Updated: Jul 13, 2018
It’s important for a quick and easy sew to ensure that the pattern you cut the fabric from has had all darts and seams trued up prior to sewing or after any seam allowances have been added for Flexible Patterns. Refer to Auxiliary Reference information for Trueing a Draft.
Here is where I set the cat amongst the pigeons. I have spent quite a few hours actually testing the best way to sew a Dart because there are lots of opinions out there about which end to start with the point or the legs, or if you should tack first, or if you should sew parallel to the fold at the dart point, or even curve away from the fold.
In my view you either want to see a Dart as part of the design or you want it to be soft and less obvious as you simply need it for shaping to take up and release fabric gently. You want the shaping to be smooth and not bubbly or bunched up or very overly pointy, especially around a Bust Point.
Well here is my logic after all of my testing and my testing has proven to me that I get the most perfect dart sewing this way as opposed any other way.
A dart has legs and the position of them is important and we have spent time drafting them and perhaps assessing them with a Test Garment. The positions have been marked on the Draft with notches when one way or another are transferred to the fabric pieces ready to sew as accurately as possible.
A dart has a point and the position of it is important and you should never sew past it otherwise you can’t be sure that you are symmetrical. You have already marked the position of the dart point so you know exactly where this point is and you should use it.
The Dart Point is not a target to hit when sewing as sods law is that sometimes you will miss the target or you will be creating some sort of curve to get to it. In my humble opinion the Dart Point should actually be the sewing starting point. If the Dart Point is our starting point then the very first stitch we sew is at this point, therefore when we come to press the dart we have a very fixed point to focus on.
You should finish sewing at the Dart legs which gives you a chance to check how they line up to ensure they are exactly on top of each other as you sew down the dart (if you had started at this point then the fabric may have shifted especially if you are using a silky fabric).
Pressing a Dart has a very big role in shaping a Dart and if done carefully should enable the fabric to flow naturally from the point and not accentuate the pointiness of the Dart.
I prefer pins to tacking a smaller Dart. However if it is an extra-long dart or a curved dart then will tack it using a running stitch or around 5mm in length by hand. At the end of the day the more accurate you are with the Dart the better the garment is going to look.
With practice you don’t need to tack a small dart but I may tack a very large Dart or a curved Dart especially on a Couture garment.
Here are a set of instructions showing how I sew the dart. Note there is no back stitching in a dart;
Fold the fabric so that the two legs match and the fold is orientated towards and ends exactly on the dart point. I try to sew wherever possible with my fabric on the left of the sewing machine to give me a better view (it is not being hidden by scrunched up fabric being pushed through the machine).
Pin the dart on the dart point with the pin perpendicular to the fold.
Pin the Dart Legs together with a pin on the Dart Legs parallel to the fold.
Place extra pins down the dart if you need to, pinning along the line of the Dart.
Prior to sewing the Dart pull out both threads on the sewing machine 3” or 4” as you will need this thread to tie off after the Dart is sewn.
I do tie off rather than sew these threads off at the end as I don’t want any excess stitches to get in the way of the dart shape and I have never seen any of my knots come undone so I am happy with this method.
I will then place the fabric under the sewing foot of the machine with the foot in an upright position and lower the needle until it hits the pin positioning the Dart Point.
I then carefully remove the pin and lower the needle and ensure that the needle catches one or two threads of the fabric at the fold that is as close to the fold as you can get it. This ensures that the first stitch made is right on the money, remember that the knot to secure the thread after sewing will be on the outside of the fold and will help with defining the dart point even further and will cover those last couple of fabric threads.
Ensure that with the needle lowered in place that the fabric is pivoted so that the sewing line will be aimed at the dart legs.
If you feel you need to adjust the dart legs to get them perfectly aligned now is your chance to do this.
Sew down the dart towards the Dart Legs removing any extra pins as you go. If you are sewing a curved Dart then follow the curved tacked line.
As you get to the Dart Legs remove the final pin and continue sewing through the seam allowance and off the edge of the fabric. Leave the threads around 3” or 4” long so that they can be tied off easily.
If you have tacked the Dart first check that the dart has been sewn correctly before remove the tacking. Also remove the tack stitches that were used to mark the Dart Point and the Dart Legs if this was done.