26 November 2014

#SewingFrancoise: Sew the Darts

Sewing the Francoise dress? Today we’re going to sew the darts.

Darts are folds of fabric (often triangular- or diamond-shaped or a variation thereof) stitched down to shape a garment around your curves. The Francoise dress is great for practising sewing darts as it features no less than three different types – classic triangular-shaped bust darts; long diagonal French darts at the waist with a curved tip; and double-ended back darts.

Your darts should be marked on the wrong side of your fabric when you cut out your fabric. I like to also mark in the central line of each dart, as I find it easier to see where exactly to fold the fabric.

Let’s start with the bust darts on the front dress. You can do each pair of darts at the same time. Fold the fabric right sides together, bringing the dart lines (called the legs) directly on top of each other. Pin them together along the lines, with the tips of the pins pointing towards the edge of the fabric. Check that the pins are lined up with both dart legs on either side of the fabric - if they're not, try refolding the dart. Once the lines are lined up and pinned nicely, press the fold with an iron.

Stitch the lines of each dart together – start from the edge of the fabric, back tack (reverse stitch a couple of stitches) near the edge and sew to the tip of the dart, removing each pin just before the needle gets to it. Don’t back tack at the tip or it can cause an unsightly lump! Leave a couple of inches of thread and tie the threads in a tight double knot by hand. Alternatively, you can sew the last few stitches with a 1mm stitch length – the theory being that a tighter stitch is less likely to unravel so you won’t need to knot the threads.

Now you can press the darts downwards, on both wrong and right sides of the fabric. Placing a tailor’s ham or a rolled up towel under the dart while pressing and using plenty of steam (if your fabric can take it) will help you mould it into a nice curved shape.

Okay, let’s do the waist darts now – the long diagonal French darts on the front dress. Fold, pin and press the waist darts in the same way as you did the bust darts. There will be a weird sticky-out bit at the bottom like in this photo (above) - yes, it's meant to look like that! ;) Start stitching from the top point (notice that the top is gently curved, not straight) towards the bottom, tying the threads at each end by hand rather than back tacking (or sewing each end with a 1mm stitch length). If your fabric is fairly bulky, you can trim off some of the seam allowance of the dart – otherwise you may find it neater to leave the fold intact.

Press the waist darts towards the centre. The funny-shaped sticky-out bit should line up neatly with the side seam. Stay stitch across the bottom of the waist dart, by sewing a few stitches across the bottom flap, 10mm (3/8 in) from the raw edge. This will help keep it in place so we don’t accidentally fold it the wrong way when sewing the side seams.

Just the double-pointed darts on the back dress left to do. Fold, pin and press the back darts the same way you did the other darts. Stitch from the centre of the dart towards one tip, tying the threads at the tip together by hand. Now sew from the centre to the other tip, tying the end threads together by hand. You can also sew the centre threads to each other to stop them unravelling. Press the back darts towards the centre of the dress.

And finally, since there's always more than one way of doing the same thing, here are a few different dart-sewing techniques you might be interested to try. You’re welcome!

In the next post, I’ll show you how to sew the yoke and finish the armholes on the sleeveless version of the Francoise dress. And we’ll do the sleeves on the sleeved version after that…