The dress I am making at the moment, Butterick 2669, has one of each of the main dart types – so time for more tricks of the trade – about darts! Our flat pattern and fabric are only two dimensional, but with darts we introduce a third dimension so garments fit our body curves better.
- Basic dart – triangular in shape, eg the shoulder dart above
- Contour dart – tapers at each end, eg the back waist darts
- French dart – a combined bust and waist dart emerging from the side seam
Parts of a Dart:
Random Dart Tips:
- Darts usually come first in garment construction – they are much easier to do on a flat piece that is unattached to other pieces.
- The dart should point to the body part it is providing fullness for – ie the bust point, front hip, buttock, elbow tip, shoulder blade, etc…
- The dart should end before the full prominence – ie bust darts should end about 2.5cm /1″ before the bust point
- Taper your darts – Darts help the fabric conform to our bodies curves, therefore part of the stitching line must be curved. If you like to wear cone bras like Madonna, you can stitch your dart using a rigidly straight line, but for most darts we want to stitch a straight line with a slight curve near the apex to simulate our body shape. When you fold the fabric to sew the dart, fold well past the dart apex – this will help to visualise the shape required for a smooth continuous curve, from your dart stitching line to the remaining fold in your cloth. The last 3 stitches are usually directly on the fold:
- As you taper, don’t be afraid to use the handwheel on your machine if you get a neater result – it’s not cheating!
- You can shape your dart to your own body contours. If you have a ‘sacral scoop’, then make the back darts on your skirt slightly concave to match. If you have a prominent high hip, make them slightly convex.
- Try to backtack inside your stitching line where possible.
- In fine fabrics backtacking may not be the best way to finish – leave long threads and handsew them back down your stitching line instead.
- For sheers, you might like to read this post on french seaming a dart
- For side bust darts, you might like to read Bust Darts – Up or Down?
Marking and Sewing Darts
Here are some dart markings on commercial patterns:
Here are some dart markings on production patterns:
They’re a bit different aren’t they? In manufacturing we make it easier by marking dots on the foldline of the dart, not on the dart legs. In actual fact the cutter drills tiny holes at these points, and they become enclosed within the dart once it is sewn. But because home sewers don’t a) have a drill in their sewing cabinet, or b) have their dart point necessarily confirmed, it is best just to mark it with chalk on the inside. This way you don’t have to fuss around overlaying dots and pinning pins, you just start, well – sewing!
If you’d like to give this method a go, I’ll show you how I adapted the dart markings for all three types of darts on my Butterick 2669 pattern:
- Clip 2 notches at the base of the dart legs
- Mark one dot 1cm (or 1/2″) short of the apex on the foldline:
- To sew, fold fabric along the foldline, bringing the notches together and folding exactly through the dot at the apex:
- Sew from the notches directly towards the dot in a straight line:
- About 2cm from dot begin your taper, finishing 1cm (or 1/2″) past the dot with a backtack.
- For a dart with a large intake you may need to begin your taper slightly further from the dot, and for a small dart begin the taper closer. For this small shoulder dart I began to taper 1cm prior:
- Mark three dots all on the foldline
- Two of these dots are 1cm short of the apices, and one dot is at the widest intake – in this case the waist:
- Look how inaccurately placed the dots were on the original pattern!
- Measure the widest intake and halve it – you’ll need this figure when you sew your dart. This dart has 1″ suppression, so I will sew it 1/2″ from the foldline.
- To sew, fold fabric along foldline exactly through all three dots:
- Start 1cm before a dart apex, backtack on the fold, then taper slightly inwards until your presser foot is aiming at a point 1/2″ (half the intake) inside your middle dot:
- Sew straight until about 2cm from this point, then begin a smooth gradual curve through the point to about 2cm beyond it:
- Sew straight again and taper the end of the dart as for a plain dart:
- The finished contour dart should be a smooth curve with no angular bits:
- Clip only if necessary. I don’t generally clip darts under 1″ total suppression – but I use mainly natural fabrics that press easily into shape, disobedient fabrics like polyester might need clipping.
- Mark one dot 1cm short of the apex on the foldline
- Cut away the dart intake leaving a standard seam allowance
- Because a French dart is bias and easily distorted while sewing, it is good to have a notch halfway along the seam allowance:
- To sew, bring the side seam edges of the dart together, and stitch as for a normal seam until you reach the point where the foldline begins:
- When you reach the foldline, start tapering towards the dot, sew 1cm past the dot, and backtack:
- Clip only where necessary – a French dart is on the bias and the allowances press easily into shape, so only considerable curves or fabrics like polyester will need clipping.
Shaped basic darts:
- Some plain darts are shaped, to contour the body even more closely
- Marking and sewing these is similar to sewing a either contour or French dart
- An extra dot can be placed below the dot at the apex to indicate the area of additional intake, and a note is made of the amount of additional intake required when you sew, as you do for a contour dart:
- Or, the dart intake may be cut away as in a French dart, to provide a guideline for sewing.
Simple eh? In manufacturing everything is stripped down to the bare essentials – but once you have sewn a few darts, the bare essentials are all you need! As you can see it takes just a moment to convert the pattern markings, and I find this method much quicker when cutting, marking and sewing, with no loss in accuracy. Give it a go!
Thats all for now – Enjoy your sewing!