Design & Draft: Back Yokes for Denim

No post yesterday- I teach on Tuesday nights and while I could schedule a post I don’t like to.  It lacks immediacy, call me old-fashioned.  (Others who blog, do you schedule posts on a regular basis?)

For the rest of this week, I want to zero in on some denim details.  On Monday, we looked at RTW jeans-style waistbands/belt loops.

Drafting a Jeans-y Back Yoke

Tonight (this morning?), I have a new Visual Reference Guide at for you.  It’s a very clear step by step guide to drafting a back yoke on the Hummingbird Skirt.  The same steps and logic can be applied to other skirts or pants, and it’s pretty clear even for someone who might not draft much but would like to add a little design interest to a plain skirt.  Take a look.

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body.  Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body. Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The resulting yoke is a less-traditional shape like the yoke on the Pinkie Pants.  I like the way the seaming wraps around my body, it’s subtly unexpected.  I wrote the Visual Reference Guide so that your Hummingbird Denim Yoke seam would wrap around your body and flow into the pocket seam in a similar way.  I also wrote in how to make a more traditional V-yoke.

Meanwhile, let’s check out other back yoke treatments for inspiration:

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This is a fairly ordinary back yoke.  In general, a back yoke seam is flat-felled and functions as an alternative to a back dart.  That is, it introduces a curve in the backside area.  For some very curvy bodies, a back yoke + small dart may be necessary.

click for source

click for source

Generally, the back yoke seams slope gently down toward the CB seam, a few fingerwidths higher than the widest part of the backside curve.  Cool pocket variation shown here, and click here for a useful perspective on the visual effects of pocket size.

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As with waistbands and belt loops and threads, back yokes vary widely.  I like the extra little seam here, from Armani.  Extra seaming = extra labor costs for cutting/sewing = pricier garment.

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These jeans are from the same maker, Armani, and you can see they’re as different as can be from the other pair.  The wash (color), the shape and position of the yoke, and the distance between the stitches.  It’s an extra wide flat fell seam.

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click for source

These lavishly embellished women’s jeans have a surprisingly straight yoke seam with a double belt loop back detail.

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click for source

This back yoke is nothing special, but I rather like the crossed belt loops and the seamed pockets.  Note the angle of the pocket flaps.

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click for source

And for the finale, this quirky-cute back yoke.   I imagine it would be a pain in the neck to sew, but the result is worth it.   I rather like the pockets, too, what do you think?  I’d almost call it Art Deco style, except… it’s a denim skirt…

Read On

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click for source

While I was looking around for some interesting back yokes for this post, I found a very cool article on Jeans Anatomy.

Tomorrow: Hemp-Cotton Denim Torture Testing / Sample Sewing / Denim Threads and also How to Calculate Fabric Weight

Then: The Big Reveal and Guide to Sewing with Hammers


  1. Those asiatradingonline jeans pockets are actually sewn under the main fabric and not on top…amazing construction and detail and in fact their whole website is devoted to the most outrageous pocket styles! Love the Jeans Anatomy article…things we never knew about an American classic but now a world wide essential.

    • Yes, I see that, I hadn’t noticed at first. Neat! It reminds me of cathedral windows (quilting).

      I really like the wholesaler retails sites that have been springing up. I wouldn’t touch the merch, but there’s some really cool details that you see. Part of me really likes ornate denim work, it’s like… Everyday couture or something. Silk purse, sow’s ear.. Something like that.. :)

  2. There are times when I see pockets and think that’s not the most flattering placement, but I can’t always place what is wrong about it. As someone with a curvy bum, I’m not looking for things like added flaps but yolks can add nice detail without padding.

    • I think so, too… Especially if the yoke has something a little interesting going on with it. Not too OTT, but just a *little* different.. :)

  3. I have been wondering the last two weeks why do jeans have back yokes and are they really necessary. You read my mind and gave me wonderful examples to inspire.

  4. Oooh, I wish I could take a class with you in person! Your visual reference guide to drafting a back yoke is fantastic – clear, easy to understand and navigate. I read through the whole thing and said to myself, “This looks do-able, and it looks like fun!” I’m ready to pull out my tracing paper and start. Just waiting for H-bird to land. :) Actually, I think I’m going to make a skirt without the yoke first, so I can take care of any fitting issues. Then, I’ll tackle the denim skirt with yoke. My denim is washed and ready to go! Eagerly anticipating learning about threads, fabric weight, and hammers as well as seeing the final reveal later this week.

    P.S. That pocket link was a fun read!

    • You can, you can do it! Just one step after the other, and I didn’t leave anything out. Your yoke piece will look different from mine, we have different proportions, but the concept is exactly the same. :)

      She’s landing soon. I’m carefully monitoring everything, part of me wishes I could borrow Santa’s magic sleigh and do the pattern drop-offs myself. Soon! So Soon!

      Without the yoke is most prudent, then you can mark any little fit/ease changes and your denim skirt will fit very nicely indeed.

      Hammers, threads, etc are such fun.. I have rivets and so forth, too. I took my fabric equations to my husband (he handles numbers all the time for work) and he very carefully simplified everything so calculating fabric weight is nice and easy.. :)

  5. I think I cracked the code on theproblem with pockets and these low rise jeans that are so popular these days. The pockets are put the same distance from the yoke, no matter where it hits on the body! Do you see? That is why even skinny girls look like they have droopy asses because the pockets are halfway down their legs instead of on their bum. This might be the problem seraphinalina is alluding to.
    The solution would be put the pockets up higher, even if there is not much space to work with. Do not let the pockets extend down the back leg.

    • That makes sense. I used to wear those tiny low rise jeans in highschool (I don’t know why…), that’s been long ago enough now you’d think the kids would have abandoned that style. The one that bugs me is seeing young mothers my age out with their kids, bending over the prams and etc in their low rise jeans.. I wish I could offer decent pants to those busy ladies, ones that don’t flash so much. Oh well…

      I haven’t put my hand into it, but I think my jeans pockets will be purely decorative.. A nod to pockets, for exactly that reason. I don’t want that “long bottom” look… :)

  6. Since I don’t wear pants, I’ve never really thought about jeans-style yokes for anything other than pants for my kids. Or back pockets actually. The girlchild appears to be developing a not insignificant rear however, so I’m definitely paying more attention to how they work and the effect they have on fit. She’ll thank me one day – when her pants do actually fit.

  7. I’m totally in love with the seaming and angles on your pink pants! It’s this kinda stuff that I love most about sewing my own clothes – the details. You’ve pulled up some fabulous details examples here, too. You know, I still have your woven pants block (I keep telling myself this will be the year of woven pants, but my job keeps getting in the way of my hobby!) and I’ve got some fabulous non-stretch denim I’m dying to try. I’m also hoping that in some point in time you’re going to release a pants pattern… ?
    In the meantime I’m hanging out for sewing with hammers. I’ve eyed off the hammer in the toolbox a few times when I’ve been faced with bulky fabric that won’t squish in between my feed dog and foot!
    (ps – wierdly on my work computer (running outdated ie 7, mind you) – the text in the comment box and the details boxes underneath turns up white – so I can’t see what I’ve written. That’s easily bypassed by typing my comment somewhere else then pasting it in… but thought you might like to know :)

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