Darts anyone?

Ok, not the pointy, throwing, game based Darts but if you have been sewing for more than 5 minutes, you will know what a dart is. If you have just started you soon will know what a dart is! The vast majority of sewing patterns rely on some form of dart to add shape to the fabric. OK some garments do not have darts but here are a few tips of dealing with them when they inevitably appear.

What is a Dart?

A dart is a simple form of fabric manipulation. It transforms a 2D piece of cloth (as if by magic) into a 3D rendition. We are curvy but our fabric needs a little help to make it fit us well!

So with a dart, a small seam can transform the shape of any piece of fabric in a matter of seconds.

A dart can take many different shapes: The most common being straight, curved or fisheye (one with a point at each end).


The tip of a dart  always points to where the fabric is at its fullest (think bust/chest). The open end (or middle of a fisheye dart) acts to ‘lose’ fabric and therefore shrink the fabric and make it fit closer to the body.

I won’t discuss how to mark a dart on your fabric, as there are many ways and you will find the way to suit you. This post is about how to make a good one and possibly a better one, with methods you might not have seen before.

Standard Dart technique (any shape).

Mark the dart based upon the pattern you are following. Make sure to keep the markings clear and accurate.

Regardless of the type of dart you are sewing, fold the fabric RST and pin or baste carefully in place.

Start sewing from the widest part of the dart to the point. As you reach the tip of the dart, smooth the stitching line out and off the fabric. Don’t backstitch at the tip or you will end up with a lumpy/odd shaped dart tip!

Give the dart a press, firstly along the centre line, then in the direction your pattern suggests. Always press over a Ham and finally press from the right side of the fabric (use a press cloth) to shape the dart correctly. See I said it was easy!

If it is a double ended (fisheye) dart the start from the centre and sew to 1 point, then sew from the centre to the opposite point. (again not a difficult sewing task). So there we are, darts done…..Well not really: You might be happy but there are a few issues to consider.

The problems!

Whilst this method works, it does throw up a few issues.

  1. Firstly, you have to tie the loose ends of the dart points to keep them secure. Untwist, then tie a knot at the tip before trimming the thread ends away.

There is a simple solution to this, sometimes called the Couture Dart. This method uses only the bobbin thread on your machine. To set it up, unthread the top thread on your machine.

Pull the bobbin thread up and thread your machine backwards, so first the wrong way through your needle (remove it to make the job easier, or use tweezers) then pass the bobbin thread following the reverse path and through the tension mechanism. At this point, pull through thread at least TWICE as long as your dart.

With everything set up we can sew but start at the tip! Carefully, right on the point begin sewing down to the other end of the dart. Press everything as outlined above.

You will notice the thread forms its own loop at the tip so it does not need tying off. It also allows a little more movement at the tip so you will get a crisp, smooth point after pressing.

So whats wrong with the Couture Dart, I hear you ask? Well you have to re-thread the bobbin thread for every dart which is fiddly and time consuming!

2. The second problem (in both the ‘normal’ and ‘Couture’ methods) is the bulk on one side of the dart. After pressing your dart, you will have 3 layers of fabric on one side and a single layer on the other side of the dart centre line. In thicker fabrics especially, this can lead to a lumpy side and a step in the dart seam which will make the stitching obvious. Here I have rubbed chalk over the dart, on the right side, to show the raised edge and dart layers.

Again there is a solution and one that addresses both the tying off and lumpy-sided dart.


Balanced Darts.

This is my favourite method of sewing a dart and one I use in practically everything I make.

Begin by marking out your dart as you would normally. Then cut a piece of the same fabric, a little longer than the dart and at least 4x wider than the widest point along the dart. (A great way to use up the selvedges?) Here I am using a different coloured fabric for clarity.

Fold the dart as normal with RST and place the fabric ‘balance’ piece underneath. Ensure it extends past the stitching line by at least twice the dart width. The blue chalk line shows how far across the piece goes.

Now start sewing from the point but start on the ‘balance’ fabric. Here you can backstitch to secure. Run into the dart point and complete the dart.

If the dart is double ended then finish by running off the fabric into the ‘balance’ and backstitch to secure.

Press the dart along the fold and trim the balance piece flush with the dart folded edge being careful not to cut the dart.

Now press the dart open along the centre but with the dart going one way and the ‘balance’ fabric going the other.

Trim the under piece of ‘balance’ fabric to match the top piece (thereby making a mirror image of the dart.)

Finally press over a ham to finish. You will now have 3 layers of fabric on BOTH sides and you don’t have to tie a knot anywhere! If you now rub chalk along the dart you will see both sides are even, with a sharp point and more importantly there is no lumpy step. The stitching is practically invisible.

So a balanced dart has to be the best method? Surely? Well I know, on occasion, this method just won’t do (dart in a shirt or blouse?) but it will allow you to create and amazing invisible balanced dart that will lift any garment. The same principle can also be used on seams that are pressed over one side rather than being pressed open.


So how do you feel about darts? Have you ever tried the Couture method or tried the Balanced dart?


Until next time…..Happy Sewing!





3 thoughts on “Darts anyone?”

  1. I learned TWO new things today. Thank you for so clearly outlining these two dart strategies. If I can ask, where did you learn them yourself? I’m always eager to learn more about couture techniques.

  2. Very interesting. I make a lot of dresses from corduroy, and find the bulk unbalanced. So i’ll try the balanced method. I like the ends too. I’ve tried shortening stitches as I get closer to the point, but I’m still not happy with how they look tied off. Thank you for this!

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