When I work with vintage patterns, I'm always surprised by the number of darts! Fashions were more fitted in the 50's and 60's and stretchy fabrics were just beginning to become available to the home sewer. Darts do add to the time it takes to sew, but even though people are often intimidated by them, sewing darts isn't hard.
I've been working on the jacket and dress from this 1961 pattern - very challenging as body proportions seemed to be very different then! Dress sizes were different (a size 10 pattern now is more like a 14 then), but it's not just a matter of making everything bigger. I'm fairly short waisted and I've had to lengthen the torso and also had to widen the shoulders. If you're using a vintage pattern, I highly suggest making it first from muslin, adjusting the muslin garment, and then taking it apart to use as a pattern on your nice fabric.
I use pattern paper and make new pattern pieces - the paper from vintage patterns is often getting pretty crumbly and it's also just nicer to leave something so old intact. If you're not familiar with pattern paper, see this past post.
The darts are marked on your pattern by a triangle of dots. There are several ways to transfer these markings to your fabric. I use thread - it doesn't leave a mark on the fabric and is easy.
First, take a long length of sewing thread and thread it through the needle doubled - don't tie the end.
Leave your pattern piece pinned to the fabric. Insert your needle under one of the dots, coming up on the other side (think of this as 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock). Pull the thread through, leaving about a 2 inch tail. Repeat - going under the dot in the 3 o'clock position and up at 9 o'clock. This time when you pull the thread through, leave a loop. Cut the thread off, leaving another 2 inch tail. Snip the loop.
When you've marked all the dots in this way, carefully remove the pattern piece making sure the threads stay in the pattern.
Carefully lift the top piece of fabric up from the bottom piece a little. Snip through the threads so that each piece of fabric has the thread markings. Continue with all the dart markings.
To make a dart, with right sides of the fabric together, line the dots on each side of the dart up. I do this by eyeballing them and then getting them in place by sticking a pin through one marking and coming out through the matching marking. Pin in place.
To sew the dart, you want to sew through the center of each marking, gradually tapering down until you reach the point. The pattern piece usually has a line marking where to do this and you can transfer it with pattern marking paper and a marking wheel. It's easier for me to just eyeball it as I'm sewing, but when you're first making darts an actual line can be helpful. You can use a straight edge to mark this with a light pencil line - this will be on the inside of the fabric, so it won't show.
Always begin sewing a dart at the wide end and finish at the point of the dart.
Continue sewing until you actually run off the fabric.
You can tack the wide end of the dart by sewing back and forth a few stitches, but always hand tie the pointed end.
The sewing instructions will tell you which way to press the dart - usually you press darts down (for horizontal darts) or toward the center of the garment (for vertical darts).
On the outside of the garment, hold the piece up a little and press the pointed tip of the dart until it is smooth.
And you have a dart! Like I said, time consuming, but not hard.
I'm still working on getting my dress to fit right - the jacket just needs the lining sewn in.
Happy Creating! Deborah