In this sewing tip, we are going to focus on darts. The Fringe and Wren both feature darts, as well as the Victory, Orchid, and Farrah in the c/d cup sizes. Darts are used to help fabric curve around the contours of the body, commonly at the bust or waist. We’ll show the steps to mark and sew darts that do not pucker and help your garments to fit beautifully.
Note: If you’re sewing the Wren pattern, there are also optional fisheye darts included in the back bodice. Find more information on sewing that dart type in the Wren Sewalong post linked here.
You’ll need your pattern piece and cut fabric. We’ll show two ways to mark the lines that make up the darts, called dart legs. One method uses a pin and Tailor’s chalk or a fabric-safe marking pen. The second method uses tracing paper and a tracing wheel. For both methods, you will need a ruler, pins, and a pressing ham.
MARK THE DART LEGS WITH CHALK
To begin, place the pattern piece on top of the cut fabric, matching up the cut edges of the fabric with the edges of the pattern piece. Darts can be marked with the fabric folded, but for fabric that drapes, it’s best to mark them with the fabric on a single layer. Place a pin at the apex, or pointed end, of the dart.
Fold the pattern piece back, keeping the pin through the fabric. Using tailor’s chalk or a water-soluble marking pen, mark the apex on the fabric.
Mark the ends of the dart legs on the edge of the fabric. You may have to shift the pattern piece slightly to make the marks. If you have a pattern notcher, you can use it to notch the end of the darts and make the marks inside the notches.
Using a ruler or other straight edge, draw lines to connect the end of the dart leg to the mark at the apex. Do this for both marks at the end of your darts to make a v-shape.
MARK THE DART LEGS WITH TRACING PAPER
A second way to mark the dart legs is to use tracing paper and a tracing wheel. Place your pattern piece on top of your cut fabric and match up the cut edges of the fabric with the edges of the pattern piece. Slide a piece of tracing paper between the fabric and the pattern piece.
Use the straight edge of your ruler as a guide and run your tracing wheel over the dart legs on your pattern piece.
The tracing paper will transfer to your fabric and you can see the position of your dart legs. If the lines are faint, as ours were, use your ruler and tailor’s chalk to go over the lines to make them easier to see.
PIN THE DARTS
Next, fold the dart in half so that the dart legs match at the cut edge of the fabric. Place your pins along the traced lines, and flip the fabric over to make sure that the pins are running through the lines on the backside, too. It can take a few tries to get the dart legs lined up on both sides of the fabric, especially on fabric that is fluid and drapes. Placing the pins parallel to the dart legs will keep the fabric in place as you sew.
SEW THE DARTS
Using a regular stitch length, start sewing at the end of the dart. Backstitch as you begin and remove the pins as you approach them with the presser foot.
When you get 1/2″ away from the apex of the dart, pause your sewing and reduce the stitch length to 1.5-2.0. Finishing with a smaller stitch length will help keep the tip of the dart from puckering. As you stitch the remaining length of the dart, try to curve your stitches so that the last few are right along the fold of the fabric. This curve will ensure that the apex of the dart will be smooth and not pointed.
Do not backstitch at the tip of the dart. Instead, leave long thread tails when you remove the fabric from your machine.
Tie a knot to secure the threads at the dart tip and trim off the excess.
PRESSING THE DART
Pressing the dart over a tailor’s ham is the best way to keep the fabric contoured and not flatten out the dart. If you don’t have a ham you can roll up a towel as an alternative or even use the curved tip of your ironing board to help with pressing.
Begin by pressing the dart bulk down (or in the direction that your pattern instructs) on the wrong side. Then flip the fabric over and press it on the right side.
Your dart is now complete! Repeat on the other side and you’re ready to continue sewing your garment.