i wish i could go back and teach my former self some of the sewing tips i know now. i hated marking and sewing darts with a passion. okay i still don't like marking pens or transfer paper. they never feel quite accurate enough (not that i'm the most accurate or anything) and they aren't easy enough to see and then i'm never 100% sure the markings will come off the fabric when i want them to. ugh.
enter masking tape. i had some masking tape nearby that i was using when altering a pattern and piecing it back together. so i decided it would be helpful for marking the fabric too. it's visible, it stays put when you need it to and it comes off easily.
*you'll want to test your tape on some scrap fabric to make sure you're happy with how it comes off. you'll be taping to the wrong side of the fabric, so i haven't had any problems with the tape messing up the fabric, but you may not want to use this on your $60 a yard silk. (are any of you sewing with $60 a yard silk? if so, bravo!!) you could also try a less-sticky painters tape. i've just been using run of the mill masking tape.
i use masking tape on all my darts now. when you're cutting your fabric, make two cuts at the base points of your dart. then i like to use bright thread and make a tailor's tack at the top point of the dart (google sewing tailor's tacks for a tutorial - or let me know and i can expound on that)
if you're doing a fish eye dart (shaped like a diamond), i use 4 tailor's tacks because you can't cut notches in your fabric there
fold your fabric and line up your two cuts (aka notches) for the base of the dart. hold tailor's tack so you get a nice even fold along the center line of the dart. press flat with your iron.
you're going to be stitching from the widest point down to the smallest point, and i like my tape the the left of my needle so think about that when you're putting your tape down. the photos below should help make that more clear. you only need to put tape along one side of the dart, the side that will be facing upward when you're stitching.
stick one end of the tape down right at the outside of your notches, pull the tape taut and angle toward your tailor's tack. once you have the correct angle, flatten the tape to your fabric. pull it off and try again if it isn't quite right the first time, no harm done.
i like to fold over the end of the tape at the base of the dart so it holds both sides of the fabric together. at the point of your dart, where your tailor's tack is, i like to fold the tape over into a right angle that points at the end of the dart. here's what it looks like:
line up your fabric so that your needle goes down right next to the edge of the masking tape. remember to start at the wider part of your dart and sew down to the point. (for a fish eye dart start at the middle and sew to one point and the go back to the middle and sew to the other point.) use your hand crank to lower the needle and get right up next to the tape.
you'll sew all the way down to your tailor's tack and then stop. (i've heard some people like to decrease their stitch length in the last half inch or so before the end point to make it more secure) i usually just knot it off.
here's what it looks like sewn up. (i really tried to take good photos, but my camera's nothing fancy.)
peel off your tape.
remove your tailor's tack, tie at knot at your dart end point, and clip your thread ends.
ta-da, a dart that's super straight and not headache inducing.
here's the dart with the fabric opened out flat.
give it a good press. (yeah my iron is cheap-o, but it's still alive and kickin) i like to press darts in the opposite direction first and then press them back down the way they go (i read that somewhere) vertical darts face toward the inside of the garment and horizontal darts face downward after pressing.
and we're done!
there's my dart. nice and neat. hope this helps someone out there who is frustrated by marking darts as much as i was! i don't plan on writing a lot of tutorials because there are already so many great ones out there. just thought i'd share this trick. actually searching for sewing tutorials is how i found the online sewing blogging community, and then started my own blog. you have helped me immensely, through your tutorials, inspiration and support and i hope i can help others out as well.
masking tape is my BFF