This guide to sewing darts is an extract from Complete Dressmaking by Jules Fallon. Published by Quarto Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group (£20). This book is a comprehensive guide to dressmaking techniques.
Jules Fallon runs a sewing emporium – Sew Me Something – in Stratford-upon-Avon. The store also provides sewing and craft workshops on a wide range of subjects.
A dart is a very structured way to change the form of a flat piece of fabric. Darts are wedge-shaped sections of fabric that are folded out and stitched together to remove excess fabric and create a three-dimensional shape.
Darts can also be used to create a more personalised fit to a garment by altering and adapting the darts within the pattern itself.
Think of the way we fold out a section of flat paper to make a cone. The centre of the ‘cone’ is usually the apex of the curve the fabric needs to be shaped over. On a garment, this could be the bust point on a bodice, over the buttocks or even across the shoulder blades.
Although the pivot point of a dart may be the apex of a curve, the dart point will always be away from this to allow for a flatter area at the apex to create a softer, more dome-like shape.
Darts can be moved around the pivot point to create different effects or features.
Front Dart Positions
Back Dart Positions
This is the simplest way to add shape to a garment. The basic dart runs from the edge of a pattern piece in towards the fuller parts of the body, such as the bust, shoulder blades, curve of the stomach or buttocks.
It is comprised of two legs that converge on a point.
Darts sewn in heavy or thicker fabrics can be trimmed down to reduce bulk in the dart. They can also be slashed open along the fold and pressed open. In both cases the dart should not be trimmed or cut up to the point, as this will weaken the dart point.
Mark out the dart on the wrong side of the fabric.
Fold the fabric right sides together, matching the notches. To ensure that the two sides of the dart match up, insert a pin through the marked dot on one side of the dart and bring it out through the corresponding dot on the other side. Repeat along the dart line, then pin along the sewing line.
Sew from the notches on the edge in towards the point of the dart.
Secure your stitching at the start and finish by reversing or tying off the threads.
TIP: To get a super-smooth shape to your dart, aim to finish your stitching about 1cm (3⁄8in) short of the dart point along the fold of the dart, then curve your stitching to meet the point. It may be helpful to think of cresting over the brow of a hill. This will smooth off the point of the dart and prevent pointy dart dimples.
Try this: To get a nice, straight line of sewing, pull out the threads on the sewing machine so they are quite long. Start your sewing, then pull the extra-long threads around to the front and hold them to the point of the dart. Use the long threads as a sewing guide to keep your stitching straight. If you catch the long threads, just carefully pull them out with a pin after sewing.