Five Tips for Better Darts
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Nearly every fitted sewing pattern has them. And for some sewists, they're the bane of their sewing hobby. Darts allow extra fabric to shape smoothly over busts and butts. And while mostly straightforward, darts can cause frustration if not sewn correctly. Today, I’m sharing a few tips to get nearly invisible darts on every garment you sew!
1. Mark and Notch Your Lines
Darts in sewing patterns are clearly marked with at least two elements. You'll often see a dart point and two angled legs extending from it towards the edge of the garment. Sometimes instead of dart legs, two notches may be marked at the edge of the pattern piece.
Most sewing patterns intend for these lines to be marked on your fabric with tailor’s chalk. When I first started sewing garments, I accidentally cut along those diagonal lines more times than I want to admit.
Note: There are some patterns in our pattern shop that instruct you to cut along the dart legs. The Washi Tunic by Made by Rae is an example of one of those patterns. Hence, be sure to read your pattern instructions before sewing your darts.
First, poke a hole in your pattern piece at the dart point with a pair of thread snips.
After your pattern pieces are cut out, mark the dart point with tailor’s chalk through the hole you just made in the pattern piece. Mark your darts on the wrong side of the fabric, so you can see both the point and legs while you’re sewing.
Next, make a small 1/8" snip into the edge of the fabric at both dart legs.
Finally, draw a straight line with a ruler connecting the dart leg notches and the point.
Your marked dart should look like this:
2. Align Notches and Pin the Point
Everyone secures their darts differently, but I’ve found a method that works great for keeping everything aligned. Before pressing the dart, fold the fabric right sides together so that the point is directly on the fold. Place a pin there. Then, align both dart leg notches and pin.
Next, I press the dart well.
Pressing your dart will prevent it from shifting as you sew. That being said, use as many pins as you need to secure your dart in place.
3. Don’t Backstitch At the Point
After your dart is pinned and pressed, you're ready to stitch it into place. Raise your presser foot and lower your needle directly into the chalk line at the edge of the garment. Then, remove the pin that was holding the aligned notches in place. Lower your presser foot and get ready to sew.
With a straight stitch, sew along the marked dart legs, backstitching for a few stitches at the beginning. Sew all the way to the end of the dart and off the fabric. Do not backstitch at the end of your dart. Instead, leave two long thread tails.
You might be wondering why we don't backstitch at the point of the dart. Often, a backstitch doesn’t travel directly on top of the original stitch. For hems and seams, this isn’t a big deal, but at the point of a dart, a misaligned stitch will result in a long, obvious pucker.
4. Tie Your Threads
I don’t backstitch at the end of my darts, but I still make sure to secure the stitch. Otherwise, the dart seam may unravel after one cycle through the washing machine. To secure your dart threads, simply tie two or three knots in your thread tails. Then, snip off the excess thread length.
5. Press Over a Ham
Press your finished darts in whatever direction your pattern instructs. I do this from the wrong side of the fabric and gently tug on the fabric below the dart while pressing. This ensures the seam is pressed completely flat.
Flip the fabric over and press the dart over a tailor’s ham (if you have one) from the right side. The ham simulates a bust or butt, and ensures the dart is pressed well at the point.
So let’s see the finished dart, shall we?
And here’s the finished Ella Top.
A Note on FBA’s and SBA's
You may find that most darts tug tightly around your bust, or are much too long and large for your bust measurement. This is a very common experience. Women are all shaped so beautifully differently, so there's no way one standard dart size will fit everyone.
For those gals with bigger busts, a full bust adjustment (FBA) might be necessary to get a better fit. Cashmerette has written a great post on how to complete FBA’s on two different types of sewing patterns.
And, for those ladies with smaller busts, a small bust adjustment (SBA) could be necessary. Megan Nielsen has written a detailed post on how to complete an SBA.
Do you have other dart sewing tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook
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