How (& Why) to Work Bust Darts

Bust Darts are an amazing way to customize knit sweaters and cardigans to work with your curves. It's a great solution if you find your pieces riding up in the front. Many bustier knitters will knit a size up to accommodate for their chest. This isn't the best approach as other areas of the garment will likely be oversized, when in reality you just need to adjust that one area. Bust Darts are a great way to isolate ease just where you need it. Want to learn more about why you may want to add bust darts? Watch Julie explain why, here

This tutorial is a general guide, but you can dive deep into the subject with Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer’s book, Big Girl Knits or through this Ravelry group: The Bust Line. We highly recommend both of these references if you'd like to perfect the art of customizing knit patterns to your body and preferences.

Step by Step Instructions


Place Markers

For this method, we're simply eyeballing where we want the dart to run. We recommend trying the item on and placing the first marker where you don't want the dart to run any further. You certainly don't want it to come past the center point of your bust, rather along the side. That being said, since we're working Shadow Wrap Short Rows, the line of ease will almost be invisible from the right side. Your second stitch marker should be placed at the center of the underarm. If following a Cocoknits Method pattern, your marker should already be there!

Once you've marked your spot on one side, simply mark the same section on the other side of your garment. 


Determine How Many Extra Rows You Need

Like we said before, you can dive into the math of this with Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer’s book, Big Girl Knits or through this great Ravelry group: The Bust Line. For this tutorial, we're not going to be that precise. For this project, Emma Version C, we had a gauge of 4.5 rows per inch. If you're around a B or a C cup you're probably going to want around 4-6 extra rows (adding about .75-1.25 inches).

If you have a bigger bust, simply do more short rows within your bust dart section. Every time you do a pass it's an extra two rows, so you can calculate how much room you want for your bust, consider your gauge, and add the amount of passes needed to achieve the proper shaping. 

However many rows you decide to add on, make sure that they're evenly spaced throughout your bust dart area. For Julie's example she had 10 stitches between her markers, and worked 3 passes. Her first SWSR was at the first stitch marker, second SWSR was 5 stitches past her first SWSR, and final SWSR was worked at the second stitch marker. 


Knit to Marker, Remove Marker

Now it's time to knit! Work your way to your first marker and remove the marker. 


Work SWSR, Turn, Purl, Knit to SWSR and K2tog

After you've removed your marker, work a Shadow Wrap Short Row. We love this technique because it's almost invisible from the right side. It's also pretty easy once you get the hang of it - if you don't know how, you can learn with our SWSR knit tutorial here. We totally remove markers while we work this because it's quite obvious where the shadow stitch is. After you've worked the initial SWSR, you turn your work, purl to the end, turn, knit to the SWSR, k2tog, and knit to your next SWSR. 


Repeat as Determined

Repeat step 4 until you've added the number of rows desired for your bust dart. If you lay your piece out with the WS showing, you can see the triangular area of ease here. 


Work Other Side of Bust

Once you've completed your first side, knit to the end of the row and begin the same process on the other side. Please note if knitting flat (like with this cardigan example), on the next side you will work SWSR on the WS rather than the RS.


Bust Darts in the Round

If knitting in the round (like with a pullover) you would work both sides of the bust darts with each pass. For example (following Julie's project), you would do a SWSR at the first stitch marker on the left bust, turn, purl to first stitch marker at the right bust, SWSR, turn, and knit to 5 sts past the last SWSR, SWSR, etc. Julie explains this process around 10:40 in the video above.



Hi Anna,

Using the Jesse pattern as an example, we think it would be best to hide the short row turns in the reverse stockinette in the cable panels. Then from that point on, the cables will be at different points in their charts, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Hope that helps!

Anna Gray

How do you do bust darts when you have three cables, running down the front from a V-neck?


Hi Cat, there is no way to do it without it showing in the changing width of the stripes between the front and sides of the sweater. If you wanted to ease in a few short rows in a couple of the 10-row stripes, so that they were wider in the middle and narrower at the sides, that could work without looking too odd, but doing 8 in one of the 10-row stripes would mean you had only two rows in that stripe under the arm and in the back. Hope that helps!

Cat Ly

hello! wondering how I could incorporate bust darts with a 10 MC 2 CC striped pattern? I was thinking of doing about 10-12 added rows to accommodate for a larger bust. Thank you!


Hi Felicia, It depends on how deep the V is and where on the sweater the joining occurs. Feel free to email us at telling us the specific Cocoknits pattern you are knitting and if you want to put the neckline in a different place than the pattern suggests. Enjoy your knitting!


I’m knitting a top down V neck sweater. Would you recommend making bust darts before or after jointing it together?

Sarah T

I thought the video was excellent. It was helpful to see the “before & after” on the mannequin.


Hi Kate,
Julie tells you to purl back when she is doing the short rows on the left front of sweater. In this case you purl back to the front edge. If you are doing the short rows on a pullover, you would turn and purl back to the Shadow Wrap and purl it together, then continue until the next turn (5 sts in this example), do your Shadow Wrap Short Row (SWSR) and turn. You will be purling on the Wrong/in side of the sweater and knitting on the Right side to create stockinette stitch.

The places Julie turns in the example are not random. She chose to put the marker defining the turning point closest to the front at 10 sts toward the front from the underarm marker. She did her first Shadow Wrap Short Row (SWSR) at that first marker, her next SWSR 5 sts (half the dart sts) in, and the final SWSR at the underarm. This created a total of 6 short rows in the dart. If you wanted to add more room, you might choose to add 8 short rows and divide the 10 sts by 3 so that you had a total of 4 short row turns.

There is more information in the book, if you’d like to learn more.


Your instructions are very vague and dont make any sense. Purl back to where? Why did you set aside 10stchs but you pick random spots to do a wrap and turn? Then you say in a pullover purl to the other side – so instead of knitting i just start purling? Wont that affect my pattern? And why do that – how does purling create bust darts. Maybe you don’t understand it yourself well enough to explain it

Sarah T

Very helpful to see this on a dress form. Thank you!


Hi Megan, This technique will work well with a little modification.

Consider how much extra length you want in the stomach area by measuring the length over your stomach and comparing to the length over your back at the same place. This will give you a number of inches (you could also try on a different sweater and determine the number of extra inches you would have liked on it), which you will multiply by your row gauge to determine the number of short rows you want to add.

You will probably want to do the short rows in 2 or 3 groups, instead of all in one place, depending on the shape of your tummy. Otherwise, follow the instructions that Julie gives here, starting where you’d like the stomach darts to begin, rather than at the bust. Enjoy your new customized sweater!

Megan Paulsen

How do I accommodate a stomach that begins to protrude below my bust line? I’m normal in the bust & short waisted.

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