Darts are a common and straightforward technique in garment construction that help shape a garment. Whether it's a single straight, double-ended, or curved, the basic principles generally remain the same when sewing a dart.
What is a dart? A dart is a triangular section of fabric that is folded and stitched to remove excess fabric. They are usually positioned in areas where shaping and fitting are required, such as the bust, shoulder, waist, hips, even the elbow.
There are a number of different types of darts, including
A single straight dart is the most common. It looks like a triangle, being wide at one end and narrowing (or tapering) to a point at the other.
A double-ended (or contoured) dart is like two darts joined together, being diamond in shape. These are typically found on dresses or jackets, shaping the bust, waist, and hip area all at once.
A curved (or French) dart is very similar to a straight single dart, but with slightly curved ‘legs’.
When it comes to sewing darts, the same principles typically apply across the different types. Therefore, for the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on the single straight dart (as per example above) to demonstrate the sewing process.
Anatomy of a dart
There are two main components to a dart:
The apex is the point at which the dart tapers and comes to an end. It is crucial to mark the apex on the fabric for precise alignment and stitching of the dart.
The legs are the diagonal stitching lines that connect the widest part of the dart to the apex. They determine the width and length of the dart, and therefore overall shape.
How to sew a dart
The first step, before sewing a dart, is to transfer the position of the dart as indicated on the pattern piece to the fabric.
Mark the width of the dart by snipping a notch at the end of each dart leg.
Insert a pin through the dart's apex, marking this point on the wrong side of the fabric.
Draw a line connecting each notch to the apex. This will create a triangular shape, while also indicating the stitching lines.
Note: For the example below, I have use a black pen to mark the dart, and contrast thread for sewing in order to make the process easier to see. However, if this was an actual project, I would use a chalk pencil to transfer any markings, and sew in a matching thread.
With right sides of fabric together, fold the dart in half matching the two legs of the dart.
Insert the pins along the legs of the dart, pinning in the direction you are sewing (i.e. towards the raw edge, not the tip of the dart). Ensure the pins go through both legs, checking on the reverse side.
Insert a pin at a right angle to the fold approximately 1cm in from the apex. This will act as a reminder to change the size of the stitch length as you approach the apex.
Starting at the widest part of the dart, sew along the legs of the dart using a straight stitch of around 0, 2.5. Backstitch at the start to secure the stitching.
When you reach the horizontal pin, reduce the stitch length and sew off the edge of the fabric. Leave a tail of thread approximately 10cm long.
Tie a double knot in the thread to secure the end of the dart. Be careful not to pull the knot too tight as this may cause the fabric to pucker.
Trim the excess thread.
Pressing the dart is important in order to achieve a neat finish.
The direction in which you press the dart depends on the position. However, a basic rule of thumb is:
Vertical darts (e.g. shoulder or waist) are pressed towards either the centre front or centre back.
Horizontal darts (e.g. bust darts) are pressed downwards.
Tip: To achieve a nicely shaped dart, try using a tailors ham, or simply a rolled up towel.
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