Sunday, January 06, 2008

Darts, Darts, Darts

As I was working on my latest dress, I remembered a question that Cidell (Miss Cellies Pants) asked me when she was visiting and looking at the interior of one of my dresses and jacket. With her question resonating in my head, I thought that I would show you how I make darts...emphasis here on the "how I do it" part! 'Cause one of the beauties of sewing to me is that there are some right ways to sew and then there are some ways that just work for the individual operator!

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...*LOL*...First I mark darts. My favorite method is to use a tracing wheel and tracing paper. Now if you haven't used tracing paper in awhile it is soooo much better than the stuff I used when I first learned to sew...y'know that wax stuff that took the "all powerful cleanser" to remove the markings from your garment! I use Dritz tracing paper probably because I can get it in the garment district at Steinlauf and Stoller, where I purchase most of my sewing notions.

After marking them, I usually sew my darts in before serge finishing the edges of my garment. I use to serge finish all the pieces (one big sergefest) before I started any construction on the garment but I have noticed that in the last year & a half that method has gone by the wayside. I think that got phased out right along with my fast, faster, fastest sewing methods.

I sew the dart by starting about a half inch in from the cut edge, sew a few stitches forward and then sew in reverse to the edge. At the edge I sew forward to the point. About a half inch from the point I shorten my stitch length to really small baby stitches (1.0 on my Janome 8000) to the end, this locks the stitches without having to backstitch. Do I always remember to do this - noooooo - *LOL* Hey I gotta be real! But most times I do...and when I don't it's because that little 7th grade girl who learned to sew kicks in and I backstitch! However, my preferred method is to shorten the stitch.

Next, cut the threads...yeah, I'm being real basic here! Then I use my 6" shears to cut the top of the dart open. Another disclaimer, I only use this technique when lining a garment. Why?? Because I want the dart to lie as flat as possible on the fashion fabric when I add the lining to it. Sometimes I add a dart to the lining and sometimes I cut the lining from the fashion fabric piece after the dart has already been sewn but in either instances, I want those two pieces of fabric loving up against each other not fighting against each other.

If I'm not lining the garment, the dart is pressed down against the fabric. I don't cut it open because I am not going to attempt to serge finish the edges and possibly cut into my fabric with the serger knife as I get closer to the point. I also don't like having the additional thread in the dart.

Here is the most important part of dart making to me ~ outside of careful marking ~ pressing it flat and open. I can not impress upon you enough that you should not press a dart open or to the side on a flat ironing board. Please, please, please use your ham or your seam roll...whichever pressing tool you own...though I prefer my ham because you can get a really good press on a curved seam on your ham! Also, do not forget to use your pressing cloth. I have ruined many a piece of fabric from being anxious and not covering the dart with the pressing cloth first. After it is pressed (not ironed) flat, I flip the piece over and press with the pressing cloth on the right side to prevent any dimpling that may occur at the dart point.

I realize that these are simple tips but I've found that sometimes reading someone else's method of doing a "simple" sewing technique has upped my game and taught me something new. And since I ascribe to the always get better idea of sewing, hopefully something that I've shared with you about how I sew darts, will help you sew better darts too!


  1. Thanks, Carolyn. I've never tried the tracing paper, but my most hated part of darts is marking them so I'll have to give it a try!


  2. A bit different from the way I do it, so thanks for sharing.

  3. I like how you shorten the stitch length at the end. I always end up backstitching (knowing in my head that I shouldn't) to secure the thread. Shortening the stitch sounds nice and easy.

  4. Great idea to cut the dart when lining the garment! I'll borrow this if I may. Before reading your post, I was pressing the garment dart and the lining dart in opposite directions but yours is a better way, I think!

  5. Good tips! It does pay to keep and open mind and try a new way once in a while. I sew from the tip to the edge, and don't always remember to reset the stitch length to a normal length after stitching the tip at the shorter length!

  6. Do you use a chalk tracing paper? I find that my dart marks fase away when I press before stitching.

    Also, when you do cut the dart open and have fabric lining, you don't finish because the 'presure' of the fabric keeps it from fraying? Similar to an enclosed seam?

    And, (finally, lol), back to serging. Do you mean that you don't always serge finish your enclosed seams or do you mean that you don't serge all the fabric pieces prior to construction?


  7. Thanks for the dart info. I did darts this weekend on a blouse and ended up with some puckering. I'll be sure to remember to shorten the stitches.

  8. thank you SO MUCH, I think by using these techniques I won't hate darts anymore.

  9. I always forget to shorten stitches so I leave long thread tails and tie the ends off before trimming the thread lengths instead of backstitching. That's made a huge difference for me. I've had great success at not getting puckers with that too. I'm going to try to experiment with shortening stitches sometime soon. (I got me a mother-of-the-bride dress to make for May!)

    Great set of dresses. I love seeing what you create and reading about your thought processes for everything.

  10. (psst: how about adding the brown paper bag tip to the pressing part - prevents seam shadow)

  11. Marji - as always you have something interesting to add! *LOL*


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