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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.


Dart positions on garments
Darts can be placed in a number of positions to shape the garment in different ways and create the perfect fit.

Front Dart Positions

 1. Neck point –  A dart in this position can provide a good fit across the chest, as it follows the slightly curved hollow of the body.

2. Centre shoulder – A dart here, used in conjunction with a waist dart, can be changed into a princess seam to achieve a smooth shape.

3. Armhole – This placement is often used; again, it can be used with a waist dart and changed into a curved princess seam to achieve a smooth shape.

4. Side seam – Positioning the dart here means that it is kept out of the way and is very discreet.

5. French dart – These darts are placed at an acute angle on the waist, up to the bust. These darts look great on vintage-style garments.

6. Waist darts – These darts work well on very fitted shapes and can be matched up with darts on a skirt to give a neat and structured look.

7. Centre front darts – Darts here can be changed into gathers to create an interesting detail at
the front.

8. Neck darts – Darts in this position can be changed into soft pleats to add detail to the neckline.

Back Dart Positions 

1. Shoulder darts – Including a dart here provides a good fit for slightly rounded shoulders.

2. Shoulder point darts – A better fit for prominent shoulder blades can be achieved by placing darts here.

3. Armhole darts – These can be used to create a better fit for a sleeveless bodice.

4. Back neck darts – Darts here can provide a better fit at the top of a centre back opening if it gapes slightly.

 Basic Darts

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.

Sew a dart

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.

Marking and sewing a basic dart

Sew from the notches on the edge in towards the point of the dart.

Tutorial for sewing a dart

 Secure your stitching at the start and finish by reversing or tying off the threads.


Inside view of a completed dart
Completed dart - inside view
What a finished dart looks like when sewn
Completed dart - outside view

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.


Sewing darts by Jules Fallon

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.

Extracted from Complete Dressmaking by Jules Fallon. Published by Quarto Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group (£20).

For other dressmaking technique guides please visit our techniques section.