Sewing darts give a 3-dimensional shape to your clothing and bag sewing projects. They can also be used as part of the design, particularly in asymmetrical garments. Regardless of where darts are placed, they need to be well sewn to blend into your design and give the necessary curved shape. Follow these simple steps to create perfect sewing darts every time.
In clothing, darts are typically found in the bust area, waistline, and even at the back for really fitted items. In bags and clutches, darts are placed at the bottom corners to give shape and depth to an otherwise flat design. Read all about the types of darts for sewing.
Bust darts may be placed horizontally or diagonally or even transferred to the neck or waist area. Here are a few possible positions for sewing darts. This is by no means exhaustive. You can sew endless combinations and make the dart positions a creative feature.
Darts vary in depth and length depending on the fit and tightness of the garment. Tighter clothing needs longer and deeper darts. In most sewing patterns the darts are straight but in more advanced patterns, you may find curved darts.
All these dresses have darts to give them shape and fit either the bust or waist.
Without darts, clothing needs to be oversized, boxy or have pleats or gathering added to give shape. Stretch fabric can also be used with no darts since the stretch properties will give shape and fit to the garment. These photos show clothing that don’t use darts.
Sewing Darts – Instructions for How to Sew Darts
Step 1 – Transfer the Dart Markings
Transfer the dart marked on your pattern piece onto the wrong side of the fabric. Read how to mark darts.
All marking should be done with a tailor’s chalk or removable pen since you don’t want it to show in the final product. Dressmaker’s carbon and a tracing wheel can also be used for marking darts.
My favorite method for marking when sewing darts is to slash the pattern along one side of the dart and fold it open. Then you can easily draw the dart legs. If you are precious about your pattern then stick the cut up afterward. Pins can be used to mark key points in the dart and then join the points at the end.
Here is a commonly shaped bodice with the bust and waist darts marked. Remember all marking should be done on the wrong side of the fabric. My fabric sample looked quite similar on both sides while yours may not.
Step 2 – Mark Center Dart
The next step in sewing darts is to mark along the middle of the dart.
Fold the dart in half, with fabric RIGHT sides together, along your marked middle line and pin in place. Advanced sewers can probably just fold the dart in half without marking. In some patterns, this centerline may be marked but most often it is left blank.
Using vertical pins will hold the dart in place nicely. Always place the last pin at the point of the dart. This way you can use it as a visual guide when sewing.
Step 3 – Sewing Darts
Time to start sewing darts! Start stitching from the outside edge of the fabric inwards towards the point.
Use a medium stitch length (2.5). Remove the pins as you stitch.
About 1 inch (2.5cm) from the end, change your stitch length to 1.0-1.5. This will create a smoother, less puckered and stronger dart.
When you get to the end of the point, don’t backstitch. Just leave a long tail of threads and knot each end being careful not to pull too tight and cause puckering.
Sewing Darts – Clipping
Shallow darts are generally just pressed and not clipped. Deep darts, however, may have the excess fabric trimmed or clipped. If you trim the dart, you may need to finish the raw edges so they do not fray. The disadvantage of finishing the edges is that the edge of it may show on the right side as a series of bumps.
Bag and clutch darts are often trimmed since you will be sewing thicker or interfaced fabrics and a lining is added at the end that will hide any mess.
Curved sewing darts will need to be clipped to prevent puckering and pulling.
Sewing Darts – How to Press Darts
When sewing darts, it is important to know that the darts should be pressed in certain directions. As a general rule, horizontal bust darts are pressed downwards and vertical darts like those around the waist of skirts or pants are pressed towards the center.
For most of my bag sewing patterns, I recommend you press the darts towards the center.
Use a tailor’s ham to get a nice shape at the point. A tailors ham is a pressing tool that looks like a small stuffed cushion that can be used for pressing curved areas like darts.
Sewing Darts – Double Darts & Diamond Darts
Double darts or diamond-shaped darts are often found through the waist at the front and back of dress patterns. They give a nice shape to dresses and are easy to sew with my step by step instructions on how to sew darts.
The technique for how to sew darts that are double is similar to the single darts but has a couple of additional steps.
Step 1 – Mark the Double Dart
Transfer the dart marked on your pattern piece onto the wrong side of the fabric.
Mark along the middle of the dart with your tailor’s chalk. Once you gain confidence, you will be able to skip to the next step without marking the center.
Step 2 – Fold and Pin
Fold the dart in half along your marked middle line and pin in place. Use vertical pins to hold the fabric securely in place. Place a pin at both the points of the dart so you have an easy reference when you start sewing.
Step 3 – Sewing Darts
Start stitching just before the middle of the dart and sew towards the first point using a medium stitch length. (2.5-3.0) Remove the pins as you stitch.
Change to a stitch length of 1.0-1.5 for the last 1 inch (2.5cm).
When you get to the end of the point, don’t backstitch. Just leave a long tail of threads and knot them off being careful not to pull too tight and cause puckering.
Start again in the middle and repeat for the other side.
Step 4 – Clipping
You may need to cut through the middle of the dart so it doesn’t pull. Your pattern would normally specify this.
Sewing Darts – in Conclusion
Now you know all about sewing darts! Think of all the new sewing pattern possibilities this opens up with your new-found confidence! Do you have any extra tips for how to sew darts? Please share – there is always more than one way to sew!