I previously shared some tips on my method for darts (here and here), but I wanted to repost it so it’s easier to refer back to! Darts are really essential for a great fitting garment, but the traditional way of tracing and sewing them can be really intimidating. For YEARS I was limiting myself to dart-free dresses because I was scared of them. Silly right?!
Fret not, fellow sewists! I have an easy alternative for you that’s more accurate and practically pin-free. It’s not too good to be true, I promise
I prefer to trace my patterns, but you can cut into your printed ones as well. Simply cut one slit up the dart and then fold across the other line to open it up. You don’t want to cut out the entire dart because you still need to be able to trace that outward V shape onto your fabric. Make sure your cut and folded lines are as accurate as you can make them. (The method also works for diamond shaped darts! You can cut out those entirely.)
Next you’ll want to use a sharpened chalk pencil, washable pen, or fabric marking pen of some kind. A sharp tip is key to get a nice straight dark line. You can use a ruler to help you do this, but make sure your traced line doesn’t stray out from your dart opening. Be sure your pattern is still lined up correctly with your cut fabric, and that you’re tracing on the WRONG side of your fabric.
When you take your pattern away, you should have something like this:
With right sides together, fold your fabric so the two lines you just drew are lined up. This will be a little tricky since you won’t be able to see the line on the bottom side. Just concentrate on lining up the lines at the start of the dart for right now. Pinch the point where you think they’re matched, then gently bend the fabric down to see if you’ve got it. Make small adjustments, and keep bending the fabric down to check. When you have your two lines matched, use your finger nails to press a crease in the dart fold to help you hold that place.
**editor’s note: you can also draw a little line on the right side of your fabric in the seam allowance to mark where the dart starts. That takes the guess work out of trying to match up the two lines blindly!**
Drop your needle down at the start of the dart to hold those two lines together while you adjust the bottom.
To adjust the bottom of the dart so the lines continue to match all the way down, rearrange the fold until the apex of the dart falls directly on it. You shouldn’t be able to see the top or bottom line roll over the fold of the dart.
Once you have that point adjusted correctly, you can use a pin to make sure you don’t lose it! It’s really important to keep the point aligned as you start sewing down the dart. It shouldn’t move with the pin, but it’s still good to check as you sew. Now both your marked dart lines should be all matched up and ready to sew!
Remember to back stitch at the start of the dart, then follow your traced line as best you can down to the end. DO NOT back stitch at the end! Instead just keep sewing until your line and fabric ends, then just pull out some extra thread so you can hand tie the end of your dart.
Take your two ends of thread and tie 3-4 knots at the end of your dart. (Be careful not to take out the last stitch as you separate the threads to tie them.)
Inspect your work! The thread on the top side of your dart should be pretty much perfectly aligned with your traced line, but flip your fabric over and see how close the back lines up. As you can see above, my stitch line is just a tad bit off the traced line, but it’s close enough to be acceptable. If your thread is obviously not lined up with your traced line, you might want to rip it out and try again, this time take a little more care with trying to match up your traced lines before you start sewing.
Press your darts nice and flat. It helps to gently tug one side of the fabric as you press your iron into the dart in the same direction. Flip your fabric over to the right side and press the darts again. Make sure there is no folding or bunching over the seam of your dart from the front. Use the narrow end of your ironing board to help you with pressing the points.
The bottom of your darts should line up directly with the bottom of your fabric to form a continuous line. (The bottom darts look warped in my photo since I’ve stretched the fabric out flat, but the bust darts look correct.)
Well there ya have it! Darts made easy!