The Casual – Dartless block
In a previous post about easy ways of getting a well fitting pattern making basis, I mentioned several books and tools which make a simple starter shape without darts. This shape is called the ‘casual’ or ‘dartless’ block.
(May also be called “flat pattern cutting”, as compared to “form cutting” which makes clothes that fit. Though I find that confusing, as pattern making by drawing a pattern on paper is often called ‘flat pattern making’ in contrast to ‘draping’.)
The simplest version of the casual dartless block has :
- straight vertical sides.
- no darts.
- wearing ease for a loose fitting style, may be about 6 inches or more.
- front and back patterns the same except for the neck line.
- as the front and back pattern armholes are the same, the sleeve cap is symmetrical.
- often a longer shallower armhole and a flatter sleeve cap. So the sleeves can be attached before the side seams are sewn.
- often a dropped shoulder, especially for women wearing unisex styles.
- straight loose sleeve arm.
Tee pattern from Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way
This is the easiest block to develop into casual cut-on sleeve and raglan sleeve styles.
This sort of pattern is very familiar in casuals and outerwear. Often made in knits, fleeces, stretch wovens. Also good for stiff or bulky fabrics such as quilted, fake fur, waterproofed, home dec. And in quality wovens on the right body shape, they can look elegant. Many independent pattern designers base their styles on a version of this block. Often simple jackets are just made from a larger dartless/ casual block.
Incidentally, classic jeans are made from a dartless pants block with little ease. Which is why people with indented waists may have difficulty finding the right pair. But that’s another long and different story. Palmer-Pletsch has a new DVD on fitting and sewing jeans here.
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Commercial ready made dartless/ casual blocks
There are some commercial sources of basic casual dartless blocks.
Such as Connie Crawford’s dartless blocks for wovens and knits.
Here’s the unisex casual block from Shoben Fashion Media.
The dartless block is used too for the tee and blouse patterns in the wardrobe pattern book ‘Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way’. Easy sewing because there are no darts (or zips). And the sleeves of both tee and blouse are attached before sewing the side seams.
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A personal casual dartless block
The easiest way to make a dartless block is just to leave out bust and waist darts of a fitted pattern. But that doesn’t give a good result.
The flat dartless block is so much part of current style that modern pattern making books have a whole section on it. There are a surprisingly large number of different ways of drafting a casual block from measurements, with different results. Which I’m not going to write about here.
Here’s a free download for a simple draft from Burda Style.
If you have the Sure-Fit system, it’s the shirt pattern.
What I’ve found myself doing in practice is not to draft a pattern from measurements, but to get a commercial dartless pattern to fit me well.
I found I can’t use the simple standard commercial dartless block as is, if I want to look good and feel comfortable. With my high round back and uncomfortable armholes, I need :
- different slope for front and back shoulders.
- shoulder darts.
- neck opening moved forward.
- different shape front and back armholes.
- I think a more fitted armhole is more flattering on me, and I don’t mind inserting sleeves.
- my preferred ease levels and comfort for movement give me different width patterns front and back.
So I’ve made my personal version of a ‘dartless’ block with these changes and the amount of ease I like for layering. Which I substitute when a pattern uses the dartless block.
I would have had to do most of that fitting work anyway if I’d used most drafting methods, which assume a more average body than mine. So I might as well just work by getting the fit of a commercial pattern right, rather than going through the drafting stage and still having to do the fitting.
In fact this was the first personal block I developed. The casual block is the easiest block to sew. Much used for beginners’ patterns. No darts. Bigger flatter armholes, so you can add sleeves before sewing side seams. The basis of most relaxed styles, which I usually wear. So I thought it would be the best block to start personalising. I was astonished by how many changes I needed to make before I was happy with the result. Now I know about the features of casual dartless blocks, it isn’t so surprising. The standard dartless block may be easy to sew, but if you haven’t got an average shape it doesn’t look good.
So there’s a second surprise – it isn’t actually necessary to look dreadful when wearing simple clothes with minimum darts ! You can improve the fit of the casual block. Any garment, even the most shapeless, looks best when it hangs well from the shoulders. So get good shoulder fit even on these simple styles. Add darts where you most need them. Use a neater armhole if you don’t mind inserting the sleeves.
I need shoulder darts to look good in a ‘dartless’ style. If you have a large cup size, you may want to add a bust dart. Marcy Tilton has some helpful videos on adding a dart in the armscye.
That’s why I join the people who call this the ‘casual’ block. Commercial designers do use a truly ‘dartless’ block. Garments without darts and with long shallow armholes and flatter sleeve heads are so much easier to manufacture.
The vertical sided dartless block may be easy to make and very current for casual styling, but it isn’t flattering for all body shapes. Perhaps best worn by rectangles and apples and wide shouldered inverted triangles.
A waste of an hourglass waist. And I think many of us pears look best if we add flare to allow for our hips. Rather than using a style with vertical side seams, when we have to make the bust level big enough to have room for our lower levels. I also find it more flattering to wear a fitted rather than a dropped shoulder.
After all, the whole point of all this is to have clothes that look good and feel comfortable. When we sew for ourselves we can choose the elements of a style that work best for us :D
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Patterns and links available July 2011Explore posts in the same categories: pattern making for clothes