Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crepe Sew-Along #10: Sew Your Darts

Ready to sew? Your first step is to sew your darts. I thought I'd give you a little post on how I sew mine, in case you need some pointers.

First, I clip the end of my dart legs. This helps me line up the dart lines more accurately.

Next, I fold the dart in half and mark the very tip of it with a pin. (Note: you won't be able to see my chalk tracing lines on the fabric; I did it in a very pale yellow so it wouldn't show through. But you'll get the point.)
Match up the clipped ends of the dart and pin.
Next, I put a couple pins through the actual dart line itself, parallel to the fold.
Make sure they go through the dart line on the opposite side for a perfect match.
Then sew!

It's worth noting that there are several ways to pin a dart and several ways to secure a dart. You can:

1. Leave long-ish thread tails and tie them in a knot.
2. Start decreasing your stitch length toward the end of the dart, til you're down to about .5 mm. These super short stitches will be extra secure.
3. You can also tack within the body of the dart. (This is how I do mine.) Sew to the end of the dart as per usual. When you get to the end, lift up your presser foot and pull the garment piece toward you an inch or so, pulling out a bit of thread from the machine. Next, anchor your needle within the body of the dart and make a few stitches. This machine tacking will not be visible from the outside since it's inside the body of the dart. I learned this technique from a Threads video, so have a watch if you'd like to see it in action.

And press! Press your bust darts down and your waist darts toward the center of the garment piece. Repeat on the two back pieces.

Go forth and sew!


  1. Ooo, the tips on clipping the end of the dart legs and tacking within the body of the dart are so smart! Thanks for sharing.

    Any tips on keeping the dart in a straight line while sewing? Seems like it should be easy, it's just a straight line, but I always find myself going a bit crooked in my attempts to make sure I end at the right spot on the edge, then overcorrecting, etc.

  2. Here's how I sew a dart in a non-sheer woven material. Most of the last directions come from the beginning-level couture sewing class at FIT.

    I place a pin at the vanishing point, then I fold it in half. I stick pins in horizontally to match up the dart legs/arms and then I use other pins to pin baste. I work my way up to the end. Then I hand baste inside the sewing line. Darts are short; it takes almost no time to baste and the project is more secure than with pins. Plus, I hate taking out pins as I sew, although I know people who sew over them and have never had a problem.

    If the material is hard to see, I thread trace the lines or at least tailor tack the vanishing point.

    I slow down the machine as I approach the end of the dart and slightly reduce the stitch length. I sew the last three stitches on the fold. I was taught that doing this makes a very flat dart.

    I leave long threads. Then I thread the ends into a hand sewing needle and tack a couple of times.

    When I've basted the second dart, I check it against the first machine-stitched dart to make sure it's the same length.

    This, obviously, is the high-prep method. But if you want to minimize the possibility of having to take out the dart and do it all over again (with the attendant wear on the fabric) you might want to try this, especially if you're a complete beginner.

    You also might want to try a couple of practice darts on some scraps.

  3. KWu:

    It's not that easy to sew darts at the beginning, especially on a fast machine. Students with more experience used to tell me to just aim 'er at the vanishing point and let 'er rip.

    The constant failure of that method for me is why I posted the detailed method that I came up with for myself. Call it the rank beginner or super-klutz's method.

    At the very least, chalk the sewing line in a color you can see and make sure you use a good task lamp. Half the time I couldn't see what I was doing. If you need more guidance, thread trace the line. Chalk the vanishing point, or place a pin there or a tailor's tack or some other visual reference.

    Make sure to baste. Fabric slips.

    Sew some sample darts.

    Walk the machine if absolutely necessary.

  4. Yay sewing!

    @atelierflou - Thanks for all the helpful tips! I've noticed the occasional tendency to sew crooked lines for my darts too, especially since my machine doesn't have a 'slow' setting and the foot pedal sticks a bit. Nice to know that walking the machine is a perfectly acceptable sewing habit! :)

  5. At school we learned to anchor the threads in the meat of the dart, but instead of just pulling the threads at the end of the dart, you turn the work and continue stitching (into nothing) for about an inch, creating a chain. THEN go up and anchor. I like doing this because it looks pretty (as if it matters, right), and is also a bit stronger.

    @KWu: You can keep a straight line but pulling the top thread toward you and holding it at your stopping point. I use this trick ALL THE TIME. You can just sew over the thread and pull it out later.

  6. Crap, does that make sense? Make sure you have a long top thread, then anchor your needle at the beginning point of your dart. Pull the thread to meet the end point. This will make a perfect line from which you can follow.
    It is sort of tricky to keep holding the thread, but go slow- it will help. This is preferable to chalking a line when you are working with delicate fabrics too.

  7. I start at the tip of my dart and go down towards the notches. I know, blasphemous, but it works quite well. I start at the tip, right on the fold, with a very short stitch, Then I lengthen as I sew down the dart. This was I can be sure to get very straight darts since I'm aiming for some larger.

  8. wow! I have been having trouble with the darts iin the dress i was making so this is super helpful!!

  9. My notes on darts for Crepe: I had hand-basted along the fold line to keep the layers together but I found while I was sewing these darts last night that the last few stitches caught only the underlining fabric and not the fashion fabric. Did anyone else have this issue?

    Krista, I used to do my darts this way, from tip to seam, but with a twist. I read long ago in some couture book that I should tie my needle and bobbin thread together and carefully wind it backward through the machine well onto the needle spool. Then if you start at the very tip of the dart, there are no threads, knots, backstitching, etc. -- just a perfect beginning with no bulk. I did this for years! I got over it.

  10. Hi, this isn't dart related, but will we be doing anything to neaten the waist seam?

  11. Misty,

    I'm glad it was helpful. Walking the machine isn't "ideal," but if it's the best one can do at a particular stage, go for it.

    I've taken what I'll call RTW technique classes where you are supposed to sew a one-inch or 1/2 inch seam allowance using just the line on the throat plate as a guide. But Kenneth King told me that he usually marks the sewing line.

    It's a question of the level sewing you aspire to, your experience, and your ability. But at levels that approach couture there is always more preparation and basting. The results speak for themselves.

  12. Heh. I've always just done the reverse-a-few-stitches to secure my seams (dart seams included), but I suppose that creates bulk.

    I also sew right over pins >.< This is what comes of teaching yourself to sew, I guess.

  13. This is the best blog I've ever seen in my life!Excellent information here. This fantastic article made me smile.

  14. I'm reading this with a glass of wine after my very first dart attempt went horribly, horribly awry. I love your blog and am off to see what else I can learn so I can avoid throwing another project in the trash. :(

  15. I know this post is 2 years old but I just had to thank you for your tips. I've sewn darts before but not always with great success. So when I started a dress yesterday, I looked through your book (which I'm really enjoying reading!) and found tips and then came to your website to find more tips. Thanks so much for your fabulous blog and book! I'm a big fan!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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