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.