How to Sew Perfect Darts
Alison Smith MBE shares her top tips for perfect darts in dressmaking
Why do some garments have darts?
Nearly every garment has a dart – why? Simply to give fullness at a given point.
Without a dart, woven fabric is flat but a dart helps to create a 3D shape. This could be for the hip or the bust or even at the shoulder. Some darts have a single point like a triangle and some are double pointed to give fullness at the bust and hip but reduce the fabric through the waist area. Getting the correct fullness depends very much on the stitching.
How to Sew Darts
Mark the dots representing the dart shape carefully with tailor tacks. Pins pushed through the pattern are not accurate. (See photo.) If you are uncertain about stitching a straight line, then chalk in the dart legs. Be careful if you use the soluble pens as sometimes these do not come out or may permanently mark your fabric.
Pin the dart, matching the tailor’s tacks and the chalk lines. You can tack it at this stage if you wish but do make sure the legs of the dart are matching.
When stitching the dart, many people will sew from the fat end to the point, thinking that the point is the most important part of the dart and therefore should be the "target". Whilst it is true that the point of the dart is the most important part, this method can lead to imprecise results. I recommend turning this on its head.
Carefully sink your machine needle in at the point of the dart. Lower the machine foot and holding onto the thread ends, stitch to the fat end. Don’t reverse-stitch at the point, just thread the tails. You can reverse a couple of stitches at the fat end. If you have missed the fat end it’s not as crucial as missing the point.
At the point, take the threads and knot together twice and then thread each one into a needle and sew into the stitches of the dart.
Press over the stitches you have just sewn very carefully using just the tip of the iron. DO NOT press beyond the point. Open the garment section out WS uppermost and warm the fabric at the point of the dart to stretch it out- again just use the tip of the iron.
Once warm, press the dart and just the dart, towards the centre of the garment (ie CF or CB) or towards the waist. This should give you a dart with a beautiful rounded point. If you have a tailor’s ham it will help with the pressing.
Dealing with Bulky Darts
Sometimes the bust dart can look chunky when pressed, especially in a wool fabric. Here then is a tip for thicker fabric. This only works on thick fabric and is not suitable for silk or cotton.
First, trim the fold from the dart using pinking shears, to within 0.5cm of the point. Using a ham, press the dart open and the point toward the centre. (See photo below.)
The sides of the dart can now be very lightly stitched down to hold then flat and secured with a herringbone stitch. The stitch must not show on the RS of the garment.
About Alison Smith MBE
Awarded an MBE for her services to dressmaking, Alison is an industry expert in classic couture and a published author. Alison has her own shop and line of patterns, and you can also learn with her at one of her exclusive workshops. Find out more on her website www.schoolofsewing.co.uk