What are darts ?
If you have seen darts you already know what they are for – anyways, let me give you a simple explanation. A Dart is a fabric manipulation technique that gives the fabric a three dimensional contour by folding the fabric and stitching it to a point- basically giving shape to a garment. It accentuates curves of a body and gives clothes the correct fit.
Darts take in fabric at a section of the garment and narrows down to a point at another creating a fullness at the narrowed section. There are sections of the body which are more full than other parts – like the derriere / hip , bust. This fullness is given on clothes with strategic placements of darts. The dart is drawn as triangular sections which taper to nothing
The most important thing you should take into consideration when designing darts is the length and position.
The more curves in the figure, the more darts are necessary to give a good fit. The larger the person, the deeper the darts have to be.
You should take the correct length of the most important points in your body – shoulder to bust; shoulder to waist line; shoulder to hip line or waist to hip length; bust point to bust point ; bust line to waistline etc . This is different for different people and hence would make all the difference in the way the dart is placed.Checkout the post on taking body measurements
The two types of darts are
1. Single pointed dart – wide at one end and tapered at the other. It is V shaped. It is used on skirts, pants etc.
2. Double pointed Dart – Tapered at both ends with width at the center ; It is also called a body dart
Design your darts so that the darts on the right and left sides of
the garment have the same placement and length. A deviation in this symmetry can make your garment lopsided
15 Different Dart placements
Darts come in many sizes and placements. Some darts are double pointed , extending to either sides, others point to one direction. The main sections that they are placed are Bust, shoulder, neckline and waist.
Let us see all the different places that darts are used, more in detail.
1 Mid shoulder dart
The shoulder dart generally begins at a point slightly closer to the neck than half-way on the shoulder seam, and slants slightly toward the center front, ending on the point of the bust. The distance this dart extends depends on the style of the garment. Generally, it ends at a point half-way down the armscye.
2 Shoulder tip dart
3 Mid Armhole dart
4 Mid neckline dart
5 Centre front neck dart
6 Standard waist dart
This is the dart which starts from the waist and goes up to the bust. This creates a fitting bodice along the waist emphasizing a shapely bust. The waist dart is calculates as a measure of bust measurement minus waist measurement. So if the waist measurement is bigger than the bust obviously there will be no need for the waist dart. And if the difference of waist measurement from bust measurement is less than 4 inches also the waist dart can be avoided – makes not much difference.
If the difference between bust measurement and waist measurement ( B -W) is 4 to 5 inches one of the 2 waist darts should be 1/2 inch wide; If it is 6 inches to 7 1/2 inches the dart size should be 3/4 inch; If it is 8 inches to 9 1/2 inches the dart size should be 1 inch; If it is 10 inches to 11 1/2 inches the dart size should be 1 1/4 inches; If it is 12 inches to 13 1/2 inches the dart size should be 1 1/5 inches
7 Center front waist dart
8 Double waist dart
These are those long darts that you see in dresses that shape the waist. They extend both above and below the waistline, are wider in the center and taper to points at both ends
Vertical darts from the waist down may be necessary to take care of a protruding abdomen.
9 Center front bust dart
10 Bust dart or Side straight dart / under the arm– This is the bust dart you see on the side seam of the bodice, the dart point moving towards the bust point.
Usually the under-arm dart is placed two inches below the armscye
and points toward the bust.
For bust size of 30 1/2 to 32 inches you can make a bust dart of 1/2 inch; for 32 1/2 -34 inches dart size is 3/4 inch; for 34 1/2 -36 inches dart size is 1 inch ; for 36 1/2 -38 inches dart size is 1 1/2 inches; for 38 1/2 -40 inches dart size is 1 3/4 inches; for 40 1/2 -42 inches dart size is 2 inches; for 42 1/2 -44 inches dart size is 2 1/4 inches
11 Side angled dart (french dart) Another bust dart starting from the waistline / hipline to bust in an angled cut. This is a long curved dart . As it is difficult to sew you cannot fold and sew the dart. The pattern is cut along the dart and then sewn
12 Elbow Dart
Darts at the elbow are necessary to make a sleeve fit closely.
13 Sleeve hem darts
A vertical dart running from the little finger at the wrist toward the elbow will make the sleeve fit snugly at the lower arm.
14 Skirt /pant darts
These are darts starting at the waist and going towards the hip to create a fullness there. They are placed in the back of a skirt to give
a smooth fit from the waist and over the hips. You can cut the yoke such that the darts are unnecessary.
15 Fisheye dart
This is a dart used to eliminate the sagging portion under the derriere in pants . It is a horizontal double pointed dart
Small darts at the back of the neckline take care of rounded
shoulders or a pad of flesh across the back of the neck.
How are darts added to a pattern
When you add dart to a pattern extra width that will be sewn up has to be added to the pattern. This dart is then sewn up to provide fullness.
Darts are added so that it points to the high point of the curve. The tip of the dart should not reach this point however – atleast 1/2 inch short of the point is best
As to the length of the dart – this is a formula that I have noted down in my sewing book copied from where I do not remember
When a dart width is 3/4 inch, the dart length should be 3-1/2 inch; for 1-inch dart width, 4-1/2 inch length; for 1-1/4 inch dart width, 5-1/2 inch length; for 1-1/2 inch dart width, 6-inch length, and for 2-inch dart width, a 6-1/2 inch length.
The width of the dart at the wide part depends on the fullness you want near the tip of the dart. If you have a big derriere you would want to add a wider dart in the waist tapering to the hip, so that you get that much fullness there.
- Draw the bodice on a piece of paper
- Draw the dart where you want shaping
- Cut along that line
- Cut out the dart to the width you intend to take in ( include the seam allowance as well. Tape it up.
- Now redraw the pattern with this taken in width added. This is your pattern with the dart added. Checkout more details on this in the sundress pattern
How to sew Darts
The professionals always mark the dart with tailor tacks – this will ensure that you get the point exactly in the same place on both sides of the garment
Always sew the dart from the wide end to the narrow end ( point).
Adjust your stitch length to short stitches and stitch very slowly.
With the fabric kept rights sides together, fold the fabric through
the center of the dart, matching the markings and the stitching lines. Pin in place or hand stitch with basting stitches.
Start sewing the dart with backstitching at the wide part ( you can also skip this backstitching as this area will be in the seam allowance so will be secured later when you stitch that part). For a double pointed dart , you will have to stitch it in two parts – First start sewing from the widest part in the middle and then sew to the point and then start from the middle and sew to the other point.
In pants skirts etc you need a shaping convex dart and it should be sewn as shown below; The right picture with the sewing line almost touching the fold as it reaches the point of the dart is how it should be sewn.
The tip to getting a perfect dart point is to sew the dart in a slightly curved way so that near the tip you will be sewing very close to the fold till the tip. Stitch the last 4-5 stitches along the fold of the fabric, then stitch past the tip
Reduce the speed of the machine as you reach the tip of the dart and use the hand wheel to slowly guide the needle.
At the narrow end, never back stitch. Back stitching distorts the dart point. end stitching leaving long tails of thread. Remove the cloth from the machine and tie these thread tails in a knot.
Another option to finish the dart at the points is to reduce the stitch length to close to zero as you reach the point . Yet another one is to reach the point and then back stitching on to the extra seam allowance of the dart.
Snip the fold of the fish dart at the waistline so that it doesnot stretch and cause wrinkles. You may have to finish the fabric edges to avoid fraying – you can make small overcast stitches there
If it is a wide dart or made of a heavy fabric you may want to avoid dart bulk by cutting the inside of the dart before sewing it ; you will have to slit through the fold of the dart; finish the fabric edges with over cast stitch and then press it open
In her book Sewing A-Z Nancy Zieman gives a tip to mark the dart lines with a small snip at the start and end and then keeping a thread aligned on these snips and using this as the guideline for sewing the dart.
How to press darts properly.
Pressing the darts is the most important element in making them look good. As soon as you have sewn a dart – press it. Do not wait for the whole garment to be finished. If you have a pressing ham well and good. Otherwise use the end of the sewing table to press the curve of the dart
Press Darts on the wrong side of the dart. You should press waist darts towards the center of the garment. Press bust darts down. Usually, sewing books say: vertical darts are pressed towards the center and horizontal darts are pressed downward. If you have cut open darts, press seam allowances to either side.
How to sew double darts
Double pointed darts are basically two single darts combined. Begin sewing the double darts from the middle and sew to one end. Come back to the middle and sew to the other end. Ensure that the middle stitching is overlapping and without distortion.