Darts help to shape fabric—a two- dimensional object—around a body—a three- dimensional shape. They can seem a bit overwhelming at the very beginning, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
There are a few different kind of darts, but I want to talk about straight darts in this installment. They are the most common and are a great place to start for a beginner.
Darts look like a triangle or wedge shape on some patterns, and on others, just have two notches and a marked dart point.
(1) I like to clip into the seam allowance1/4″ right at the ends of the dart legs. You can also mark them with chalk. (2) Then, I stick a pin through the dart point on the pattern into the fabric below. (3) Holding the pin in place, lift the pattern and mark the pin’s location on the wrong side of the fabric. If I’m cutting multiple pieces at once–like two back pant legs–then I do this on each piece of fabric before removing the pin. (4) You should now have a marked point and the ends of both dart legs.
Once you have the notches and point marked, you’ll draw in the dart legs on the wrong side of the fabric. Simply connect the dart point and the notches with a line. Now you’re ready to pin and sew!
With the fabric’s right sides together, align the notches and fold the dart in half. Your dart point should be right on this fold. I like to place pins right into the line on one side, then flip it over to see if it goes right through the line on the other side. Eventually, you’ll be so proficient at marking and sewing darts that you won’t need to pin!
Starting at notches, sew with a regular stitch length (2.5mm) toward the dart point. As you near the point (about 1/2-3/4″ away, shorten your stitch length (I prefer 1.0-1.2mm) and sew one stitch off of the edge, right at the point.
Leave 2-3″ thread tails and tie them in a double knot. Be careful to not pull the knot tight against the surface; you may want to use a pin to pull the knot tight without pulling it against the fabric.
[You don’t want to backstitch or pull knots tight at the end of a dart because it will cause unsightly puckering. Instead, a shorter stitch length plus tying off your thread tails will create a smooth, secure dart point.]
Finally, press the dart on a tailor’s ham, if you have one. If you don’t, you can also use a tightly rolled towel. [A tailor’s ham is a rounded, tightly-stuffed pillow used to press darts or curved seams; the rounded surface of the tailor’s ham mimics the body’s contours.] Don’t press the very tip of the dart, so as not to flatten the curve.
That’s it! Darts are an easy thing to practice on small pieces of fabric, so go ahead and practice and you’ll be well on your way to being an expert fabric manipulator. 🙂