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September 23

Yoke Stabilization & How to Reinforce an Inward Corner

I seem to have turned into a ‘Stabilization-aholic.’ I’m a huge fan of this and it turns an “okay-project” into a “you sewed that?!” project.  You know what I’m talking about ladies, right?  :)

Stabilization has many uses and takes many forms, but today I’m going to present you a tutorial on how to reinforce the center ‘V’ on any seam so you get a clean, professional finish on these tricky angles.

The project I’m currently working on is the Godet Pencil Skirt from Burda, which has a godet on the back, as well as a yoke waistband that has a V-shape on the center front and center back.

Here’s the line drawing of the skirt:

I like my pencil skirts to be quite fitted so they have less ease than all of my other skirts.  This means I need to be extra-certain that all of my seams aren’t going to mysteriously rip when I sit down or bend over.  All this equals: more stabilization!

So let’s begin!

Stabilizing the Waistband with Horsehair Canvas:

First things, first:  Where might one get horsehair canvas?  I luck out with living in Chicago since I have two fabric stores within my general area that offer this item for sale (Vogue & Fishman’s).  But for those of you whose only source is a Joann’s or online, Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch has some for sale in her shop.  The price is pretty comparable to what I pay, too.  While you’re shopping around her site, look at the lovely honey-colored petersham ribbon.  What a perfect color to have, now that fall is here.

I like to have more structure on my yoke/waistband pieces whenever I’m using a wool fabric or when making dressier skirts that call for more structure.  The wool fabric I’m using is considered a wool-classic and is 100% wool.  It has a decent drape, a slightly brushed look on the right side, and acts a bit like a wool flannel, but it presses much crisper than a flannel would.

To give the wool and my yoke waistband more structure, I’m using some horsehair canvas as interfacing.  I found that adding the horsehair canvas to waistlines prevent the fabric stretching (which can be both good or bad, depending).  So be sure to make a muslin to assess the fit before you do this.  You don’t want to end up with a waistband that is too small since we’ve eliminated some of the stretch that came from the fabric (but if you want some stretch with structure, you could try cutting the horsehair canvas on the bias.)

Cut out the horsehair canvas the same size as the pattern piece, and baste it in at 5/8 inch around all the sides, if using 5/8 seam allowance.

Note: My hair canvas piece was a bit small (by 1/4″) at the sides, but it doesn’t really matter since we trim the horsehair canvas down to the basting stitches (to be shown in next week’s post).

Aaaand that’s all there is too it!  You’re just treating the horsehair canvas the same way as any regular sew-in interfacing.

One additional note I’ll make is that I would only use horsehair canvas on areas where you’re planning on adding in lining.  IMO horsehair canvas is a bit scratchy, so it needs to be backed with something.

If you’re not planning on having a lining in your piece, you can interface your yoke/waistband the same way using a silk organza; silk organza would also be a good option for a lighter-weight material (like wool suiting) that doesn’t call for as stiff an interfacing as the classic wool does.

Reinforcing an Inward Corner, that will be stressed:

I briefly blogged about this very method of reinforcing a center-V on my Macaron Redux dress back in July.  But I didn’t think my steps were comprehensive enough to call it a ‘tutorial’.  Now that I’ve used this method several times, I feel confident in presenting this again as a step-by-step tutorial for you all.

This is the same method that Claire Shaeffer presents in her Couture Sewing Techniques Book (on pg. 52 for those of you who own it).  She applies this method to a sleeve with a reverse corner, but it works the same way on any inward corner that will receive any stress.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Basting thread (silk preferable): 1 color for contrast, and another to blend in (it doesn’t have to match exactly since it won’t show on the right side).
    • I use white for contrast and black to blend in.
  • Silk organza (silk is much more stable than the polyester kind, so try and get the real deal.)  I use it all the time for various projects, and I consider it my new best, stabilization-friend; I never sew without it.
    • I personally like to have both black and white organza on hand, to blend in with either dark or light colored projects.

For reference, here are my skirt pieces:

The V-shape on the Yoke-waistband is called the outward corner, and the V-shape on the main skirt piece is called the inward corner.  We’ll only be stabilizing the inward corner, on the main skirt piece, not the yoke-waistband (since we already did that using the horsehair canvas).

Let’s get started…

Step 1:  Mark the seam lines on the inward corner, on the right side of the fabric

I’m using a 5/8 seam allowance and have marked mine seam line with some yellow chalk.  A good adage to remember is measure twice, “cut” once.  You can see on the left, I had incorrectly marked my seam allowance and realized it looked funny (so I blotted it out and redrew it correctly).  So make sure you all double check that your two seam lines intersect right underneath your ‘V’, and are not skewed towards one side or the other.

Step 2: Cut a 3 inch square piece of silk organza and place it over the center of the inward-V, matching grainlines

I like to cut my organza using pinking shears to prevent the fraying.  Also be certain that you can see your marked seam line through your silk organza.  If you can’t, be sure to mark it again using a slightly darker/lighter color, depending on your fabric color.

Step 3: Pin, then Baste the silk organza square exactly on the seam line, on right side of skirt

Below, is the fully-basted organza piece on the right side of the skirt.

I like using contrasting silk thread for my basting stitches since it doesn’t leave any marks on the fabric once you remove the basting and the silk is nice and easy to work with.

Step 4: Machine-stitch the organza to skirt, right inside the seam line, on the right side of the skirt

Starting at 1 side of your square, begin with a regular stitch length.  Gradually shorten your stitch length, the closer you get to your center-V.  Once you reach the very tip of the V, place your needle through the fabric, pivot, then begin stitching the other leg of the V.  From here you’ll gradually lengthen your stitch again to a regular length as you approach the edge of the organza square.

For this step, precision is key!  I end up using my hand-wheel on my machine nearly the whole time; you get the most control and precision this way.  If you make a mistake it’s really difficult to un-pick the center stitches since the stitch length is so short.

Important Note:  If you find that you need to un-pick these stitches, you’re going to want to stitch on the outside of the basting lines instead of inside the basting line like before.  Since the stitching is so close together at the center of the V, the fabric will be quite weak where you un-picked the stitches.  This isn’t the end of the world, but you’ll just have to remember to sew the whole seam consistently with the adjusted seam line.

The shorter stitch length at the very center of the V ensures that we get a nice, stabilized edge on our skirt, preventing the organza from fraying on the seam line.

Step 5: Clip the Center-V, through all layers, up to the line of machine stitching

Clip through the seam allowance on the skirt and through the organza right up to the machine stitching, but not through it.  This is an additional reason why it’s important to keep a small stitch at the center of the V; clipping into the fabric like this weakens the seam line, and the closely stitched organza is what is keeping this seam line strong (aka reinforced).

Step 6: Lightly press the organza to the wrong side on the seam line to create a nice inward V

First you’ll want to press the seam flat in order to set your machine stitches.  Then you’ll flip your skirt piece over to the wrong side, and fold the organza from the right side over to the wrong side.  Press the organza flat to the wrong side, using your basting stitches as a guide for pressing in your inward V.

Does this make sense?  Here’s an additional picture of what your pressed, inward V should look like.  I’m holding up the organza so you can see the clipped seam better.

And this is the inward V from the right side of the skirt:

Not a bit of organza is showing on the right side of the skirt and there’s a crisp, straight inward corner.

Step 7: Trim your organza down to match your seam allowances and overcast the edges to prevent fraying

First, trim the organza to match the length of the seam allowance.

I had to make this next image quite washed out so you can see my overcast stitching:

Overcast the edges of the organza together with your fashion-fabric’s seam allowance on all of the clipped organza edges, including the center V.

Now it’s time to piece this all together attaching the yoke to the skirt.

Step 8: Match up the seam lines on the yoke-waistband to the skirt portion and pin together on the right side, joining the inward-V to the outward-V

For now we’re pinning these two pieces together on the right side of the fabric.  Don’t worry about pinning the whole piece, just focus on that center-V area.  I pinned only the center 4 to 5 inches or so.

Step 9:  Baste the center-V area together through all layers

Just do a regular basting stitch through all of the layers.  Don’t worry if it’s messy, this is just an intermediate step to get to the next step,  step 10.

Step 10: Slip-baste or fell the yoke-waistband to the skirt piece, around the center V

Yeah… lots of basting here.  But trust me, the result is way worth the extra effort.  The regular basting stitches enables you to slip-baste without the fabric shifting around on you.  You could use pins if you’re in a rush, but I wouldn’t advise it.  The pins will create little bubbles/bumps and your slip basting won’t end up as accurate as the basting stitches will be.

This brings me to a good question: Do you guys know how to slip-baste?  If not, here’s an article from threads that I found that shows how to slip-baste.  Scroll down till you get about 1/2 into the article, and you’ll see a picture of some blue fabric.  To orient yourself on the skirt, you’re working your slip-basting on the right side, starting on the far right of the center V, working towards the left.

Once you’re done with your slip basting, remove the regular basting stitches you made in step 9.

Here’s a shot finished slip-basted seam:

Don’t worry if your stitches are messy, we’re going to remove them once we machine-stitch the seam together.

And here’s a shot of my slip-basting stitches from the wrong side.  You can see some are larger than others.  Don’t worry about that too much, but generally you don’t want any stitches larger than 1/4″ of an inch (and even that’s a bit on the large side).  Try to keep them around 1/8″ long or so.

Step 11: Flip the fabric, right sides together, and pin the yoke-waistband to the skirt, starting at the edge of the slip-basting working outwards, towards the side seam

This will probably feel a bit strange to do, while working with the slip-basting stitches at the center.  But don’t worry, it will all work out.  Just make sure to be gentle, so you don’t accidentally pull out your slip-basting stitches anywhere.

Step 12: Sew yoke-waistband to skirt, starting at the center V, working towards the side seams

In order to stitch these two pieces together, you have to start at the very tip of the V and work your way towards the side seam.  Then you have to go back and do the same thing for the opposite side of the seam stitching the seam with the bulk of the fabric on the right side of the needle.

Carefully lower your needle down into the center-tip of the V on your seam.  Using your machine stitching from attaching the organza square or your original basting stitches (if you still have them) as a guide to stitching your seam.  You can use your stitching guide also, if all of your seam allowances are 100% accurate.  Given how much basting and pressing we’ve done, I prefer to use my organza stitches as a guide since we were 100% certain of the accuracy on that step.  Are you with me?

So starting with your needle down at the point of the V, slowly stitch outwards towards your side seam.  Once you get past your previous machine stitching (which we were using as our guide) you can switch and use your seam guide on your machine to finish off stitching, all the way straight towards the edge.

This is right before I’ve gotten to the end of my guide-stitches from the organza square, and you can see that I’m pretty close to my 5/8ths stitching guide on my machine. (There’s a small mark on my metal plate to the left of the 6/8ths line.)

You can back stitch at the center of the V if you are very, very precise.  And do make sure you back stitch at the end, on the side seam.

Now we have to do this once again for the other side of the seam, working with the bulk of the fabric to the right of the needle.

You may want to mark this side of the fabric with your seam allowance (mine is 5/8ths) since you won’t have your machine’s stitching guide to help you sew straight.

Again, make sure you stitch slowly, beginning right at the center of the V, using your previous stitching (or basting stitches) as your guide.

Step 13: Press seam allowance flat to set your stitches, then press again toward the direction your pattern dictates

For this skirt, I am to press the seam allowances upwards.  To do so, I had to notch the center V on the yoke-waistband so that everything would lay flat.

Ta-Da!  The right side of the skirt in all its angular, inward-V glory!

Didn’t that work out nicely?!

The yoke-waistband is all sturdy and structural, and there’s a perfect inward/outward V with reinforcement.  I know this seemed like a lot of steps, but truthfully I was able to sew up the front and back seams in one evening (and document it all) with time to spare.

To me the front reinforcement doesn’t matter so much as the back of the yoke (since I’m extra curvy back there).  heh.  But how horrible would it be to sit down and have this seam split on you, while you’re out or at work.  This couture reinforcement method prevents against that very mishap.

I hope you found this tutorial beneficial, and be sure to leave me a comment if you have any questions on any of the steps and I can try to help clarify, if need be.

  1. Kerry / Sep 23 2011

    Thanks Liz, this was really interesting. I haven’t tackled anything like this before but will be keeping this tutorial in mind for future projects. I’m also planning a pencil skirt in some beautiful lambswool, so want to make sure that it’s as well made as possible to do justice to the fabric!

    • Liz / Sep 23 2011

      Ooo yes! Be sure to check back again next week. I’m going to talk a bit more about some simple tricks to help stabilize other areas of the pencil skirt so it can hold up to daily wear and tear.

  2. Litchi / Sep 23 2011

    Wow, that is a really neat yoke. I did much less work on mine and the difference is clearly visible in the finished product (even if mine is not so bad ;) ).
    I simply stitched a square of denim (since it’s a denim skirt) in the point of the yoke. You can see my stabilization here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misslitchi/5675683987/
    Less couture than yours but I’m only a beginner :-D

    • Liz / Sep 23 2011

      Couture or not, I thought your finished skirt looked very nice! I think it’s awesome that you knew enough to know that you needed to stabilize the point of the yoke, being a beginner. :)

      I love the red fabric you used to finish the yoke. I never thought about doing the lining just on the yoke-waistband; perfect for a summer skirt that you want to keep breathable in the heat.

  3. PepperReed / Sep 23 2011

    I Love you to pieces!! This is just a fantastic (and needed) tutorial; I have several 20s/30s dresses with that ‘V’ point in front and as you know, early patterns didn’t really have great directions. Thanks for the great information!

    • Liz / Sep 23 2011

      Awww, that’s so sweet! Early era dresses do have lots of angles to them. I hope you’ll share some finished images of your dresses and let me know how this tutorial worked out for you. :)

  4. Naomi~ / Sep 23 2011

    Thank you so much for taking the time out to do such a comprehensive tutorial! It was very easy to follow and understand. It’s amazing how much difference just a smidgen bit of extra time in construction can make on the finished product.

    Naomi~

  5. Tasha / Sep 23 2011

    This is why my sewing will never be on par with yours– I wouldn’t even consider that I’d need to stabilize a corner like that. That’s why you are a killer sewist. :)

    • Liz / Sep 26 2011

      Don’t be silly, Tasha! I’m started off as a research analyst during my day job, so I’m no stranger to doing research and digging around for information.
      Everything I’ve learnt so far I learnt by reading blogs and books. I also didn’t know to ‘stabilize a corner’ until I came across it in one of my couture technique books. Before I start off with a new project I’m usually pawing through some books, looking for new tricks or techniques I can apply to it that I haven’t used before.
      I’m all about learning & trying new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I’m almost certain it’s the same thing with you and your awesome knitting! :)

  6. Charity Shop Chic / Sep 24 2011

    Thanks, this is a great tutorial. I’m considering making this skirt and really glad I found this.

  7. Melanie / Sep 25 2011

    Thanks for this tutorial, I found it very helpful! I’m curious to know what pre-treatment you’ve done on the wool. DId you steam-shrank it or anything like that? Do you have any advice on how to pre-treat wool fabric?

    Thanks!

    • Liz / Sep 26 2011

      Hey Melanie! I take my wool to my (trusty & green) dry cleaner and have them steam it without cleaning it. They usually charge me the price of a small tablecloth ($3 or so).
      But I’ve heard of people throwing their wool in the drier with a damp towel on a medium setting in order to steam shrink it. I’d would do that, but I live in an apartment where the washers/driers aren’t very trust-worthy; so I take it to the cleaners instead.
      After I make my garment & then after several uses of it I take my wool items to the dry cleaners for cleaning. I haven’t had any issues (yet) with any shrinkage.

      Let me know if you’d like me to post up a few links about steam shrinking… I remember coming across a few last fall that I could hunt down for you.

  8. Ljolja / Oct 4 2011

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I’m also working on this skirt at the moment and your tips have been so helpful in creating a neat and strong V. Would you mind sharing your tips on how to line this skirt?

    • Liz / Oct 4 2011

      I haven’t actually sewn the lining yet, but I hope to be able to do that step tonight/tomorrow. But here’s what I have planned:

      Sew the lining like usual (using the lining pieces given), omitting the stabilization at the center V, since I don’t think it’s terribly necessary.

      The lining is to be sewn to the skirt at the top of the yoke, with right sides together. I usually baste the two pieces together first with 4/8ths (1/2″) seam allowance. I then go back and stitch it again using some twill tape and 5/8ths seam allowance. The twill tape makes the waistline seam nice and sturdy. Then turning the lining to the inside, I press the waistband seam. Then to finish it off I understitch this seam to keep the lining to the inside of the skirt.

      Does this help? If not, please comment again and I’ll try and email you more specifics. :)

      • Ljolja / Oct 9 2011

        Thanks for the explanation, Liz. I think I should be able to sew in a proper lining with your instructions.

        • Liz / Oct 11 2011

          Excellent! I just finished sewing the lining up myself last night and I had to snip the center-V on the yoke and skirt in order to sew the yoke perfectly straight, without any bumps or dimples in the fabric.

          How is yours coming along?

      • melanie / Nov 13 2011

        I Liz” I keep coming back to your skirt “step-by-step” as I find it super useful.
        I have a question: I’m adding a lining to a high-waisted A-line skirt pattern that doesn’t include one. I was confused if I should do the waistband facing in fashion fabric and line the rest of the skirt, or or skip the facing and line the waistband (the way you’re doing yours). Would you have any recommendation regarding that?

        Thanks again!!

        • Liz / Nov 14 2011

          Hey Melanie!

          I’ve actually done it both ways. Since your skirt doesn’t include a lining pattern I’d say to make your facing using the fashion fabric and line the rest of the skirt with your normal lining. I don’t know the exact shape on your waistband, but it would be much easier to just cut out lining using the same pattern pieces as your skirt shell than to try and draft a new lining pattern by combining the skirt and the waistband together (without the joining seam allowances). Does this make sense?

          The waistband facing (same as your fashion fabric) will give the skirt a bit more structure than just the lining also, which I have a tendency to like on my own skirts.

          I hope I answered your question fully. :) Feel free to email me again if you have more questions. And happy sewing!

        • melanie / Nov 14 2011

          Thank you for your quick reply! It does make sense to make a facing in the fashion fabric, especially since it’s a high-waist, that I’m considering adding boning to. The facing will make it nice and sturdy. I think I like the lining so much I would have put it everywear :P.
          I am using this patern for the waistband: http://www.burdafashion.com/fr/Magazines/Archives_des_magazines/108_B_Chemisier_112_Jupe/1270777-1463237-1679401-1679405-1679519.html,

          and attaching this body (with some adjustments, view C): http://momspatterns.com/inc/sdetail/79613.

          I’ve made a muslin and the two pieces came together surprisingly easily..
          thanks again for your help!

        • Liz / Nov 14 2011

          I love the waistband on that Burda skirt! I like your view C, but I really like view E myself with the hidden buttons and the button tabs on the skirt. I think your view C will be wonderful with that waistband. :)

          I love lining! Everything I make now has lining; it’s a lot more work but everything feels so silky with it I can’t-not put it in.

          Have you seen Gertie’s post about adding boning into a skirt waistband?

        • melanie / Nov 15 2011

          Yes I have seen the tutorial! I will definitely be using it for the waistband. thank you again for sharing! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can show my finished skirt on my blog…

  9. Freddie / Oct 5 2011

    This is so handy! Thanks for taking the time to take such detailed step by step photos. And horray for someone thinking to reinforce for curves. I was going to make a pencil skirt, but hadn’t even considered that, but now I definitely will!

  10. floweryhoney / Nov 6 2012

    hi i would like to know, in the last pic i dont see the organza square anymore, what did you do with the other half we didnt cut in step 7 . if you did something(-:
    thanks heaps!

    • Liz / Nov 6 2012

      Hey Floweryhoney! This is a great question since I don’t seem to have a good picture for you on this. I didn’t do anything with the other half of the organza square, I just left it be. You could trim it down if you wanted to match your seam allowances (after sewing the seam) but that’s up to you.

      What it looks like before sewing the seams is the first image in step 6. In that image you can see how I just left the larger half of the square as is, laying on top of the clipped portion.

  11. floweryhoney / Nov 6 2012

    thank you so much for your super duper quick answer(-:

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