A tutorial: How to add dart shaping


Welcome back to my latest addition to the blog: The Skirt Series. In yesterday's tutorial, I showed you how to draft a skirt block.


At this stage the pattern is drafted, but it is not yet complete. There are still two things to do before we can go ahead and make a toile - we need to add dart shaping and then add seam allowance. I will cover dart shaping in today's post and then next week I'll get to adding seam allowance.

What is a dart?

Essentially, pattern drafting is the act of making something two dimensional (the fabric) fit around something three dimensional (the body). Darts are a way of doing this and are most commonly used to create shape around areas of the body that are curved - the bust, shoulders, elbows and waist, but can be used pretty much anywhere - whether purely for fit, or also as a design detail.

What is dart shaping and why do I need to think about it?


You may have put a dart in something before and noticed that the dart has changed the shape of the seam that it lies on and is no longer the smooth line it once was. In the example, I have folded the dart, and it has caused the waistline to become very sharp and angular. This is because we have lost 3cm to the dart, which is what gave us our nice smooth curve.


To prevent this from happening, you need to add dart shaping. This will ensure that once your dart is sewn in your waistline (or which ever seam your dart is located) it will remain a smooth line.

Let's get drafting!

Take one piece of your skirt (I will be starting with the front), or any other pattern piece that you are working on, that has a dart. Your pattern should still be on a larger piece of paper (not yet cut out).


You will need to fold the dart, so you can predict what will happen when you sew the dart when you get to making it up in fabric. Think about which direction the fullness of your dart will be pressed once it is sewn, this will decide which dart arm you need to fold.

Generally vertical darts are pressed towards the centre front (in the case of front darts) and the centre back (in the case of back darts). It seems reviews can be mixed when it comes to more horizontal darts, but I tend to push mine up up.

Fold along Dart arm # 2, down to the dart point, being careful to fold right on the line, to make a crease.


Working with darts on a flat surface can be difficult so move over to the corner of your table (hopefully you have a square or rectangular table like me, otherwise a big book will do the trick), placing the point of your dart on top of the corner of the table.


Fold the dart, by placing Dart arm # 2 on top of Dart arm # 1 (this is when that crease comes in handy). You will quickly see that it is much easier to get the dart to sit flat when it is sitting on a corner.

You will see that your seam would look like if you were to sew it without adding dart shaping. Not great, right?


Use a weight to keep your pattern in place on the corner and then take a ruler and pencil and redraw the waistline with a nice smooth curve.


Take your tracing wheel and trace along your new seam line - particularly focusing on where the dart is folded (go over this area a couple of times to ensure the markings transfer through the fold).


Unfold the dart and you will see the markings transferred from the tracing wheel.


Take a ruler and join the dots to form a nice smooth line.

And there you have it, a dart with shaping!

I must say that this little tip is one of my favourites. Do you have a favourite pattern cutting technique?

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