Darts. Those funny shaped elongated triangles that help mold a flat piece of fabric to the body. Once our Regency ancestors learned how to use them properly, we didn’t look back. The 19th Century is filled with darts in garments.
Darts may seem like a standard construction element, but their specific placement and manner of sewing technique has great weight to the finished look of the garment.
If the definition of becoming proficient at a craft is the repetition of basic techniques, then let’s review the Art of The Dart – the most basic method of sculpting fabric to fit the form.
Basic Dart Elements:
- Fabric is pinched out to curve around large areas
- The pinched up amount is called the “dart take up”
- The sewing lines are called “dart legs”
- The end of the dart points to the largest area fabric is shaped around
- The points do not end right at the bust apex, the dart point lands ½” to 1.5″ away
- Darts can shape fabric to the body or to form the silhouette
- They can end in the middle of the garment or at a seam
- The dart take up can be so wide that it is cut out and the dart is sewn with a seam allowance
- Darts can radiate in any direction
- Fisheye darts are darts fully contained within a garment that are wide in the middle and taper to two end points
Basic Sewing Techniques for (Single) Darts:
- Make tiny clips into the fabric on the dart legs
- Match the clip marks by folding the fabric along the center of the dart and pin
- Pin on the fold at the dart point and along the leg lines. Use as many pins as you feel comfortable with.
- Start sewing at the wide clipped edge ; you can backstitch if you want, depending on the weight of your fabric
- Stitch down to the point and DO NOT BACK STITCH. Simply sew right off the fold of the fabric
- Cut end threads long and tie in a knot at the dart point to secure
- For double eye or Fisheye darts, start sewing from the center and move out to each dart point separately, tying off the threads the same for single darts.
Another trick for well sewn darts is how you approach the dart point. As you get close to (like ½” or less away from) the point mark you should be quite close to the fold.
Sew a few stitches right along the very edge of the dart fold before going off the edge.
Many times you’ll have to eyeball this as you’re following the dart legs and approaching the point – you may have to move closer to the fold than where the leg is marked. It’s ok. Really. If you find yourself at the dart point before you’ve had a chance to sew along the fold, go ahead and continue PAST the dart point, on the fold, and exiting off no more than ½” further down from the point.
I always make a couple of stitches past the point so my markings won’t show from the outside. If you sew right on that fold, going that extra little bit past won’t make a difference.
Being one of the most basic elements to clothing construction, darts are invaluable for shaping tight fitting, boned Victorian bodices. If you find your single darts too wide at the end, re-fit the bodice by splitting up the dart take up into two or even three smaller darts. You’ll suddenly see that lovely hourglass shape!
Have you found a cool trick when sewing darts? What frustrates you most about them?