How to add a yoke section tutorial

For week three of my Me Made May Simple Sleeveless Top Challenge, I want to start showing you how to make really simple adjustments to the pattern to get different looks and design details.

If you still need a copy of the basic pattern you can order a signed copy of the book online or on Amazon.

So far I’ve covered getting the correct fit with Bust Adjustments and Altering the Neckline.

Now that you have a well fitting basic top or toile, it’s time to have fun adding in style details and this week it’s all about adding in a Yoke.

Put simply what is a Yoke?

In this context, not the yellow bit in an egg! It’s a section of fabric at the top of a garment, in a dress or top it is where the shoulder seam is. You can also find them in skirts and trousers too where they would be like an extended waistband.

It can make a basic pattern a lot more interesting as having a seam that goes horizontally across the bodice gives you a chance to have contrast colours or different fabrics. You could insert narrow piping or flat binding or trim into the seam or a bit of frill! Or if you are using a transparent fabric or one that has lots of holes like this embroidered cotton, then you can have the yoke as a single layer and then line the main bodice. Cool, huh?

How to set up the addition of the yoke?

First of all you need to decide how big you want the yoke to be.

It will be easier to have the yoke seam below the neckline and above the point of the dart. That way it won’t interfere with the dart and you can just continue the construction of that part of the top in the same old way.

I made mine 3 inches down from the centre neck line. Draw a line at a right angle from the centre fold line.

Cut along this line so that you now have two pattern pieces.

We now need to add a seam allowance onto each of these pieces so that when the fabric gets sewn together you end up with exactly the same size and shape of bodice that you would get cutting it from a single fabric.

Place the new yoke pattern piece on top of some scrap pattern paper and tape it down. Add on a 1.5cm or 5/8” seam allowance by drawing a line parallel to the bottom edge of the pattern. We will still be cutting this piece out on the fold.

At the armhole seam, continue the curve of the armhole until it meets the new edge of the pattern piece.

When we sew the new seam together, we will finish off the seam allowances together and press them down so we need this little extension to keep everything even for when that happens.

Place the new main bodice piece on some scrap pattern paper and again drawn a line parallel to the top edge 1.5cm or 5/8”.

To get the correct shape at the armhole edge, cut out the new edge of the pattern piece and leave a bit of extra paper at the edge.

Fold along the seam line and then following the curve of the armhole, trim that excess paper you had.

Once you open it out you will see the new shape of the fabric cut line at the seam allowance.

Repeat the process for the back bodice. To ensure that the seam lines end up at the same level, measure up from the bottom hemline. On mine it was 19 inches so this is how I figured out where to draw my horizontal line on the back bodice. The neck lines are at different levels so that’s why you can’t just measure down from there.

I made my version using the really pretty whimsical April Rhodes Fabric called 'Gust of Leaves' - even the name is light and breezy! For the yoke I used this sand stone coloured cotton.

How to construct the top with the new yoke section

Cut out your fabric using your new pattern pieces.
Stay stitch the neckline as normal, insert the dart as normal.
Attach your front yoke section to front yoke bodice with a 1.5cm seam allowance, finish raw edges off together and press them down. Repeat for the back.

Continue the construction in the normal way, adding the binding and hemming as normal.

Optional - Lining the main bodice

For one of my versions I used this really pretty summery white embroidered cotton fabric and paired it with a plain violet coloured cotton. I made the yoke section violet and then lined the main bodice section with the same fabric so you could see a little bit of the colour come through.

All the steps for altering the pattern stay exactly the same, just cut out two main bodice sections, one in your fabric and one in your lining.

When attaching the yoke section to the main bodice sections layer up the pieces as so;

  • lining - have right side facing up
  • main outer bodice fabric - have right side facing up (so right side of lining faces wrong side of outer fabric)
  • yoke section - wrong side facing up (so right side of yoke faces right side of outer fabric)

Sew all three layers together with a 1.5cm or 5/8” seam and finish off raw edges together and press seam allowances down. Repeat for back yoke.

Attach side seams of bodice as if the outer fabric and lining fabric were one piece, press seam allowances open and finish off as desired - I used an over lock stitch on the sewing machine.

If your fabric is quite light weight or slippery you might want to tack them together first. Sewing them together in this way will ensure that all seam allowances are hidden on the inside, otherwise they can be seen through the little holes in the embroidered fabric.

Apply binding to arm holes as normal, pretending that the outer bodice and lining bodice are one bit of fabric.

This detail can also be combined with altering the shape of the neckline that I showed you in last weeks post as well as adding pin tucks and a button band, which I’ll show you how to do over the next two weeks – the combinations will become limitless! Yay!

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