How to draft a bodice pattern for knit fabrics 4

In this post I am going to show you how to draft the basic bodice pattern for knits, as well as try to explain how to use it and modify it for different types of knits.

Do I need to draft a bodice for knit fabrics or I can use my basic bodice pattern and modify it?

 You can most definitely do both.

I prefer to draft a separate basic pattern for knits and then modify it according to the stretch percentage of the fabric I am going to use and the design elements I intend to include.

How is the knit bodice pattern different than the one for woven fabric?

The obvious difference between the basic sloper for wovens and the one for knits is that the knit bodice sloper usually doesn’t have darts. This is because it's drafted with the specific behaviour of the knit fabric in mind. It wraps around and follows the curves of the body which makes darts unnecessary.

Another difference is in the sleeve and armhole construction. The sleeves and armhole curves on the bodice don’t have a front and a back side. This is how I am going to construct the pattern as well in this lesson and this is how it’s done in industrial sewing.

You usually need to add some inches for ease of movement to the basic bodice for wovens. When making the bodice pattern for knits, sometimes you have to subtract inches which is called a negative wearing ease.

How much you need to subtract depends on how stretchy the fabric is.

In this post we are going to draft  a sloper for a one-way stretch stable knit, which has so little stretch that can almost be treated as woven fabric.

I am going to add links on how to adjust the negative ease according to the stretch factor in the end as well. Again, this draft is for one-way stretch stable knit (with 0%-25% one way stretch).

Body measurements you are going to need for drafting the knit bodice sloper

As with any other pattern you are drafting, first you need to take your measurements. You are going to need bust, waist  and hips as well as crotch depth, nape to waist, back neck, neck rise, shoulder length, across back and shoulder pitch.

how to take body measurements

Here is what each of those are:

  1. Bust - measure at the widest part of the bust, with arms of the model up.
  2. Waist - measure at the smallest part of the waist with your tape not too tight around the body.
  3. Hips - measure at the widest part of the hips.This is approximately 7-8 inches or 18-20 cms below the natural waist.
  4. Crotch depth -You can get this measurement by sitting on a chair and holding a ruler next to your hips. Measure from the chair up to the waist.
  5. Nape to waist  - the nape is the point where the neck intersects with the back. Measure from that point straight down to waist line at the center back.
  6. Neck circumference - measure the circumference at the lower part of the neck, with the tape not too tight.
  7. Back neck - this is not a direct measurement. You can calculate it by dividing the neck circumference by 6. 
  8. Neck rise - this is not a direct measurement. Calculate by dividing the neckline measurement by 8. 
  9. Shoulder length - measure from the end of the neck to the point where the arm joins the shoulder.
  10. Across back - measure between the two bones at the top of the back and divide it by two to work with ¼ body measurements for the sloper.
  11. Shoulder pitch - this is not a direct body measurement. You can calculate it by dividing the nape to waist measurements by 11. That would be 9% of this measurement i.e. nape to waist * 0.09.

Some of these measurements are hard to take by yourself, so you are going to need some help by a friend or use a standard measurement chart and use the measurements that correspond to your size.

If you don't want to make all those calculations, use the spreadsheet I am providing below to enter and calculate all the measurements you are going to need for this pattern.

After you fill the measurements and it does the calculations, you can print it and use it as a reference while drafting your pattern.

Download The Printable MEASUREMENTS  CALCULATOR SPREADSHEET  In Inches And Centimeters

This is an Excel worksheet file that you can print for reference once you've made all the calculations.

Tools you are going to need

A square ruler, preferably L-square, a large piece of paper, hip curve and/or a french curve and a clear grid ruler.

I found this set of rulers on Amazon that I use at home and in my tutorials. They are a cheaper alternative to the better ones that I use at work and can actually be suitable for at home pattern drafters that are just starting and don’t want to invest much in equipment right away.

Keep a calculator around, because you are going to make some calculations along the way. Or, if you prefer, use the calculator spreadsheet that you can download above to do all the calculations for you.


Drafting the knit bodice sloper

Outline the pattern

First, lets outline the pattern. We are going to need ¼ bust, because we are drafting ¼ bodice for the top. It’s the same for the waist and hips - we are going to work with ¼ waist and ¼  hips measurements.

Start with a vertical line that is a bit longer than your bodice overall length. It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement, we are yet outlining the pattern.

Then, mark point A somewhere near the top of the line. It doesn’t have to be right at the top, because we are going to build up on the pattern from this point, so leave some inches by the end of the paper.

Then, from point A down the line measure nape to waist and mark point B (figure 1).

Measure ½ between A and B and mark point C.

From point A down, we need to apply the shoulder pitch and mark point D.

From point B down measure the crotch depth and mark point E.

Align the square ruler and square out of points A, B, C, D and E (figure 2). We are just outlining the pattern yet, so those lines don’t have to be precisely measured, but they have to be squared.

drafting a bodice for knits

Draft the basic back bodice pattern for knits

 Along the D line that marks the shoulder pitch, I am going to apply the back neck measurement. Starting at point D, I apply the back neck and mark point F (figure 3).

From point F, I am going to square straight up and apply the neck rise measurement, then mark point G. Extend a bit horizontally from point G so that you can use that perpendicular line as a guide.

Next, starting from point G, apply the shoulder length measurement. Put the beginning of the ruler at point G and shift the ruler up until you reach the shoulder length measurement, finishing at line D. Mark point H. Connect points G and H.

Then, square out from G in the other direction and making a shallow curve, connecting points G and A to form the neckline (figure 4). Use the French curve or just eyeball it.

Starting from point C, measure and apply the across back measurement and mark point I.

Square up from point I until it crosses the shoulder G -H line. It doesn’t have to match the H point, although it might. This depends on your measurements.

Starting from C, measure ¼ bust measurement along the line and mark point J. Make a 1 inch (2.5 cms) long line at 45 degree angle starting at point I and mark point M.

Measure and mark the middle of the line between H and I. Mark that point N

how to draft a bodice

Use the french curve to connect points H, N, M, and J with a curve to draft the armhole.

From B to K apply the bust measurement once again. Square across from E and measure and mark the hip measurement. Mark point L.

Connect points J, K and L with  straight lines.

If you want your bodice unfitted at the waist, your back bodice detail is done. Just make sure to smooth the curve at the side seam if you need to.

Fit the knit bodice pattern at the waist

If you want your knit bodice pattern to be fitted at the waist, continue with the following steps.

Measure the distance between points K and L and divide it into thirds (figure 5). Measure ⅓ down from K and mark point P, then measure one more third down from point P and mark it point Q.

Along the B-K line, measure and apply the ¼ waist measurement. Mark point O. Connect I to O with a straight line (figure 6).

Then, connect O to Q with a curve to represent the natural shape of the hip curve. If you have a big difference between waist and hip measurements, this shape would be more curved. If you don’t have a big difference in measurements, the curve would be more shallow. Both are normal depending on your body structure.

pattern drafting for knits

How fitted you want the bodice to be depends on the intended silhouette as well as the stretch percentage of the fabric you intend to use.

If you want to draft a sort of semi-fitted bodice, measure the middle between points K and O (figure 7). Then, connect this new point with a straight line to point J. Draw another curved line down to Q to shape the hip curve.

Now our back bodice detail is completely done, so we can start shaping the front.

Drafting the front bodice for knits

As I said in the beginning, the knit bodice pattern is usually drafted the same for front and back. The one difference you need to make is at the neckline. We want the neckline to be more opened at the front.

To do it, connect point D with point G with a curve (figure 8). 

sewing with knits

Another thing some designers like to do is to change the front armhole curve a bit, too. I don’t do that because I find it to be unnecessary, but here is how you can do it if you prefer.

Measure ¼ of an inch or ½  cm in from point N. Drew the new curve from point H through the new point and then connect with M and J.

The sleeve that we are going to draft in the following post is going to be symmetrical on both front and back sides.

After you have the basic bodice pattern drafted, you can decide on the pattern reduction you need to make according to the stretch percentage of the fabric and the intended style. If you are working with stretch knits that have more than 50% stretching, you might need to add some negative ease to the pattern as well.

pattern making for knits

The last thing you might want to do is transfer the bodice front (figure 9) and back (figure 10) pattern to a piece of clear drafting paper. 

Here are some more resources you might want to consider regarding pattern drafting for knits and pattern reduction:

Patternmaking For Knits: Essential slopers at Craftsy which you can watch as part of Craftsy unlimited with a free trial and

where you can get your first class 20% off with coupon LEARN2SEW.

For more posts like this, click here 

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4 thoughts on “How to draft a bodice pattern for knit fabrics

  • Sandy Curtis

    Thanks so much for the clear directions. I tried Suzy Furrer’s method of taking a woven bodice Sloper and converting it to knit. While the class was great for developing the woven Sloper the knit procedure resulted in a weird, wonky front bodice Sloper (at least for me) that was nearly impossible to true to the back. I suspect this was due to my larger bust size and small waist. The method you present seems far more straight forward. It also seems to better mimic the basic lines of a RTW fitted t shirt. The reduction guidelines were also very useful. I’m giving it a try tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!


    I am confused about how to measure the “across back” measurement (number 10). Do you mean the shoulder blades when you say the two bones of the upper back? How high up on the back? Also, is there a typo in the instruction “Starting from point C, measure and apply the across shoulder measurement and mark point I”. Do you mean the across back measurement?
    This post is so good and I am eager to try out making a knit sloper. Thanks! Carol

    • Daniela Post author

      Hi, Carol! Yes, the “across back” measurement is taken between the shoulder blades and somewhere between their highest point. It’s hard to tell how high up exactly, but maybe just a bit over the armpit line.
      I do mean the across back measurement where it says “the across shoulder measurement”. I’ve just fixed that in the instructions.
      Thank you for reading!