I’ve been sewing darts the same way all my life, the way Mrs. Melford taught us in 7th grade home economics. Pin, matching the markings, stitch from the widest edge towards the narrow, running the seam off the edge. Then tying off the threads in a knot to prevent creating a dart “bump” at the point.
While browsing through the archived sewing manuals today, I found information in this Simplicity sewing booklet from 1962 that offered a way of constructing darts I’ve never seen before. To quote from the section on darts:
"The 1-thread method of stitching darts. This method leaves no thread ends to be secured at the dart point. It makes a smoother point and is especially good for outside darts such as are often used at the skirt waistline."
The instructions on this “1-thread method” were straightforward, but without any illustrations of the steps. After test driving the technique a couple of times, I put together this tutorial to share.
A few notes before we get under way:
- It’s a bit fiddly, and requires a few more extra steps than the traditional method. However, it does produce the smoothest, most beautiful dart that I’ve seen. It is now my go-to method of sewing darts!
- I tried this technique both by just pinning, and by basting. The pins really get in the way and make sewing a lot harder. Basting is an extra step – but makes this technique so much easier to do. (And really . . how long does it take to baste a dart!)
- I have only tested this technique on my sewing machine – a Bernina 1080. It worked perfectly with some careful set up. I don’t know if it will work on other makes or models – but I would LOVE to hear from others in the comment section who have tried this on their machine either successfully or not.
- And — an advance apology for how grubby my machine looks in the close up photos. I promise – I have cleaned it since doing the photo shoot – so try not to judge me too harshly — I had no idea until I saw the pictures that it was well over-due for some TLC!
For this tutorial I cut a blouse front from muslin, and added the markings with a black fabric pen to provide high contrast in the pictures.
I used two colors of thread — light blue in the bobbin and black for the needle — so that it is clear which thread is doing what.
On the wrong side, mark the dart placement on your pattern piece, using your preferred method. (Chalk is great — Tailor tacks even better!)
With right sides together, base through the dart markings, making sure to match the lines. Start at the wide end and work towards the point. Do not tie off the basting thread at the point end – just leave a couple of inches of thread.
Pull out enough bobbin thread from the machine to equal twice the length of the dart plus about 3 – 4 inches more.
Unthread the needle of the machine, but leave the rest of the machine threaded up for sewing.
Thread the end of the bobbin thread through the needle in reverse of the way it is normally threaded. For my machine this has the bobbin thread coming through the needle back to front. Depending on your machine, it may be different. (Watch out for the killer dust bunnies!)
AFTER the needle is threaded with the bobbin thread, tie the bobbin thread and the spool thread together. Tug on the threads to tighten the knot and get it as small as possible. (Light blue thread threaded through the needle from the bobbin, black thread from the spool — still threaded through the machine)
Carefully and slowly so as not to tangle the thread, or form any other knots, turn the spool, until the knot clears the thread path and the slack winds back up on the spool. (You should have plenty of bobbin thread to sew the dart before the knot is pulled back into the thread path.)
Tug on the loop of thread that is feeding out of the bobbin and (now) through the needle, to give yourself a little bit of slack to get your material under the presser foot. Draw the loop back behind the presser foot to get it out of the way.
Place the dart point under the presser foot, and hand turn the needle so that it enters the fabric at the end of the dart point. (Note bobbin thread loop behind presser foot). Lower the presser foot, and hand turn three stitches forward. Place your machine in reverse, and hand turn three stitches back, then in forward, and hand turn again three stitches to complete locking the seam.
Sew forward as usual to the wide end of the dart, and back stitch at the end. Clip threads and remove from machine. Remove the basting thread.
Here is a photo of the finished dart before pressing, and after trimming the threads and removing the basting. It is amazingly flat and with no lumpy point, and no threads hanging off the point to knot or leave inside the garment.
The same dart after being pressed downward. Doesn’t it look lovely?
Here’s a picture of the outside after being pressed over a tailor ham. I’ve increased the contrast by quite a lot, and pushed the bust point up sharply, so you can see it a bit more clearly. (In real life it doesn’t point up at all) No dart “bump” – and the dart itself would be virtually invisible if the ink markings weren’t showing through the fabric.
I will definitely be using this for all my future dart sewing. I haven’t tried it on fish-eye darts, or curved darts – but I’m suspecting that it will produce the same great results. Pin tucks might also benefit by being sewn this way.
Try this method out — I’d love to hear if it works for you.