achieve with my wonky Blocks. But the result, as I said, wasn’t perfect. I’m wondering if its approach of disregarding any overlap of the sleeve head and bodice at the armscye-shoulder area might have contributed to the armscye tightness – ie the raglan seam ended up too short and drew the underarm closer to the body than the set-in sleeve original. Maybe it’s an approach that’d work better with looser fitting Blocks.

The Semi-Fitted Experiment

Mug Shots & Style Shots

What went wrong

Again the muslin is wearable, but I don’t like how the back is loose until it hits my hip. And it’s not that the hem is too tight for my hip. The hip actually has 2-1/2″ of ease. Releasing the side seams I discovered that it’s in fact the shaped waist that’s the culprit. Instead of letting the back fall straight from the shoulder blades to the hip, it pulls the back in slightly under the blades. The ease added gave the back a loose fit until it hits where the bum protrudes out more. Then it goes into skim the bum mode. A very weird look indeed.

If I shorten the top to above this point, then problem solved. But with the looser fit I kind of prefer a longer length so that the width doesn’t stand out more than the length. I reckon if I let out the waist about 1″ at each side seam then I’ll get the smoother loose fit I want in the back.

The other problem I discovered are slight draglines pointing to the neck-shoulder points, as if the shoulder slope is too shallow. I then check the Fitted Breton T muslin I just made, it too has the same draglines, but just not as noticeable. Urgh.

Where next…

If I weren’t planning to design from these Blocks I might let these minor imperfections slide. But because I do want to get more creative with them, I don’t want those imperfections to multiply and amplify. So I will have to go back and fix these.

But I think I will abandon my original plan to go immediately into production mode with the Breton Ts. I’m feeling a bit seaksick after three wearable muslins in the same stripy knit. Time to disembark and head ashore for a change of scenery me thinks…

Dartless Knit Top Block Take 2

As I was saying, I’ve been messing with my Knit Top Block again. I was trying to get dartless to work so I can make Breton tops and hopefully have stripes that match well across seams. Bust darts just seem like they would get in the way.

So let’s cut to the chase & show you the result. No point getting into the nitty gritty if this turns out duds right? ūüôā

Mug Shots & Style Shots


Well I’m pretty happy with the result. The front armscye needs tweaking. But overall this muslin turned out quite wearable. So here’s how I got from A to B…

The Nitty Gritty

sps_top_2-SLPattern Voodoooing

Remember my last attempt at Dartless Knit Top by distributing the bust ease into multiple places (like I did for the woven Tunic Block)? Well, I slept on it and thought maybe the problem is that there isn’t a smooth way to hide the excess without the darts. So maybe I should go the other way: Instead of having excess length at the seams to ease in, maybe I should make the seam lines the finished lengths I want and use the fabric stretch to accommodate the girls. So how do I go about this?

Firstly I decide to use the 0-ease Stable Knit Top Block as the starting point for a couple of reasons…

  • I reckon that this process will probably result in a reduction in the front bust width. If I start with the 12% reduction of the Stretchy Knit Top Block then I might be asking the fabric to stretch too much. By starting with 0% reduction I hoped I could stay within the overall 12% reduction limit for a good fit without much unsightly distortion.
  • I decided that even for stretchy fabrics I would prefer a skimming rather than a tight silhouette. Fact is even I have Michelin Man rolls with a standard bra on, especially in the back. Until I find foundation garments that smooth the silhouette without choking me I would rather not draw attention to my rolls.

Next it took me 3 attempts to get to B.

  1. I first tried Maria Denmark’s old Knit dartless FBA approach of taping up the dart, smooching the bust mound, then attempting to trace the outline.But the method adds width at the CF hem while reducing the bust width more than my max 12% target. So I abandon this approach. (Just found out that she had updated her approach to removing the dart for a knit top. It seems simpler. But I haven’t tested it and there is no result photo, so it’s hard to tell how well it works.)
  2. My second attempt used the Seam alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration. Yeah yeah it’s meant for altering ill-fitting patterns to fit, not to alter a good-fitting pattern to do something else. But nothing ventured nothing gained! I wanted to know if it’s even possible to re-shape my seam lines as I planned. It did sort of worked. But because I had used flimsy tissue paper for this exercise, the resulting pattern was a bit distorted and not usable.
  3. So my final attempt was to redo attempt 2 without all those distorted hanging chads. This time I used the Pivot/Slide alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration, but pivoted at more points rather than just at corners. It worked. And I manage to get the front & back side seams to be the same length vertically as well (rather than just at the seam line) for stripe matching.

For the sleeve, I also redid the bit below the bicep so that it’s symmetrical (rather than leaving it tilting towards the front to accommodate the way my arms hang). This was necessary for stripe matching across the sleeve seam. I reckon the stretch fabric would be accommodating enough for my twisted arms.

Les Tweaks

I then muslined this with my least favorite strippy knit. This is Viscose/Cotton/5% Lycra¬†Stripe Jersey from Tissu Fabrics with 50%H/35%V stretch. It’s OK, but not as soft as the Bamboo stripe jerseys I got from B&J Fabrics. So no tears if this experiment didn’t work out.

Much to my delight the muslin was pretty good right off the bat. The only thing needing adjustment was how the sleeve hang:

  1. the stripe in the sleeve caps were tilting up towards the back;
  2. the whole armholes were tilting towards the back as if my posture was too erect.

For A I decided to adjust the pitch and live with mis-matched seam intersection at the arm pit. I think this is the less of the two evils because it’s less visible. It does mean that I can’t sew the sleeves in the flat – I’d have to set the sleeve in after sleeve seams & side seams have been sewn.

For B since the muslin was already cut with 1/2″ seam allowance I could only increase the cross-back & decrease the cross-front by 1/4″. So the wearable muslin shown above is the result. The back armsyce seems OK now. The front I think could do with further reduction in cross-front, with the removed amount added to the corresponding area of the sleeve cap. And that is what I’m doing for my final Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block.


Next up, deriving & testing a Raglan Sleeve version and a Semi-Fitted version. I will also need to test this pattern again in other stretch fabrics in case I was just lucky with this fabric choice. I’ve noticed that the cotton/rayon + spandex knits I’ve used for Breton Tops have generally been better at molding to my shape than the pure synthetic knits. So I’m fairly optimistic that this Block will work as master pattern for my Breton Top collection. But whether it works as a general Dartless Knit Top Block is yet to be proven.

Also, the size of my bust dart in my Darted Knit Top Block is approx. 20¬į in angle & I’m a pseudo-D-cup. So if you have a larger bust this approach might not work well for you – you may still be better off retaining a bust dart of some sort.

Stretch Pattern School Block Experiments

Before I show you the next snake I need to show you the Block it’s based on. This is like my Nth experiment to come up with a dependable Knit Top Block. I’ve tried:

The problem is that I didn’t really know what I was doing. And with so much variation in stretch fabrics, one minute I think I got it the next I get a wadder when I try to design from it. So my quest continues. And (Stretch) Pattern School website impresses with the theory, the background info, and the clear drafting instructions. So I thought it’s worth a try.

2020-07-20 update: GREAT NEWS! Mr Anderson is back from retirement with his (Stretch) Pattern School 2.0! I haven’t explored it in details yet, but he says the info has been updated to reflect latest developments in swim / dancewear technology. Unfortunately the free auto-generated custom block feature is gone because the company that host the new website doesn’t offer such sophisticated programming options. But there is now a Pattern & Block Shop for RTW designers & interested home-sewers. Presumably this will be standardised sizing rather than custom based on your measurements, but certainly better than nothing! There’s also a Pattern School Online Facebook group & he’s also on Instagram (pattern.school.online) if you want to get latest updates from him. Have fun!

2017-05-19 update: The Pattern School website is no longer available online, but Mr Anderson is still extremely protective of his copyrights. So to avoid lawsuits absolutely no sharing of his content if you saved pages for your own personal reference. Hopefully my report below on my experiment using his method does not constitute an infringement of his copyrights.

If you’re looking to draft your own stretch block you will have to look elsewhere for instruction. This method is no longer an option.

Since part of the fun of writing sewing blog is the sharing of experience, I’m going to look into replacing this set of blocks with one drafted from instructions that are still publicly available. Then hopefully when I design from my stretch blocks then you too can learn to create & design with your own stretch blocks. I’m thinking maybe Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear by Ann Haggar…or go back to¬†Designing and Patternmaking For Stretch Fabrics since I’m not really looking for swimwear blocks. I may also experiment with adapting my 0-ease woven blocks – either my Kenneth King moulage or my body wraps.

If you’re looking to enter the swimwear design field & can expense professional books & subscriptions, maybe try Intimate Apparel Journal (ia-technical.com) website. They have articles on “Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles” & “Grading Swimwearavailable at $19.90 each. Or you can buy a subscription which costs $299/yr for verified students or $399/yr for professionals (4 issues/yr). Their shop also offers past issues of the IA Journal, special-topic compilations, or individual articles for purchase. The site is run by a Hong Kong professor with experience in the intimate apparel industry. But the above articles are written by David Morris, a British technical designer who worked for well-known intimate apparels brands & also taught at university level in the UK. David also runs¬†Intimate Apparel Technical website (iatechnical.com) which offers a remote learning course on Swimwear Pattern Cutting & Grading for ¬£250.)

Both are above my pay grade since I’m only sewing for myself, so I can’t comment on whether either professional sources are worthwhile. But I may just pay for an article or two from the Hong Kong site to learn the basic principles again from a publicly available source.

Anyway, back to the experiment. For not all theories works for everyone all the time. Theories need to be tested, especially when it comes to anything to do with infinitely variable human beings!

The Theory

For this experiment I tried Stretch Pattern School’s pattern drafting instruction for…

  1. One-Piece Swimwear Block for Stretchy Knit (75%+ stretch, 12% horizontal/0% vertical negative ease)
  2. Tankini Top Pattern based on 1 + variation for Stable Knit (0%/0% negative ease)
  3. Set-In Sleeve Block for Stretchy Knit

supplemented by

The Findings

One-Piece Swimwear Block (12%/0% negative ease)

(Made with Matt Lycra from Tissu Fabrics / Tia Knight with 40%H/40%V stretch)

The first muslin came out quite well. But there were a few small issues…

  1. My Front side seam came out longer than the corresponding Back side seam, even with the dart.
  2. There are some sway-back type draglines in the back.
  3. I got some draglines underarm and gapping in the armholes.
  4. The front neck chokes a bit.
  5. The crotch is a mess. My front gusset length came out longer than the Back.

1-pat1-1pHaving worked out what my key figure quirks through fitting wovens, I applied the advice from the Tweaking for Larger Sizes page for Front/Back Waist Issues and The Bigger Bust. Shifting the side seam towards the back at the waist solved #1 and mitigated #2.

Adjusting for sloping shoulder helped with #3. And forward head adjustment (raising back neckline & lowering front neckline) helped with #4.

#5 I haven’t solved yet. Not having sewn such garment before I don’t know if one has to insert the leg elastics first before one can check the crotch fit. It might also be possible that I have the “in thigh” figure quirk mentioned on the Tweaking for Larger Sizes page. Or the fact that I’ve put 4 big snaps in the gusset seam as temporary closure. In any case swimwear / bodysuit isn’t a priority, so I’m leaving this alone for now.

But I think in general wherever the instruction calls for “X cm +/-Y mm per size from size 10” it would be wise to check if the relevant Australian size 10 measurement he used matches yours. Eg going by the AUS size 10 measurement the front gusset length is in fact 0.5cm shorter than the back. I had calculated my back gusset length using the Wais-to-Waist (crotch length) and Waist-to-Crotch (crotch depth) measurements. But the front gusset length wasn’t given as a formula, so it came out longer than my back gusset length! Shortening this to back gusset length minus 0.5cm helped with #2 and #5 a bit.

Made with Matt Lycra from Tissu Fabrics / Tia Knight with 40%H/40%V stretch.

Tankini Top Patterns  + Sleeve Block

If this works it will become my new Fitted Knit Top Block. I’m hoping to have a set for

  • Stretchy Knits with 70+% stretch¬†(12% negative ease)
  • Moderate Knits with 40-70% stretch (6% negative ease)
  • Stable Knits with 10-40% stretch (0% negative ease)

I used my adjusted One-Piece Swimwear Block as the starting point. Since I’m not making a tankini, I only followed steps 4-5, adding ease from bustline downward & shaping the hemline. I extended the hemline down to the One-Piece Block’s hip line, then superimposed my woven Pencil Skirt Block to mark where my high hip and hip levels are. These two are the most likely hemline references for tops I’d want to design from the block.

I drafted patterns for all three types of knit and muslined the Stretchy Knit and Stable Knit version. Both came out OK I think…

Stretchy: Made with Matt Lycra from Tissu Fabrics / Tia Knight with 40%H/40%V stretch.
Stable: Made with Shimmer Jersey from Minerva Crafts with 10%H/5%V stretch.

The bust dart on the Stable Knit version seems too high up. But the bustlines are exactly the same level on both version. Maybe the almost non-existent vertical stretch of my worst case scenario ‘Stable Knit’ test fabric is at fault. And to be honest I think I will avoid making fitted stretch tops out of such minimum stretch fabrics and instead use my Moulage with darts / princess seams for shaping and the minimum stretch for wearing ease.

The sleeve I only muslined for the Stretchy Knit. It came out rather long! Also the default instruction doesn’t cater for my twisted arms. I shortened the sleeve & shifted some width at bicep / underarm from front to back and at wrist from back to front. So now it looks asymmetrical like my woven Sleeve Blocks but feels more comfortable.

Going Dartless

1-pat3-top-dartlessFailThe holy grail of knit block of course is the dartless yet smooth fitted T for the busty gal. Is it possible? Stuart advise against it. So does the book I have on pattern drafting for stretch fabrics. But then in the Tankini instruction he did ofter the option of easing the dart into back side seam…provided that you also include a shelf bra which does have a bust dart.

Naughty me thought I’d try my luck and see if I can pivot out the dart here like I did for the woven Tunic Block. The result wasn’t pretty…

Made with Matt Lycra from Tissu Fabrics / Tia Knight with 40%H/40%V stretch.

Maybe it’s the fabric. I might try again with a stretchier and/or heavier weight spandex knit. But for now I will work with the dart and try to incorporated the shaping into the designs rather than risk crow feet around my bust!