Hello y’all, and especially Jenn, who took me at my word and asked for a tutorial on how to make yokes! It may be helpful if you’ve already read my crash course on dart moving, but even if not, it should be pretty easy to follow along. Hands on helps for faster learning, so you may want to work along side with your own copy of miniature slopers, found in nearly any pattern drafting book and probably some places on the web. Or you can draw your own, if you are handily artistic. Which I am not. As we will see shortly.
So this is a yoke sloper (or block, depending on who is calling it names). It is 1/4 of a skirt, and half of the back, and it has one dart for your bum. As you can see, even though life has picked me up, swirled me around, and dropped me on my bum, I still have the same ol’ dining room table and the same really bad lighting.
The first thing we’re going to do is draw a line straight across the sloper, level with the bottom of the dart. (Please bear in mind that right now we’re talking theory so we understand what we’re doing. Please DON’T go do this to the original pattern that you want to modify so that it has a yoke.
Now take a cute lil pair of scissors and cut along the line we drew, the same way you cut out the dart earlier. This essentially renders our solid sloper block into three pieces.
Now rotate the two top pieces together until they touch, and Ta-Da! You have a skirt with a yoke!
And now this is the part where you say, “Now, wait just a second, honey. I don’t know about you, but the rest of us don’t consider this a yoke. A yoke is sort of like a waistband-type thingy, and this thing goes half-way down your backside!”
Okay, okay. Technically, this could be a yoke, albeit a very deep one, but really this is just to give you an idea of what we’re working on here. A yoke appears to have no shaping in it, because the shaping is moved to the seam between the yoke and the rest of the garment, rather than in it’s original dart location. But shaped it is. All we are doing when we make a yoke is moving around the shaping so we can put seams where we’d rather. The fit stays the same, but the fabric pieces look different.
So what would we really do?
Let’s draw our line higher up, bisecting the dart. In real life, we wouldn’t want a yoke so deep. So here’s our little example we’re drawing; in real life, you would measure down from the original waist however deep you wanted the yoke to be. (So, if you wanted a 3″ yoke, you would measure three inches down from the original waist at several points, and connect them as needed. That is to say, if your original waistline is curved, you really want your lower yoke seam to follow that same curve.)
Cut along that line, and again, you have three pieces. From here, you really have a lot of different options. Let’s explore some of them.
The simplest option is to put the two top pieces together, and blend the edges where they meet (smoothing out those points and dips into gentle curves). That leaves you with this:
You would still sew it up just like you would a normal darted skirt. So that lil’ dart, but then seam the yoke piece onto the top edge. The shaping–the fit of the garment– is still the same, but sewn up, the pieces now look different than the original draft.
But what else can you do?
Here, we’ve put the two “yoke” pieces together, effectively “sewing the dart” in that part of the garment. But now look what trickiness I’m going to do. I’ve drawn a line running straight from the point of the dart down to the hem of the skirt.
Slice it and dice and sew it up, and what do you have?
An embarrassingly bad sketch of a yoked, princess seamed skirt! All the same shaping is still there. The “dart” for the top pieces is now “hidden” in the horizontal seam, and the dart for the lower pieces is now hidden in the vertical seam. We’ve added more seams, but we haven’t changed the fit of the skirt. This style would be good for firmer fabrics without a lot of drape — denim or dressier weaves that are thicker and stiffer — or just any time you want a more tailored look.
But what else can we do after we’ve sliced it and diced it?
Take a minute to think about this one. As you recall from previous tutorials, when we close the dart at one end, we “open” fullness at the other end. Rather than sewing this dart, we’ve rotated it closed, opening it up in the bottom. We’re not going to sew this dart in the bottom; we’re going to leave it open on the pattern and un-cut in the fabric. What will this look like?
An inky sketch of an A-Line skirt with a yoke. This skirt will now be nicely fitted up by the waist and through the hips, but after that, it opens up in to a much more full skirt with lots of drape and movement. This would be good with thinner fabrics, or if you’d like a skirt with a little more swish and swirl.
But what else can we do?
You can gather it. Put together the top pieces for a yoke. Don’t sew the darts in skirt portion; instead, gather the extra till the skirt fits the yoke.
Not really my kinda thing, but everyone knows I’m a style heathen.
Here’s another option, if you are into fashionable, noteworthy sorts of things:
It might make your head hurt a little, until you figure out how it goes together, but I promise, it’s the same fit, just with different seamlines on the backside. And as one who has made a lot of stuffed animals, I can tell you it’s really not too hard to sew, either. Sew the skirt dart first, and then the horizontal dart connecting the skirt to the faux yoke.
If you really, really, really don’t want darts in the back, there is another option, but this one will mess with the fit a little. I’d only do it if your original dart is already pretty small, for whatever reason (this can include having already lowered the waist, making your skirt a little low-riding, or a different body build. For example, being short and sturdy, I def have darts back there. My lithe, bean-pole sister? Not so much so. She could get away with this method a lot better than I could).
‘K. So. Here’s an up close picture of our original dart.
Now we draw the line that will make the yoke. (See how I was clever enough this time to make it follow the original waistline?)
Now we’re gonna monkey with the dart. Draw a straight line down through the center of the dart.
And draw new lines for the dart, ending at the lower edge of the yoke.
So for this version, it will still fit snugly right at the waist, but you won’t have the same amount of shaping through the hips. You really need a drapey fabric to make this work, like a very fluid knit or even silk.
Cut out only your new dart, and then slice and dice.
And rotate for the yoke.
You can see why you can’t really get away with this unless you have a pretty small dart to begin with. You can also see that there’s pretty much a fish-eye dart of un-sewn ease. Maybe you’re okay with that, and maybe you’re not. It all depends on what you’re heading after.
Now, I have reprimanded you to follow the original line of the waist when drawing your yoke. You don’t really have to; that’s another style option. You can draw it how ever you’d like it to look and however you’re willing to dare to sew it. (Angles and curves can get tough, but if quilters can do it, so can you!)
You’d still just rotate out the dart in the yoke portion (put the two pieces together and cut them from the fabric as one piece), and you’d still just sew the dart (or any of the other options we’d discussed) in the skirt portion. The fancy-shmancy curved line doesn’t change any of that.
As a final note, it’s very important to realize that this tutorial DOES NOT just apply to skirt yokes. A significant example would be a shoulder yoke. Technically, these can go in either the front (taking up some bust fullness) or back (for shoulder curve), but are most frequently found in the back.
My picture up-loader is telling me I’m out of space, so I can’t do a step by step for you; but you’d follow the exact same process of drawing the line for the yoke at the tip of the dart, cutting the pattern into 3 pieces, and rotating the top two together and smoothing the lines. It would look something sort of similar to this.
The top is the original darted pattern sewn up. The middle has the same shaping, but now that dart is hidden in the yoke seam. And the bottom one is supposed to portray a boxy, unfitted top with no shoulder shaping.
But don’t feel like you have to stop at what is most common. You can actually turn the bottom of a bodice into a yoke in the same manner. Experiment! And let me know if you have any questions. 🙂