One of the most essential components of a well-fitted garment is the dart.
In this article, we will dive into the world of darts and explore the different types of darts in sewing. We will cover dart anatomy, dart placement, variations of basic darts, and dart sewing tips and more.
Why Sewing Darts Matters
Want a well-fitting garment? Then you must understand the different types of darts in sewing.
Darts are important for three primary reasons:
Darts add shape to a garment, making it more comfortable to wear and better fitting to the body.
Different types of darts are used for different types of garments, fabrics, and body volume allocations.
Knowing how to sew darts is a fundamental skill for any sewist who wants to create beautiful and professional-looking clothing. Handmade > Homemade.
Anatomy of a Dart
There are three (but more like four) parts of a dart you should know:
- Dart point
- Dart legs
- Dart intake
- Dart root
1.) Dart Point
The dart point is the narrow end of the dart, where the dart legs (see below) come together. Dart points point to the apex of a mound of flesh, usually the bust and booty.
The dart point and the bust point are not the same. The dart point points to the bust point, which is the fullest part of the bosom.
Dart points atop bust points give breasts that severe, spiked nipple look.
For most sewing patterns, which are drafted for a two-inch difference between the upper bust and full bust, the dart point is backed off the bust point ½ inch (1.3 cm) to 1 inch (2.5 cm).
For larger busts, the dart point should be backed off more — 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cm) for differences of 4 inches (10.5 cm) between the upper bust and full bust.
2.) Dart Legs
The dart legs are the two sides of the dart that converge towards the dart point. They are equal in length.
3.) Dart Intake
The dart intake is the amount of fabric taken up by the dart. It’s the space between the dart legs.
According to Helen Joseph Armstrong, author of “Pattern Making for Fashion Design,” dart intakes “[take] up excess where it is not needed and … gradually release fabric where it is needed to control the fit of the garment.”
4.) Dart Root
The dart root (or dart cap) is part of the intake, but I think it’s worth calling out.
The dart root is the bit of the intake that’s shaped to reflect which direction the dart is folded.
In the case of our diagram here, the dart root folds down toward the waist.
They Go Where? Dart Placement
Darts can be placed pretty much anywhere; location depends on the design and desired fit of the garment.
In woven garments with (any) shaping, you’ll almost certainly find darts in the bust area. But darts can also be placed in the waist, hip, shoulder, and back areas.
Think about what Helen Joseph Armstrong said: Dart intakes “[take] up excess where it is not needed and … gradually release fabric where it is needed to control the fit of the garment.”
Darts live in “negative” space.
Look at this diagram. The light blue triangles (more or less) show the negative space around a curved body in relation to up-and-down, straight planes (let’s pretend the planes are fabric).
To get the fabric to curve around the body, you have to get rid of the negative space.
These blue triangles also map to the most common dart locations.
More curve = more need for a dart.
Darts You Might See (or Hear About) While Sewing
There are two main types of darts — single pointed and double pointed.
Single-pointed darts have two legs and merge into a single point.
Double-pointed darts are “back-to-back” single-pointed darts. Picture the wide ends of two single-pointed darts butting against each other. Double-pointed darts look like diamonds.
The following darts and their locations are single-pointed darts.
Let’s look at the front bodice piece, start from the open dart, and move clockwise.
- Side dart: This is the open dart and perhaps the most common bust dart you’ll see.
- Armscye dart
- Shoulder-tip dart
- Mid-shoulder dart
- Front dart
- Neckline dart
- Center-front neck dart
- Center-front dart: This sometimes is at bust level, perpendicular to the center-front pattern piece edge.
- Waist dart
- French dart: It’s a combo of a bust dart and waist dart, and it may be curved (ooh la la).
Now let’s look at the back bodice piece, moving clockwise from the open dart.
- Shoulder dart: This is the open dart, and it points to the high point of the back of the shoulder/blade.
- Outer-shoulder dart
- Back armscye dart
- Back waist dart
- Back neckline dart
There’s not a diagram for it, but you may also find single-pointed darts shaping the front and back waist of a skirt and pants.
And, if you notice the side seam of a skirt or pants pattern piece curves from the waist to the hip… well, that curve is actually a dart without fabric intake.
Think about it: If the front and back pattern pieces didn’t have side seams, there’d be a need for a waist dart at the side to properly curve fabric around the body.
Here’s an illustration of a double-pointed dart, also called a contour or fisheye dart.
Contour darts take the place of waist darts — waist darts in the bodice and waist darts in the lower half of a garment (skirt, pants).
You’ll most often find contour darts in garments without a waist seam.
Dart Sewing Techniques and Tips
Sewing darts is an essential skill in garment construction, and it’s important to get it right to achieve a professional finish.
Here are some tips and techniques to help you sew darts with ease.
Before sewing a dart, transfer all pattern markings to the wrong side of your fashion fabric. You can do this with a fabric marking tool or by using tailor’s tacks.
I also recommend marking the center of the dart with a line (that bisects the dart). To find the center, touch the start of the dart legs together and make a little crease in the dart root. Mark the crease. Draw a line from this mark to the dart point.
This line will become a fold line. (Speaking of…)
Fold the Dart in Half
Fold the dart in half (right sides together) on its center line and pin in place. To check dart leg alignment, pin on the dart leg (line) on one side and check the other side of the dart to make sure the pins poke through the opposite dart leg. Adjust as needed.
Baste the dart in place with thread or pins.
Set Stitch Type and Stitch Length
Use a straight stitch.
Stitch length for sewing darts will vary depending on the fabric weight. For lightweight fabrics, use a shorter stitch length of around 1.5 mm to 2 mm. For heavier fabrics, use a longer stitch length of around 3 mm to 3.5 mm.
Sew the Dart
To sew a dart, start at the widest part of the dart, backstitch, and sew towards the point. You may shorten the stitch as you approach the dart point.
Once you reach the point, stitch off the edge of the fabric and tie off the thread. Do not backstitch, because backstitching can leave an unsightly bump at the point.
I use a slightly different technique so I don’t have to tie off the thread.
I sew off the edge of the fabric at the dart point. Then I lift the needle. Then I pull the garment out from under the needle and pull out about 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cm).
Next I reposition the dart intake under the needle and drop it into the fabric. I take 1-2 stitches and backstitch.
➡️ How to Sew Darts in Lightweight Fabric
When working with lightweight fabrics, it’s important to be gentle to avoid stretching the fabric. Use a shorter stitch length and reduce the tension on your sewing machine to prevent puckering.
Consider using a stabilizer such as tissue paper or lightweight interfacing to prevent the fabric from shifting while sewing.
➡️ How to Sew Darts in Heavyweight Fabric
When working with heavyweight fabrics, you’ll need to adjust your sewing machine settings accordingly. Use a longer stitch length and increase the tension to ensure that the stitches don’t get lost in the fabric.
You may also need to use a heavier needle to penetrate the fabric, and you can try using a hammer or mallet to flatten the dart after sewing.
After you’re done sewing darts in a heavy fabric, you may want to cut the dart intake (on the wrong side) in half and then press. This reduces bulk.
➡️ How to Sew a Contour (Double-Pointed) Dart
Here’s how to sew fisheye darts.
1.) Transfer pattern markings to the wrong side of the fashion fabric, including a center line that runs from dart point to dart point.
2.) Fold the dart in half on the center line (wrong sides together).
3.) Sew one dart from the widest point to the dart point. Secure the stitching at the dart point.
4.) Sew the other set of dart legs, starting again at the widest point of the dart and ending at the opposite dart point. Secure the stitching at the point.
5.) At the widest point of the darts (the middle of the “diamond”), clip the fabric to within ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) of the stitching line. Press the dart flat using a tailor’s ham.
➡️ How to Sew a Curved Dart
Try this on a curved French dart.
1.) Transfer pattern markings to the wrong side of the fashion fabric, including a center line that bisects the dart from the dart point to the dart root.
2.) Staystitch about ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) from the marked seam lines, following the curve of the seam lines. Stop stitching about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the dart point.
3.) Slash the dart intake on the center line to the intersection of the staystitching (1 inch below the dart point).
4.) Bring the right sides of the dart together (use the staystitching for alignment).
5.) Starting from the wide end, sew toward the dart point. Secure the stitching.
6.) Clip seam allowances to let the dart curve smoothly. Press using a tailor’s ham.
Prevent Dart Point Puckers
To prevent a pucker at the point of a dart, use a tailor’s ham to encourage a curve in the fabric.
You can also try clipping the excess fabric at the point of the dart to reduce bulk.
Other fixes include:
- Reducing the tension on your sewing machine
- Using a smaller stitch length
- Gently pulling the fabric taut as you sew towards the point
Press the Dart
After sewing a dart, it is essential to press it for a professional finish. Use a tailor’s ham to press the dart flat and in the desired direction.
Darts that go up and down usually are pressed to the center front or center back. Darts that go side to side usually are pressed down toward the hem.
Final Thoughts on Sewing Darts
Woo hoo, you now have a better understanding of the different types of darts in sewing and how to best execute them.
Mastering dart construction takes practice, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new dart techniques.
Over to you, sewing friends: What’s your best tip for sewing darts? Please leave a comment. Thanks for reading.