Sewing darts perfectly takes practice, and is a fundamental to garment construction. Understanding both the purpose and the different steps involved will help you achieve the fit and look you want for your garment. Accurate marking, stitching, and pressing are all critical components of creating a dart well when you sewing your own clothes.
Calumn’s fisheye (or contour) dart provides lovely shaping in this blouse.
What is a dart?
Darts are basically wedge shapes, and are composed of a base, legs, fold, and dart point. They can be placed symmetrically on both sides of a garment or asymmetrically for interesting design effects, and are either tapered, or shaped.
- The base is the widest part of the dart; where most fabric comes together. This corresponds to an area of the body that requires LESS fabric.
- Dart legs are the stitching lines, and should be equal in length.
- The dart point is the end of the dart, and where the maximum amount of fabric is released over a body contour such as the bust or hips.
How to mark a dart
Accuracy in marking darts is critical, so be sure to take your time and mark carefully. You can mark darts in several different ways; thread tailor tacks should be used on delicate fabrics, tracing paper and a tracing wheel provide a clear stitching line, and fabric marking pens or pencils can be used to mark the beginning, end and middle points on dart legs. Use the method that suits your fabric and your personal preferences.
Cheryl Lemmons’ straight tapered dart in the bodice provides the perfect shaping for this yellow eyelet dress.
How to stitch a tapered dart
- With the right sides of the fabric together, fold the dart so the legs are aligned.
- Begin at the widest part of the dart and stitch toward the point.
- Use a stitch length appropriate to your fabric, somewhere between 2.5 for lightweight fabrics and 3.5 for heavier fabrics.
- Do NOT backstitch; instead reduce the stitch length to 1.0 or 1.5 about 1 inch from the end, and stitch off the fabric at the point for a bit to create a “twisty” knot.
- Measure dart “pairs” (i.e. both bust darts) to make sure they are the same length.
How to press a dart
Darts should be pressed in the direction that they were sewn, which is also know as melding the stitches. You should always press darts over a pressing ham, otherwise you will just press out the shape that you created when stitching the dart. The fold of the dart is always pressed toward the center of your garment, or down toward the hem.
Some common darts types and placements
- Bust darts are symmetrical, straight darts ending at the apex of the bust.
- French darts are symmetrical, shaped darts starting at the waistline side seam and ending in a curved line at the bustline.
- Contour darts, which also are known as fisheye darts, are most often used on dresses, jackets or dresses without waist seams to add shape at, above, and below the waist.
- Waist darts are generally symmetrical, straight darts used to decrease the amount of fabric in pants and skirts at the waist and release it over the hip area.
To learn more about sewing a dart and basic sewing techniques, check out the Craftsy class Sew Ready: Garment Basics, taught by Brett Bara.
Now that you’ve mastered how to sew darts, why not tackle pleats? Tomorrow on the Craftsy blog, we’ll share a tutorial on how to sew a perfect pleat!