What is a Dart?
Darts are one of the most basic structural elements in dressmaking and garment construction. They are used to build, into a flat piece of fabric, a definite shape that will allow the fabric to conform to a particular body contour or curve. For the female form, darts occur most often at the bust, which is the example I am using here.
They are little sewn folds in the fabric, that can vary in length and width. Darts can not only be used functionally to create body-fitted forms, but sculpturally too.
This is a simple and straight forward tutorial on how to cut, mark and sew a bust dart, starting from a hand-drafted pattern.
Step 1: Anatomy of a Dart
This instructable uses a bust dart as the example.
Place you pattern down on your fabric, lining up the grain line.
Identify the the dart notches, most likely they will be marked with what looks like a "T" or a ▲. I have included other images of patterns, so you can see differences in how patterns are drafted. It really depends on whether they are store bought, or hand drafted.
From the notches the dart is sewn, moving towards the punch hole. The punch hole is marked by a dot in the middle of a circle and is located anywhere from 1/8" to 1/2" from where the dart actually ends.
** I have seen patterns where the punch hole is the end of the dart, but I think it's good practice to mark slightly in. Depending on what marking method you use, the outward facing side of the fabric can be damaged in the process. From marking in and sewing past the mark, you enclose any damage or mark into the fold of the dart, rather than it showing up on the outside of your finished garment.
Step 2: Cut and Mark
The goal is to transfer the dart notches, punch hole and possibly the sew line if you choose from the pattern to the fabric. You can do this using scissors to snip in a the notches or you can pin or use chalk to mark where the notches are.
If you cut the notches, only snip in 3/16" - 1/4", you want to leave at least 1/8" between the snip and where your seam allowance (SA) is set.
Same goes for the punch hole, you can:
- Use an awl to create a hole, punching through the top of the pattern through the fabric.
- Use an awl or another sharp tool to create an opening in the pattern for tailor's chalk to get through to your fabric. When you remove the pattern piece, go over the mark again with chalk to make sure it will stick around as you are handling your project.
- Run a straight pin through the fabric at the punch hole point. You can also combine this with chalk, it's totally up to you and the tools you have available to you.
Step 3: Sew
Work on the wrong side of your fabric, also known as the inside of your garment or accessory.
Fold the dart in half, using the punch hole as a guide as where the crease is and making sure to line up the dart notches so they meet.
Start from the notches and sew a straight line towards 1/2" past the punch hole mark.
I always draft my darts with the punch hole 1/2" from finished end of dart, refer to your pattern or create your own marking.
To finish off, tie a square knot at the end of the dart, if the fabric is medium to heavy weight (not too delicate) you can back stitch. Clip extra threads, leaving 1/2".
Step 4: Press
There are specially made ironing tools to help press around curves, such as a ham.
You can press darts without as well, as I did here. It's all about manipulated the fabric and pulling up on the fabric, opposite from the dart to create a curve in the fabric.
Press the dart flat, starting from the broad side, going towards the point. If a bust dart, press downwards, if a waist dart, press it towards the center.
Use the tip of the iron to work in small circles at the point of the dart, pulling the fabric up a the same time to create the sewn-in curve.
Test this out a couple times on some scrap fabric, you can cut a small swatch that only includes the dart of your pattern to try it out on before moving on to your real fabric!