Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Mammoth Dart


It's interesting that I often get questions from folks who sew for the uber busty more than I get questions from the uber busty. I guess the uber busty learn to deal with it, and move on. :)

I recently received a question from an expert sewist who was sewing for her uber busty daughter and struggling with the mammoth dart. I'm not talking about those darts where the legs are maybe half an inch apart. I'm talking about darts where the legs are 2" or 3" apart. This sewist was asking me how to sew such a dart so that you don't get a "point" at the end of it.

I hate that point. Hate hate hate. And I don't know about you, but my uber bust lacks sharp points, so a dart that ends in a point is to be avoided at all costs.

There are several ways to deal with a large dart. All are valid and you can play around to find the approach you like best for your particular project.

  • Convert the mammoth dart to a seam, for example a princess seam. A princess seam goes through the bust point. It can go from the bottom seam/hem to the armscye, from the bottom seam/hem to the shoulder (I recollect this is called a military princess seam), from the side seam to the armscye, and so on. This is really not that hard to do, but I won't cover the "how to" in this post. (I googled and found a Burdastyle pictorial, Change darts to Princess seams, showing how to do this with a sloper, but the approach is the same for a garment.)
  • Convert the single mammoth dart to two or three smaller darts. This is also quite easy to do using slice and slide. (There might be a better term for this, but it is descriptive of how I do it.) For example, convert the large dart to one that goes to the side seam and another that goes to the armscye. Or maybe put two darts at the side seam, but one heads towards the hem, in what is called a French Dart, and the other ends higher up, maybe towards the waist. Note that angled darts create a more flattering line than a strictly horizontal dart.
  • Use some shaping when sewing and pressing the dart. This may not always work to your satisfaction, but is most successful when you are using a print or a textured fabric that will help camouflage the dart.

For this post I want to talk about the third approach. There are several aspects to sewing a dart, which is a big reason I sew my darts at the end of constructing a garment. I pin the darts right on my body. That is not always possible, for example if you are sewing for someone who is not geographically available, but it really works the best.

First, you must consider the length of the dart, and this relates to the shape of the bust. A full, rounded bust, like mine, requires a shorter dart. A less rounded bust (does anyone with an uber bust really have a cone shaped breast?) requires a longer dart. But never do you want to sew the dart all the way to the bust point, at the fullest part of the bust. It should end before that point. In my case, maybe 2 or more inches before. In the less busty, maybe an inch before.

Secondly, I don't sew the bust dart in a straight line, though it is always drafted with a straight line on the pattern. Again, if the breast has a more conical shape, this is fine. But for me, a gently concave (or is it convex?) curve works best. Again, if you can pin it on the body, it's easy to achieve the correct shape.

Next, and possibly most importantly, as you are sewing the dart, start from the legs and sew towards the point. However, as you near the point, approach it gently. Ease into it. Think of a beach where you can easily walk far into the water, rather than one that drops off sharply. It's almost impossible to accomplish this if you start sewing from the point.

Finally, press the finished dart flat (do not press all the way to the point or you will create a crease) and then press the garment opened flat, over a ham. This is an important step, so if you do not own a pressing ham, treat yourself and get one from Stitch Nerd (scroll down in the post). Note that her regular ham is on the smallish size. For the uber busty, you might want her larger sized ham.

Lay the garment opened flat, so that the dart drapes over the gently curved ham and the fullness of the dart is folded down, towards the hem. Cover with a press cloth, if needed, and press, with lots of steam. You want to squash that "point" flat and encourage it to be a curve. This works better in some fabrics than others; wool, for example, is very malleable.

Despite all of this, sometimes a dart just doesn't behave as well as you'd like. When this happens, it's best to take a philosophical approach. The garment will still fit better than anything you've purchased. ;)

By the way, thanks for all your feedback on my muslin post yesterday. I really do appreciate your perspectives and input! We are having a gloriously sunny day today, so at some point I will take photos of my latest project, which is not a wearable item.

17 comments:

  1. Good post. I use another method, at least for myself and while I have a large bust it is not as uber as yours so maybe it won't work for someone larger than a DD. If the garment already has a dart I use Sandra Betzina's method of that enlarges by adding around the dart so that you don't get a large dart that is difficult to sew. I draw a line up to the bust point and then to the mid point of the shoulder. That line is divided with 3 lines drawn to the armhole. Cut on the first two lines then the three into the armhole are cut. Enlarge the vertical line across the amount needed and arrange the cuts to the armhole to enable the pattern to lie flat. You can angle the vertical closed at the waist, but since I need a larger waist and hip I just enlarge it all the way down.
    The other thing I've learned about pressing the dart is to always lift and press never slide the iron or it stretches the end of the dart.

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    1. Great pressing tip, Nancy. Is this technique shown in any of Sandra's books? I am having a hard time grokking it from the text.

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  2. I almost always use 3 small darts when I have 2 or more inches between the legs. I also set them at an angle.for busts, and up and down for behinds.

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    1. Thanks for that feedback, Mouse! I agree, angled darts are more flattering than horizontal. I have never done a "behind" dart, I don't think! :)

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  3. Shams.
    I don't have an uber bust but did encounter a very wide dart that was difficult to sew when I made a sundress that had different pattern pieces for the different cup sizes. The dart on the sizw medium C cup was wider than anything I've encountered before...the legs were 3 1/4 in apart at the side, and it really wanted to be a cone-shape when sewn. I did sew the dart towards the point, but the style didn't allow for much tapering off of the dart (Butterick 5637--scoopneck, empire-waist). I tamed it with the iron, but I will try reshaping the dart if I encounter this again.
    Could you tell us a little more about how you pin fit the darts on yourself? You must be very dexterous. Do you sew the shoulder seam and then fit the darts?

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    1. Hi Laura! That is a wide dart for a C cup!

      Yes, I sew the shoulders and as much of the garment as possible before pinning the darts. I put the garment on, pin it closed (if necessary), then (being left handed), I put several pins to form the left dart. The fullness of the dart is on the outside of the pins. I then pin the right side, which is a bit more difficult for me, not being right handed. I take off the garment, make note of where the pins are, re-pin with the fullness of the dart to the inside. I put several pins in along the direction of the stitching. I do the same on the other side. I then pin the side seams, put the garment back on, and check my work. If the two sides look different, I decide which side looks best and adjust the other side to match. I might have to iterate 2 or 4 times. Finally, I stitch on the machine, press, and then put the garment back on to pin the side seams.

      This is why I sew tops wearing only a bra. ;)

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  4. Well being in the uber boobage club I can attest to all these methods (I hadn't thought of spreading into the arm before like Nancy describes so that's something new to me).

    I would add a couple of notes - my FBA is about 3 1/4 inches so we are talking a lot of extra fabric to take in - this is because my rib cage is very small in comparison to my bust. Not a bad thing, just tricky to manipulate the fabric.

    I have found multiple darts the best solution - I also curve them, not sew straight traingles to follow the bust line. However, I have to finish my darts at bust point. If I don't do that, there are large bubbles of fabric. I don't like it, but it looks far worse if I don't. I'm not sure exactly what creates it but the sheer rise from rib cage to apex is so sharp and steep that any early tail off still leaves large amounts of fabric unaccounted for. It also must have something to do with the way my undergarments shape the bust line.

    To get the apex to sit flat I need to pin out any bits of extra fabric at the top. I do this after the dart is sewn and it just refines the shape. I haven't tried fitting them to myself but is seems an excellent idea if I can get the hang of it.

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    1. Very interesting, Mary!! I love to hear how different folks have learned to handle their uberness.

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    2. I seem to be having the same problem re: bubbles at the end of darts. Everything I read says that the larger the bust, the further from the apex that the dart should end. However, it seems like the further away the dart ends, the bigger the bubble is. I have yet to figure out how to deal with this issue.

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  5. Thank you thank you thank you! I'm not all THAT busty (34DD), but there is a big diff between my bust and lower ribcage/waist. I've tried some of these approaches but some are new to me and i am VERY excited to try them out in future!

    I did the 'fit bust darts last' approach for the first time a couple of weeks ago, on hot pattern's essential shift top (vee neck). It was great! The vee neck version has a french dart, i like the look but the legs are 3 1/2" apart and it's a little too 'coney' for my tastes. I think I'll try splitting it into two darts, which could be fun as a lot of the interest in this garment lies in the topstitching on the darts. Which points out the brilliance of a post like this which gives a number of different options so you can choose according to personal tastes, design features, body build, etc.

    Like Mary Nanna i find that taking the dart to the BP provides the best result the great bulk of the time. I'm not cone shaped, but i do wear three piece seamed cups with side boning which tends to give more 'projection' as they say. Again, it shows the practicality of trying out different approaches and choosing what works best in your individual situation. What luxury to have 3 approaches all set out in one place!

    "...The garment will still fit better than anything you've purchased. ;)" Hear hear! and "This is why I sew tops wearing only a bra. ;)"

    The only reasonable approach ;) Thank you again, steph

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    1. Hey, steph!

      I'm so glad you've found the info useful! That's another vote for sewing all the way to the bust point, which I find very interesting. It just goes to show that you need to learn your own particular terrain and what works.

      I'd love to see your two-darted HP top, when you make that up.

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  6. Hello, fellow uberette here. I just wanted to mention a feature on a RTW item that I have that I love...this blouse has six darts on each side. The darts are all placed very closely together on the side seam and then fan out over the breast (like a sunburst pattern). The fit is sensational and it's also a very pretty design detail. I don't know that I will ever get to the point of being able to adjust a pattern into so many darts, but I sure would love to.

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    1. There are darts as pure function and darts as function + design element. I'd love to see pics of this top!

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  7. Thanks for yet another pithy post. I'm not an uberette, but I do need good-sized darts for the best fit. All of these tips are helpful!

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  8. Fascinating post about darts. i'm currently working on dart rotation in PatternMaster Boutique's CAD program. I have found you can even make a dart smaller by rotating half the dart to shoulders or waistline or even to neckline. I've also seen patterns where the dart was rotated to center front and replaced with gathers. That is also a very attractive interpretation. I think Belinda did that on her blog.

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  9. Thank you for this post! Most of the info out there for FBAs is not for the überbusted. I'm going to try dividing the crazy huge dart into two darts and maybe even sew one all the way up to the apex to try to avoid the bubble issue.

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