Pop Quiz: How to shorten a dart? pt.2

I thought the previous entry would be an open and shut case, silly me. It wasn’t a trick question but we did get off track a bit (that’s not a complaint). The proposition was simple -how to shorten a dart- but we stepped off into whether it should be shortened, other associated fit problems etc., all topics worthy of exploring. I propose we analyze comments in two parts -as best as we are able. First up, how to shorten a dart. Second part, alternative proposals and all the other fun what-ifs we love to debate. Game?

Part one: original context of how to shorten a dart.
If we were giving out prizes -in this admittedly narrow context- those would go to CLF, Lauren, D Scheidt, dosfashionistas, Anne, Lisa, Donna, Paula (who said she agreed with Mimi but whose illustration was like the above) and Yvonne. Bonus points to everybody who mentioned you needed to prove the altered dart by truing it to the waistline seam. Don’t do that and I’ll skin you alive. That doesn’t mean everybody else is wrong but I’ll get to that.

The only difference between what everyone else said and the way I do it is that I work from nett. Before shortening the dart, I’d draw in the finished sewn dimensions of the dart (which finishes 1/2″ beyond the punch end), from there draw a vertical line midway between the two legs, shorten it the proscribed amount and then come back another half inch for the punch hole dart end. Not doing it from nett will probably work 90% of the time but doing it from nett will always work. It is just a good work habit to develop.

The original bone of contention was a book in which the new edition said to shorten darts like this (left) versus its earlier edition which said to shorten darts as it’s done on the right. I still think that in most cases, the right side is the better way so I was puzzled that the book would take what I felt was a step backwards. Just my opinion.

Alternative proposals:
shorten_dart_popquiz_pt2bThe detractors of this method were Mimi and Karen with Patsijean and Barb in classes all their own. Mimi et al say to shorten darts as shown on the right (“new dart end”). I can see cases in which I might do it this way but it wouldn’t be often. If I were shortening the dart before splitting the front for a princess seam, I would do it Mimi’s way because I’d want to keep that line. Otherwise, you’re changing the angle and the point at which the dart ends which may or may not affect the fit. It depends on how tightly it’s fitted to the body and weight of fabrication.

That said, I’ve always believed it is possible to change the end point of a dart within an as yet undetermined radius of its original point but I’d be lying if I said I knew where the safety zone lay but Mimi’s is probably well within it. The reason I wouldn’t use this as a matter of course -other than the risk of changing the dart direction- is because one of those dart legs has increased in length disproportionate to the other and it’ll take some fiddling to get the lengths to match up again. If it’s a loose fit, it’s not a problem to true it by whacking off a bit of the longer dart leg at the waist or lengthening the shorter leg to match (which also changes the dart end point again). If it’s a tighter fit or in heavier goods, who can say? It’s too simplistic to say only one of the two ways works, it depends on the project, fit and silhouette.

Switching gears, Ingrid brought up an interesting point that Barb’s solution may solve. I haven’t ever tried this but it’s interesting. It’s a provocative idea. Try it Ingrid and let us know how it works. I think Patsijean’s idea is a variation of the same theme.

It is possible that a shortened dart could release too much fabric at the end of the dart and puckering would result. I would think that two shortened, but smaller, darts might work better.

For a more fitted look, two 1950’s era (that’s not an insult) short darts could work but for a classy look in drapey goods, each of the two darts may need to be narrowed as per Barb’s suggestion. Any comers on this theory? Another alternative is to make the two darts into tucks.

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    The inherent inaccuracy of the left hand method leaves me speechless. That this was in a textbook just floors me. There was much discussion in the first part of this about the danger of the garment not fitting properly if one is not careful in changing darts. I can think of nothing more likely to make a garment fit poorly than changing the orientation of the dart so that it no longer points to the apex of the bust.

    I am going to go off to my rocking chair and mumble about the younger generation now……How will the poor dears learn properly if their teachers don’t know?

  2. clf says:

    I consider it a given that one would true the waistline seam after shortening a dart. I guess I’ll be more precise with my response next time.

    We are talking about lowering a dart, not brain surgery. This is a fairly common problem. You make a dart, at fitting you find out it’s too long, and therefore you need to shorten it. No big whoop.

    Why make things harder than they need to be? The solution deemed correct by Kathleen is also the most elegant solution (elegant as in pleasingly ingenious and simple). As far as the two darts go, that seems to be a a whole different topic. The original question was how do you lower *a* dart.

  3. Ohhh you’re going to hate me, but ….

    If I find a dart is too long it means only one of two things. Firstly the lady has changed her bra between fitting 1 and fitting 2 … or secondly I measured poorly. If a dart appears too long but in all other respects seems to fit well, then I measured the bust line too low to begin with and means I should go back to revisit my block (sloper to you Americans :-) ) or pattern and reposition the bust line. Too simply shorten the dart on an otherwise great fitting item will change the fit at the sideseam … you really do have to 3D visualise here.

    Of course bringing the dart back from bust point to remove the apex on stitching is a seperate issue and I’m a traditionalist (eg, the right hand side). We just need to be clear on why the dart is high in the first place!

  4. clf says:

    Pardon? “…to remove the apex”? Sounds like a mastectomy. Perhaps google has an Aussie pattern drafting translator for us Americans. Because without an apex there is no need for a dart.

    I don’t know why people are obsessing on imaginary, ginormous, low-hanging fruit The question was simply: How do you shorten a dart? Kathleen asked a mechanics of pattern drafting question, not a fitting issues question.

  5. Hi clf, the apex is the natural top of a dart on a block/sloper … this is usually pulled back later at the pattern stage. Nothing unusual there. Some people will pull back the dart when making a toile but most custom dressmakers will do this only on the final garment as they want to check whether their dart is correctly positioned on the bustline first … this is really essential if you find you’re constantly adjusting dart lengths … usually there’s a reason for it … and I don’t know about you personally, but if I’ve made a mistake then I like to know rather than just tweak something to fit and ignore it.

    “The question was simply: How do you shorten a dart? Kathleen asked a mechanics of pattern drafting question, not a fitting issues question”

    I do believe mine was indeed a response on correct pattern making procedure rather than fitting and was not directed at any particular bust dimension or cup size (not sure why you made the comment). Again not sure about your background but I can’t forget my old college “custom fit” tutorials where we had to make garments to fit each other and the lecturer insisted we get bust dart positions correct on the toille before we pulled them back on the final. Maybe I didn’t explain myself clearly perhaps … sorry if thats the case ???

  6. Paula says:

    I did realize later that I had gotten Mimi’s and D. Scheit’s postings mixed up and I was, in fact, meaning D. Scheit’s. Looks like it’s a good thing I have “Paint” on my system!

  7. Donna S says:

    There is nothing wrong with taking the original instructions at the literal level and just addressing a shortened dart. But I would also want to know why I am shortening the dart which leads to discussion about fit. It is all too easy to assume the obvious. Someone new to pattern making might be totally perplexed about the process and I would cheer them on if they went beyond the original instructions and asked why. At least I would know they were thinking.

  8. Marie-Christine says:

    Of course the old edition is a much better general solution. But let me point out that the new edition would work better if you have one side of the dart that’s along the grainline. Then it’d definitely be desirable to leave the grain side in its place. That is also I think what Kathleen says about princess seams..

  9. Kathleen says:

    I enjoy it when topics in comments veer a bit off topic. I take a lot of what I know for granted and I can’t effectively address future topics unless I have an idea of the knowledge base. In this particular entry, I recognized that fitting was an issue and had broken the topic into two parts. One being the mechanics and the other, alternative solutions that may help with fitting in other circumstances. It’s true the latter wasn’t comprehensive or well developed but I didn’t feel I really needed to because well, that’s why we have a comment feature. I don’t know what people don’t know and if I close that door, I’ll never learn anything. Sometimes comments diverge so drastically from the entry the entry isn’t about the topic anymore. Most notable are some threads about appliance repair -and for which I’m mostly to blame.

    Or I should say I usually enjoy it when topics veer. There are occasions I enjoy less when the convo is hijacked discussing peripheral elements that are symptomatic of the central problem -the point of which I’m trying to develop- and not its cause.

  10. Karen says:

    This has all been very interesting. The way it is done on the left is almost the exact picture in a text book I have called the “Practical dress design” by erwin published in 1954. the previous editions were printed in 1933 and 1940. My newer book has the dart dropping like the right drawing.

  11. clf says:

    Hi Stuart-

    I think we’re having a case of Two Nations Separated By a Common Language. (For example, you guys say “spots” and we say “polka dots.” Btw, by pulling the dart, I’m guessing you mean shortening it. For some reason I keep getting visions of a taffy dart.) The apex is simply the highest point, and it’s the reason the dart exists in the first place. I just have no idea what you mean by “removing the apex.” One cannot remove the apex. One may have miscalculated where the apex is on a dress form or fitting model/client and therefore one may need to re-mark the apex on a muslin or pattern. But the only person who should be removing the apex is a surgeon—and then only when absolutely necessary! :)

    I am not implying that you do not know what you are doing or that you are incorrect. I am simply saying I don’t understand your language.

    My remark about fruit was in response to the comments in Part 1 of this topic.

    I think sometimes people make things more complicated than they need to be. Obviously if you need to lower your dart 2-3 inches, then yeah, you’ve got some serious fitting issues. But sometimes you need to lower it just a teensy bit for less nefarious reasons.

    I do believe it’s a always a good idea to check one’s original work to find out why something isn’t working. But goshdarnit, sometimes you just need to lower a dart and it ain’t all that, Peeps! ;)

  12. Ingrid says:

    Thanks, Kathleen. I will try Barb’s solution and see what happens. Stuart thanks for your posts as well. I understood what you said about pulling the dart back from the apex later in the patternmaking stage; a dart shouldn’t stop at the apex. And I think it’s a great idea to double check initial measurements. I’ll try that too to see if it solves my excess fabric problem when shortening a dart. I’m perplexed about why this discussion shouldn’t have wandered into fitting issues along with the patternmaking and I’m glad it did. I don’t see how you can discuss one without the other. Sure you can move lines around on a pattern, but if it doesn’t fit, what’s the point?

  13. Mimi says:

    Chiming in again to clarify – a bit late – but the reason for my solution (left) is because I always try to avoid doing anything that might change the distance to center front, which I don’t want to mess with… What I forgot to add, though, is that my solution is what I would do to correct the PATTERN, assuming I am not correcting the actual garment, since the legs of the dart would obviously be different lengths, which could be a small (or a big) problem. Yes, I would need to accommodate the change after shortening the CF side of the dart. When I drape a garment on the form, the “swing” of the dart happens on the side seam side of the dart, not the CF side, so shortening the dart only on the CF side would always require some change (whether major or minor) to the SS side. I could fudge it depending on the degree of change and fabrication, but it would definitely be a cheat.

  14. marta says:

    I need to know how many darts can a fitting take. I am draping and I am trying to fit the material to my body shape. however, I see that I need at least 3 darts. is this correct? or I am doing something wrong. please advise.

  15. Donna S says:

    One of my instructors always cut every garment with a seam at center back so she could get the added benefit of shaping a “third” dart for the ultimate fit. It worked and her garments looked great. Convention does not make something “right”.

  16. Kathleen says:

    Marta, it isn’t possible to answer this question without a photo of the drape, a sketch for comparison and an idea of how closely you want the garment to fit. Be wary of over fitting.

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