Fitting a Yoke Waistband

Hey guys!  I’m starting to work on a muslin(s) for my fall wardrobe so I decided to show you my progress and thoughts for fitting a ‘basic’ yoke-waisted skirt since you guys mentioned wanting more posts about fitting.

First of all, I’m in love with this Free!! Burda pattern from the book Twinkle Sews:

It’s the first project I’m working on to incorporate into my fall wardrobe; I decided to start with this pattern because it’s one of my favorites and also because I thought the fit would be easy.  (I’ve now learnt that even the simplest patterns can cause some headaches.)

Well… I don’t think the fit is terribly off, but it’s also not quite right:

Front View:

It looks ‘just okay’ from the front; there is a slight pull across the bottom hip area and the waist seam is sitting a bit low, perhaps.

Back View:

Again, the back looks okay and seems to sit a bit higher at the back than the front.  But let’s check it out from the side:

I can fit my whole hand in the lower back area!  That’s not so good.  Plus you can see that the side seam line is angling towards the back, as you go from the top of the seam towards the bottom.  Additionally, the hem rises higher in the back since it’s slightly snug in the derrière region.

So to recap: The waistband is too loose in the center back, the side seams aren’t perpendicular to the floor, and there’s a slight pull at the bottom of the yolk piece across my hips/booty.

Before scouring the internet, I presumed I’d need to do the following alterations:

  • A swayback adjustment to fix the excess fabric at the center back
  • Let out the seam at the bottom of the yolk to reduce the pulling across my hips & make the side-seams perpendicular to the floor

After my search for some fitting help and images I learnt that it wasn’t a swayback adjustment that I needed but a ‘simple’ waist-reduction alteration, and only on the back yolk pattern piece (or so I’m hoping).

This came to light via ThingsBe:

I was working through adjusting my pattern tissue with Patricia at Perfect Sew and Fit after grumbling about sway backs yesterday and I adjusted my skirt yoke for my sway back by pinching out tiny darts on the yoke and then redrawing the pattern piece with no darts, just the extra shaping. It worked fantastically and now sits smoothly against my back instead of all bunching up and then gaping.
Updated 14th Dec, 2010:This link for pattern adjustments was brought to my attention through the comments. It’s worth having a look at. Looking at my yoke pattern adjustment it seems I made a waist adjustment, not a sway back adjustment, so sorry if I have confused anyone.

This was the perfect tidbit that I needed to help in my search for other potential alterations.  Afterward I came across another post this time by The Selfish Seamstress not for a waist reduction, but for a FWA.

Here’s how she did her Full-Waist-Alteration:

I first traced the original yoke pieces onto scrap paper, made some slashes through the curved parts, and spread them at the waist edge to add about 1/4″ to each piece. If you slash each piece 4 times like I did, then you only need to spread the slashes open by 1/16″ at the waist edge.  Add all these tiny slashes together and that’s an extra inch added to the total circumference of the waistband (16 slashes of 1/16″ each.) Notice that the bottom hip edge of the yoke remains the same  because I didn’t need to add any extra at the hip. The purists would then trace the new shapes onto paper and work from those, but I just used the slashed pattern pieces and some scotch tape directly on my fabric.

Even though this is the opposite alteration that ThingsBe did, I’m now starting to feel confident that I’ve found the correct alteration for my loose-back-yoke issue.

Then…. I came across this post from the blog Myrna Giesbrecht about an alteration for a tipped waist and I’m now beginning to wonder if that’s what’s going on with my yoke.

A lot of people have a tipped waist that is high at the back and low at the front. From the side view, there is a definite angle. Mine is tipped by an inch and a half, which may not sound like much but it’s enough to have pants and skirts either riding up on my stomach or folding around the waist. When I alter the garment to follow my natural curves, both of these issues are resolved.

This alteration could take care of the non-perpendicular side seams as well as the gaping at my center-back.

Now that I’ve done all this research I’m taking to my sewing table, scissors, tape and sharpies to do some alterations.  But I’m not going to just attempt one alteration but will try out both alterations for this yoke just for you guys so you can see what happens with each alteration.  I’m also not 100% certain which alteration is the best one so this will be a good exercise for me too. :)

Alteration #1: Waist-Back Reduction with Slash & Lap Method

Alteration #2: Tipped-Waist Alteration

Okay here we go…. (I can now tell this is going to be a long post so make sure you’re now reading this with your favorite beverage or snack of choice.)

Alteration #1:

During the assessment of the waist yoke, I pinned out the excess fabric at the center back which resulted in a reduction of about 1″ at the very top of the waist.

Pinned Side View:

Already I can see that by taking in the center back, the side seam line is more or less perpendicular now.

Pinned Back View:

From this image, I can’t really tell if it’s affected the side seams very much.  So this is just a shot of how much I pinned out of the back.

For now, I’m going to ignore the other issues and focus on one fit at a time.  I’ve found that by changing one aspect of a garment will change multiple others since everything is interconnected.  We’ll come back to the other issues once this main, waist-gaping issue is resolved.

I’ve decided that I’ll be reducing the back yoke waist by 1″ using the slash and lap method, similar to a sba.

To start, I traced the original pattern piece onto some paper, and transferred all of the markings onto the new pattern piece.

After tracing the original pattern piece, I did a bit of math to figure out how many slashes I wanted to make and how to space them out.

To do this, the first thing you need to know is how much you want to reduce the waist by, here I’m reducing it by 1″.  And I felt like picking 4 slashes to reduce each by 1/4″ (I came to this by taking my waist reduction of 1 inch and diving that by the number of slashes I want).  The number of slashes you choose is really up to you.  But I figured 2 was too few, and 5 seemed like a lot, given the size of the pattern piece.

Since I wanted my slashes more or less, equidistant from each other, I took a rough measurement of the length of the waist, the top of the pattern piece.  I ended up with 10″, give or take.  So you’ll want to divide 10″ by 6, the total number of lines  we have to get everything equidistant between the slashes. It’s 6: 4 for the slash lines and an additional 2 for the two seam lines (here 1 seam line and 1 fold line).   (If you choose 3 slashes, you would be dividing the length by 5.)

Does this make sense?

So I actually did it wrong in the image above and took 10 divided by 5 instead of 10 divided by 6.  (But you’ll see it works out in the end).  So do as I say, not as I did.  From the image above you’ll see my 4 marked lines for my slashes, each spaced 2″ apart, with the last one right next to the fold line.

I marked in the seam allowance at the bottom (and later did the top).  Then I cut around the top of the pattern piece, for now.

Next you’ll want to cut along one of your slash lines from the very top to the very bottom of the pattern piece, but not through the whole piece of paper.  (You could, but you at least need to have enough paper at the bottom to act as a hinge.)

You can see I added in the 5/8 seam allowance at the top.  In order to reduce the waist by 1″, each line will overlap the other side of the pattern by 1/4″ at the seam line, not at the top of the pattern piece.  So as you can see in the above image, I marked 1/4″ to the left of the slash.  (I’m holding the pattern piece open just so you can see where I slashed the pattern piece.)

Now that we’re slashed, we need to lap:

The red arrow in the image above is the first 1/4″ lap.  All you do is simply move the right side of the slash to meet your 1/4″ mark, at the seam line and tape it in place.  But ONLY tape the top of the pattern piece, do not tape all of the way down to the bottom.  We’ll do that part in a bit.

You’ll do the slash and lap on the remaining 3 lines, and again only tape the pattern on the top around the seam line.

Once you have all of your lapped lines taped at the top, now you can cut around the remaining 3 sides of the pattern.  What happens at this point is that the paper relaxes since you’ve essentially cut off the ‘hinge’ (or excess paper) at the bottom, so the pattern piece will now lie flat.  NOW you can tape the remaining parts of the laps.  :)

Here’s my finished slashed & lapped pattern piece:

(Please ignore the squiggly lines by the slashes, at first I mismarked my 1/4″ lap-lines.)

Now you’re free to cut out your muslin for the slash & lap pattern alteration.

One important note that I didn’t take a picture of, is marking your seam lines on your muslin.  It is always important to have your seam lines marked whether it’s with with a marker or with basting stitches done by your sewing machine.  This will prevent any sewing mishaps as well as enabling you to transfer any fitting marks easily onto your pattern piece.  The marked seam lines also allow me to accurately pin the one side seam closed for easy fitting, instead of basting in a zipper.

Okay, let’s see how I did!

Alteration #1 Front:

Hmm, it looks okay from the front and very similar to the original, but the waist seam seems a bit higher (which is a good thing).

How about the back?

Honestly, it looks alright to me from here, too.  Perhaps a bit higher on my right than it is on the left; I’m guessing this is due to the pins since I’m not aware that one of my hips is higher/lower than the other.

And now the moment of truth… the side view:

Ooooh!  Not too shabby, if I can say so myself.  The waistline hem is nice and parallel with the floor, and the side seam looks nice and perpendicular.  The back seam is nicely pulled in and more fitted, like it should be.

The two main issues I see happening now is that the side seam doesn’t seem to lay truly at my side, but towards the back and the hem is higher in the back than it is in the front.  These two things shouldn’t be too difficult to fix from here.

I’m pretty happy with how things have progressed with this first alteration, but let’s move on to the second alteration to see if it improves the final result more than alteration #1.


 Alteration #2:

I’m honestly not certain how this alteration will go, so I’m going to take it one step at a time and will begin by reducing the center back by 1/2 inch and see what the resulting yolk piece will fit like.  This alteration kinda seems like a sway-back adjustment, but I’m not certain, so I’ll take a stab at it anyhow.

One of the rules I work by is: You can always take more fabric away, but you can’t add it once it’s gone.  So I’m hoping that 1/2 ” isn’t too much to start with for this alteration (it doesn’t seem like it to me anyhow…).

First thing to do is trace the original pattern piece once again to make our adjustments on.  (I’ll spare you the duplicate image on this step).

So once you have your new pattern piece, all there is to do is mark 1/2″ below the original line at the center back and redraw waistband cut-line.

I make all my notes on my actual pattern piece, so at any given point in the future I’d remember what I did to this piece.  The area I’ve drawn the hashes on is what we’ll be cutting away for the tipped waist adjustment.

So here’s the final result (post-cutting):

Once again we’ll cut this piece out in some muslin, mark your seam lines and you’re good to start sewing & fitting.

This pattern alteration went pretty quick, compared to the first alteration…

Anyhow, let’s see how I did on the second pattern alteration for a tipped-waist.

Alteration #2 Front:

Oh dear, I’m not sure if you can tell, but the front waist seam is quite a bit lower.  I’m not sure how I feel about that…

How about the back view:

It doesn’t look too bad from the back…

But how about the side:

Eeeep!  It seems worse than the original; look at all that extra room in the back!

One positive thing is that the side seam is appropriately centered on my body, but the front waist seam is too low now and the back gapes.

So let’s recap:

Alteration #1, the slash & lap method to reduce the excess fabric at the back-waist-radius was a success.  It reduced the fabric where I need it most, but left me with two additional alterations to make: moving the side seams towards the front by 1/2″ or so and increasing the length on the back yoke at the bottom to keep the hem parallel to the floor.

Alteration #2, the forward-tipped waist method didn’t address my fitting issue, and instead made it a bit worse.  Since it was a quick alteration, I didn’t loose much time in doing it and I learnt that I don’t have a forward-tipped waist.

So in my book this is a win-win since I fixed the main issue I had and I learnt tons as a result.  You can expect that my next post will encompass how to adjust the pattern for the remaining two issues: side seams are disproportionate to my body as well as the uneven yoke hem.  And now I’m off to sleep….


Being my first extensive post about fit, how did I do?  Was this helpful, were the pictures clear to see, explanations understandable?  All positive thoughts as well as constructive criticism is welcome.  :)

In: Sewing Tutorials

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