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Sewing Tips from Wendy Gardiner – Sewing Darts

Wendy Gardiner is an Ambassador for Simplicity and McCalls and today she is sharing a few of her sewing top tips with us! Sewing darts can be tricky, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Continue reading for more information about darts, what they are and where you can usually find them in a garment. We’ve also gathered some of our favourite patterns which feature darts in all different shapes and sizes. So if you’re not sure how to stitch these beautiful garments, Wendy is sharing some tips to create and sew your own perfect darts.

What are darts and where can you find them:

Darts are used to provide shaping and to take out some fabric fullness. They help to mould fabric to fit at the bust, waist and shoulder. A dart is usually wider at the outer edge, tapering to a point within the garment. However, double darts are widest in the middle, tapering to a point at either end. These are used within a bodice to add shaping through the midriff.

Bust darts start just below armhole at side seam, tapering to point 2.5cm from fullest part of bust. The top line of the dart is straight and the lower line is angled up to complete the shaping. The dart depth at the side seam is the difference between the bust at the fullest point and high bust measurement (taken under arms, just above bust). For very full busts, a further dart from the waist to mid bust point can also be added.

Waist darts are placed midway between centre of waist and side seam, they taper to a point just above hip. The amount of fabric to be folded into a dart at widest point should not be larger than 6.5cm folding to 3cm.

For a really close fit, darts are stitched with a slightly curving line from wide end to point.

Pattern: Vogue V9184

With bust darts and double darts this dress is a perfect example of how darts can give a simple A-line dress some shape.

Pattern: Burda Style 6383.

The darts on the front and back create a beautifully fitted dress. They start under the bust and then continue into the waistband towards the hip. These darts cut up in three sections, but this will have the same effect as a double dart.


Pattern: Simplicity S8884

This gorgeous vintage inspired dress pattern has bust darts and not one but two darts on each side. This really creates a beautiful shape!

Pattern: Vogue V9205

Darts usually create shape around the curves of a body, but this design is a bit different. The darts are placed around the neckline and they are visible on the outside! What a beautiful design feature.

Pattern: Burda Style 6389

Not all darts are shaped with straight lines. This lovely dress has got curved darts coming up from the hips towards the bust.

Pattern: New Look 6459.

Both the top and the trousers of this pattern have small darts to give the garment shape. However, they might be small but they are very effective.

How to sew darts:

  1. Transfer any dart placement lines from pattern tissue to the wrong side of fabric using chalk, pencil or tailor’s tacks.
  2. If creating your own darts, determine the dart size. For bust darts, take bust and high bust measurements. The width at the side seam is the difference between these two measurements. For waist darts, divide the difference between the hip and waist by the number of darts being used (usually 2 front and 2 back). For instance, if the difference is 25cm, the amount to be folded out will be 6.5cm per dart.
  3. Fold the fabric right sides together at dart placement, matching widest dart positions and then pin the layers together, tapering the pin line to nothing at the point.
  4. With a standard stitch length (2.2-2.5) stitch from widest part towards the point, taking the last 3-4 stitches right on the fold of fabric. Do not backstitch, leave thread tails and tie a knot or lock stitch on the spot (this will prevent a ridge being visible from the right side). Press the stitching to embed the stitches and then press the dart fold towards the centre if a vertical dart and down towards waist if a horizontal bust dart. Press from wrong and right side of fabric.
  5. On heavyweight and thick fabrics such as fleece, once stitched, cut the dart fabric open along the fold, cutting as close to the point as possible. Press the dart seams open.
  6. For double darts (used to shape garments through the midriff) mark and fold the dart in the usual way. Then machine stitch starting at the centre, fullest part of the dart, working towards a point at one end, finishing the last 3-4 stitches on the fold. Start at the centre again, overlapping by a few stitches, then stitch to other end. Again fix stitch or tie the ends rather than reverse stitch. Press to embed the stitches and press the fold towards the centre. To help the dart fold lay flat, clip into the fold at the centre point.
  7. If lining a garment such as a skirt, rather than stitch the waist darts, simply fold out the widest part at the seam and stitch across the folds within the seam allowance, leaving the dart unstitched. This will provide a little more fabric and thus give movement in a lining which is naturally not as flexible as the main fabric.

Top Tips:

  • Use a chalk pencil to draw the stitching line from the side seam to the point.
  • Never back stitch at the point of the dart, rather leave thread tails to tie off or fix stitch which will avoid a bump or lump showing through.
  • Press bust darts over a tailor’s ham (or a rolled up towel) to press in the curve created by the dart.

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