Saturday, 5 September 2009

All about dress darts

I should have taken my mother's advice all those years ago and made my way to art school. Not for painting and drawing because that frustrates me, but to design, because of all my sewing and crafting pursuits, it's the conundrums and solutions that please me the most. The working out of the workings. I find it absolutely fascinating!

So ... I printed out my free V&A pattern for the gorgeous dress in the last post, pasted it all together, and cut it out...

Then pinned it to a finely adjusted Madge

Looks good doesn't it?
Now Madge, give us a twirl!

.... Houston, we have a problem! .... can you see?

Not only is the armhole far too big, but the back sections of the pattern are a) back to front, b) too big by a long way (I mean a very very long way, not just the usual discrepancy between dress form and body) and c) the instructions don't make much sense...

So.. back to the drawing board, and this is the bit I really really like.

First thing to work out after drawing a new block, is where exactly the darts are? The front bodice is made up of only 3 sections with only 2 miniscule bust darts in the top middle section, under the bust. The rest - and there must be more to acheive the perfectly contoured shape, are hidden. I knew that there must be closed darts involved, but in order for darts to be closed, other darts must be made - and then either closed again or hidden in seams. Think of shuffling orange segments when one is missing - another always takes it's place. Where are they?

I won't bore you with the details of the very circuitous cutting and pasting (think Blue Peter) route which led me to the conclusion that what we have here, is infact, a French Dart.

A French dart combines shoulder and waist darts and I could have avoided hours of snipping and sellotaping by following three simple steps 1) Close the shoulder dart of the block forming a wide dart under the bust 2) cut the sleeve, neck and waist portions along the chosen lines of the pattern 3) close the waist dart and trace each piece with the darts closed (except the two bust darts which must be left). The darts then become integrated within the cut, and all you will see in the finished dress, are beautiful smooth pieces of fabric.

Having taken the long route round, I understand the shortcuts much better than I would have done. Which is nice.


  1. It looks very promising Julia , I love the bodice shape . I think that will be very flattering.

  2. Your solutions are very, very clever. I always enjoy process more than product too.

  3. You and your enthusiasm are very tiring, you know.

  4. Good Lord. I'd have given up and sulked long before working that one out!

  5. good grief! I think Dottie Cookie said what I was going to say!

    Im looking forward to seeing this progress.


  6. Blimey Julia you're good. You should keep a diary of your sewing exploits and get it published for all us novices.
    twiggy x

  7. Holy smokes! And here I was thinking I might actually try that dress some day - obviously not before I get a dress form. So this is a big flaw in the pattern essentially and would presumably affect everyone, no matter their shape?

  8. Wow that French dart is all Dutch to me. I admire your tenacity and I'll go put on a T shirt. Seriously, the dress will be fabulous. I love the 50's style

  9. You are too clever... I'd have given up long ago. (which is probably why I don't do much dressmaking!)

  10. You've got such an amazing understanding for how clothes go together! I've got to take in 2 pairs of trousers just a smidge for my DD1 and I'm petrified!

  11. Such fun having a behind the scenes look at your work, Julia...Love the creative fire being stoked here! :o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

  12. How disappointing! I think I recognise the pages of a certain book I used to know off by heart. Your version looks good so far, the fathoming out problems is the fun part isn't it.
    Best of luck for the next stage.