A few weeks back, I showed you a method I use to reduce the waist on a simple straight skirt (link). Today I’ll show you how I made that same alteration on a skirt with a fitted yoke waist.
I recently sewed Vogue 8837 (link), a knit skirt with a shaped yoke and shirt-tail hem. When I was cutting this skirt, I was primarily concerned with the finished length of 33″ — as drafted, it would have come nearly to my ankles. I shortened it eight inches (link), and I could have sworn I checked the finished waist measurements on the pattern tissue before cutting.
How does it even stay up? GIANT!
So, okay, I made a mistake and didn’t measure the waistband, sigh, bummer, etc. This is easy to fix, though. I I didn’t even have to remove the yoke to reshape it. This yoke is one large piece, folded over at the top so that the fabric is doubled. You can see the seam across the hips where the yoke joins the rest of the skirt. That’s almost exactly at the true hip, which on my petite frame is 7″ below true waist. So I started by detaching the folded-over portion of the yoke from the skirt (that’s the facing portion, the “private” side that touches the skin, not the “public” side that faces outward). I left the public side stitched in place.
Skirt waistband interior
You can see the stitching and seam allowances running horizontally on this picture. You can also see that the side seam of the yoke curves inward a bit — not nearly enough for someone with my hourglass, but it isn’t straight from hip to waist. What I needed to do was increase the shaping there to make it smaller through the waist. So I started by marking the point where I wanted the new waist curve to end up. It’s a little hard to see on that picture because the dressmaker’s ruler is clear with red markings, but the white chalk mark is 1.5″ in from the original waist point. It’s smack in the vertical middle of the waistband because when we fold the waist back over to stitch it down, that’s where the fold will be.
Next, I extended that dot into a dash of about 1″, or a half-inch extending on either side of the dot. The purpose of this little flat line portion is to smooth out the curve on the waistband. You know how some waistbands are rectangles and some are curved? I wanted the rectangular effect at the very top bit of the waistband, but I wanted the rest of it to curve.
Marking the flat/rectangular portion of the waistband
Then I used the curved portion of the ruler to extend this line to the hip seam and the top raw edge. This isn’t precise engineering. All you really have to do is find an angle that looks right — pay attention to the way the angle changes over the length of the ruler, because the curve will be steeper at one end than the other. I wanted it steeper as it approached the flat rectangle portion, so I flipped the curve around and positioned it until it looked about right, aiming for the point where the seam allowances at the side seam and the hem seam would cross.
Yeah, okay, that should do it
Then I flipped it around and used the same points on the ruler to draw the same arc from the waist to the stitched hem end. This is what the line looked like.
New stitching line marked in chalk
That sweet little line represents a 6″ reduction in the waist size — or, 1.5″ times four. Do you understand why it’s times four? There are two side seams, and each side seam consists of two pieces. So if we make this 1.5″ reduction on each of two pieces and two seams, that’s four reductions. We don’t have to do it this way. If we have a big belly or an extremely tiny back waist, we can shape the back and front waist yoke pieces in different ways to accommodate those body shapes. But in my case, this symmetrical shaping usually works pretty well.
While I’m thinking of different ways we can shape these yokes, I should mention that I considered adding darts instead of altering the side seams this dramatically. I thought I could trim the side seams a half inch and then do some half inch darts in the front and back and achieve the same reduction. With a different fabric, I might have done exactly this. But this particular ponte (from Mood — link) is heavy enough to be made into coats, and so I wanted to keep the seaming to a minimum. Thicker fabrics work better with fewer of these fine shaping details. In another fabric, though, I might have used darts to distribute the reduction around the circumference of the waist.
Next, I stitched on the chalk lines and trimmed away the extra fabric.
Hunka hunka burning red ponte knit
One thing that might be apparent from this picture is that the angle of that curve is pretty steep along the waist to the hip. And the angle from hip seam to hem is about as straight as any skirt gets. This meant that we shifted from steep angle to straight side seam right at that hip seam, and it made the crossing bit — where the side seam crosses the hip seam — want to stick out a little bit. So I ended up stitching a bit of an angle below the hip seam, too, just to smooth out the transition. It was only a tiny bit of stitching, but it made a big difference in the smoothness of the fit over the hips. That stitching line started about 1/2″ above the hip seam and extended down about a half inch below it.
After all the stitching was done, and the yoke was folded back over and restitched at the hip seam, this is the fit. I’m standing a little twisty to take the photo, but when I stand normally, that side seam does hang at the proper angle. I wanted to take a side view shot so you can see the shirt-tail hem effect at the knee, which was what drew me to this pattern in the first place.
The fit at the waist is ever so much better now! It will even stay up if I don’t hold it in place, much to the disappointment of the neighborhood perverts. I’ll trim the seam allowances to remove some of the bulk and give it one more intensive pressing, but this thing is basically ready to wear. It’s a heavy enough fabric to wear with some fleece tights and boots even on a cold day.
But can you imagine what it would look like if I hadn’t shortened it eight inches? Yikes. That would be bad.
These are the two main alterations (length and waist reduction) I have to make in about every skirt or pants pattern. Do you have standard alterations, too? Or is your fitting done on a project-by-project basis?