18 September 2019

Five Tips for Sewing a Smooth Dart - With Video!

Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons

Show of hands - who's sewn a dart before? Whether you've sewn loads or are still to take that first step, there's always a new hint or tip to learn when it comes to sewing. It's Nikki here, Product Manager at Tilly and the Buttons and I'm here to share our favourite tricks on how to sew a smooth dart.

In addition to the info in this post, Jenny and I have also made a great video (if we do say so ourselves), included below, which shows you how to sew a single, straight dart - the same principles apply to most darts. The video shows these tips in action so make sure you check it out :)

So, what is a dart?

Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons

Darts are shapes of fabric (often triangle) sewn together to make a flat piece of fabric three-dimensional. They are one way of creating shape in a garment, and are often found near the bust, shoulder and waist on dresses, tops, skirts and more.

Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons
Tips for sewing a smooth dart - Tilly and the Buttons

There are several different types of dart. Single, straight darts are the most common type, and look like triangles wedges. Less common are curved darts, which are featured in the Orla blouse (green fabric above), and double-ended darts, which are darts with two points and can be found on shift dresses without a waist seam. You might also come across a French dart, which is a straight or curved dart which starts lower down a side seam and points upwards.

Before you start sewing the dart you need to make sure you've marked them onto the fabric. Check out our Jessa sewalong post if you need a few more tips on this.

Darts may seem a little tricky to sew, but the following tips will help you get a lovely finish. Whatever dart you're sewing will follow the same principles.

Right, let's dive into the tips!

1) Pin carefully

To give yourself the best chance of getting a smoothly sewn dart, make sure you pin it accurately and neatly. When pinning, pin exactly along the dart lines on both sides. Keep flipping the fabric over to check that the pins are in the correct place on the back and the front. If they're not in the right place, keep adjusting the dart until the pins are exactly on the lines on both sides.

If you're new to sewing darts, the type of fabric you're working with will have an impact on how the dart behaves. Sturdier fabrics like cotton and linen will be easier to handle and are much less likely to shift around on the machine. If you're sewing with something drapey like viscose, use more pins to stabilise the dart.

2) Pin strategically

When it comes to pinning your dart, insert the pins so they are pointing towards the raw edge. This will make it much easier to take them out as you sew, as you'll be sewing from the edge towards the tip.

If the piece of fabric is large, it's helpful to insert the pins with the dart on the right and most of the fabric on the left. That way the project can stay on the open side of the machine.

If you're sewing a double-ended dart, start at the centre and pin one half of the dart, then flip the fabric over vertically and repeat on the other half of the dart on the other side of the fabric.

Add an extra pin at the dart tip(s) at a right angle to the fabric fold. This is especially helpful as it makes it much easier to see the dart tip and gives you something to aim for when sewing. When you need to remove the pin, stop sewing, leave the needle down in the fabric and take it out very carefully, so you don't accidentally move the fabric.

3) Don't backtack at the dart tip

When sewing a dart, you only need to backtack when you start sewing at the widest part of the dart. This will be the raw edge on a single dart. If you're sewing a double-ended dart, start at the centre of the dart and sew to one of the tips. Start again at the centre of the dart, overlapping a few stitches to lock them in place, then sew to the other tip.

There are a couple of different ways to finish the tip of a dart, but this way is our favourite and gives a lovely, smooth finish. Sew from the raw edge (or centre of a double-ended dart) and, when the needle reaches about 5mm (1/4in) from the tip of the dart, shorten the stitch length to 1mm for the remaining stitches. What's the reason for this, you might ask? Good question, it's to help you...

4) Create a softly shaped tip

You don't want to backtack at the end of a dart point, as this has a tendency to make the tip bumpy and that is definitely something you'll want to avoid. Once you've changed the stitches to 1mm, pivot your stitching to the fold and sew the last few stitches along the very edge of the fabric. Try and sew as close to the edge as possible. When you reach the dart tip (the pin), sew off the edge of the fabric.

The short stitches won't unravel and replace the need to backtack or tie the ends together. The trick of sewing along the fold of the fabric for a few stitches helps to get a nice smooth finish and avoids a pointy Madonna vibe to your darts. Win win!

5) Press into place

Once you've sewn the dart, give it a good steamy press to smooth out the shape. If the dart is at the bust or other curve, you'll want to press it over a curved shape - a tailor's ham or rolled-up towel will help get a good result here.

I hope you've enjoyed our tips for sewing a smooth dart and have learnt some nifty new tricks. As darts are so small you can always practise on some scrap pieces of fabric before you move on to sewing the real thing. Either way, you're going to do great :)

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