Everything you should know about darts

Darts are folds of tucks coming to a point and are sewn into fabric to take in ease and provide shape to a garment, especially for a womans bust. They are used to make certain areas of a garment narrower, to better follow the shape of the body.

Darts are marked on a pattern as triangles. They start at the seam line and as diamonds if they are in the interior of a pattern pieces. They must be traced onto the pattern piece. Darts are a simple and important way to bring in excess width without having to make cuts in the fabric. Bust darts may be placed horizontally or diagonally or even transferred to the neck or waist area. Here are a few possible positions. This is by no means exhaustive. You can sew endless combinations and make the dart positions a creative feature. Without darts, clothing will 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.

About darts

There are various techniques for creating darts:

  • Transfer the dart marked on your pattern piece onto the wrong side of the fabric using a method suitable for the material. Darts are sewn before individual garment pieces are put together. You can baste first to check the fit.
    technique for creating darts
  • Secure the dart seam with backstitches. The stitching should run out as flatly as possible at the point end(s) of a dart to avoid any wrinkling or bulging there. Switch to slightly smaller stitches about 1.5cm before the end of the dart, make sure that the last couple of stitches are right along the fold line.  Secure the ends of the dart seam with backstitches, or knot thread ends together. Trim any remaining thread ends.
    Smaller stitches before the end of dart
  • Carefully iron the completed darts. First iron the dart flat along the fold, without going past the ends (to avoid wrinkles). Then lay the piece flat, depending on the type of darts, press it either open or to one side. In general, horizontal darts are pressed downward and vertical are pressed away to the center of the garment. A tailor’s ham is helpful for pressing darts smoothly.
  • Darts in linings should be pressed in the opposite direction from those in the main fabric, to avoid creating bulky areas.

Simple darts

  • Mark the dart, using crosswise lines to mark the dart ends
  • Fold the fabric right sides together down the middle of the dart so that the dart markings lie on top of each other; pin, starting at the point of the dart. Sew the dart from the wide end to the tip, securing the thread at the beginning and end of the dart seam.

Simple cut darts

To prevent wide darts or darts in heavy fabrics from becoming bulky, they are cut open and trimmed after sewing. Use a small pair of pointed scissors to cut the dart up the middle, i.e., along the fold, to about 1.5cm before the tip (see marking in picture); on narrow darts, stop cutting 3-4cm before the tip. Wide dart allowances should be trimmed down 1-1,5 cm. Press cut dart edges open and press the uncut section flat, as shown. 

Simple cut darts

Waist darts

Dresses and tops without waist seams are often given shaping with this type of dart. They are vertical, diamond-shaped darts that narrow down to a point at both ends.

Mark the dart lines and fold the fabric right sides together so that the dart markings line up. Sew the dart in two steps, starting from the center each time and working toward the points: begin the second line of stitching so that it overlaps the first for 5-10mm, as shown. To allow the dart to be pressed to the side, snip it horizontally at the center almost to the stitching line. Depending on the width of the dart, it may be necessary to cut it vertically toward each point.

Waist darts

How to press the darts

As a general rule, horizontal bust darts are pressed downwards and vertical darts like those around the waist of skirts or pants are pressed away to the center.

How to press darts

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