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How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Yoke

In the last installment, I discussed how to prepare and sew on the shirt pocket. In this installment, we will continue sewing the men's shirt, putting the the yoke and shoulder seams together.

Men's shirt patterns vary in how they are assembled. Most men's shirts are put together using a back yoke, which is a piece of fabric that goes across the back of the shoulders and wraps part way over the shoulders toward the front of the garment. The shirt fronts and back are then attached to the yoke pieces near the shoulder. Most yokes are sewn using two layers of fabric with the front and back seams enclosed between the layers. The yoke allows for easier alterations and allows more ease and movement across the back and shoulders.

Typically, more casually styled shirts do not use a back yoke. If you are using a pattern that does not incorporate a yoke, you can skip this step. As you follow along with this tutorial, be sure to always refer back to your own pattern instructions to confirm the steps that you should follow for your particular pattern in case they differ slightly.

Before you start assembling the yoke and shirt back/fronts, it is a good idea to stay stitch the curved areas that make up the neckline. This prevents them from stretching and becoming distorted. Stitch just inside the seam allowance around the top curve of both the yoke and yoke facing. Also, stay stitch the small curved area at the top of the left and right fronts.

For this step, you will be working with the shirt back, yoke and yoke facing. If your shirt back has pleats, put those in place according to your sewing pattern instructions. Next, you will pin the yoke piece to the shirt back, right sides together, matching the centers of each piece and any notches. Baste in place, if desired.
Sewing Men's shirt yoke

With the shirt back and yoke pieces pinned or basted together securely, turn the shirt over, keeping the yoke piece flat under the shirt. Pin the yoke facing piece in place with the right side of the facing next to the wrong side of the shirt back (see photo). Match centers and notches as you did in the previous step. The shirt back should be sandwiched in between the yoke and yoke facing. Sew your seam as called out in your pattern, tacking the beginning and end of the seam securely.
Sewing men's shirt yoke

Since there are three layers of fabric, it is a good idea to grade these seam allowances. You do not have to worry about finishing this seam with a serger or zigzag because it is completely enclosed during the construction of the shirt. I like to leave the seam allowance closest to the right side of the garment the longest so that it covers the trimmed seam allowances keeping them from possibly showing through on the front side.

I find that the easiest way to do this is to keep the shirt and yoke pieces flat on my ironing board with the yoke piece on the bottom. Then, I take a pair of sharp scissors and carefully trim about 3/16 of an inch off of the middle layer (shirt back). The top seam allowance (yoke facing) is then trimmed down to about 3/16 of an inch. As you are cutting, slide the scissors along under the seam allowance and cut slowly to avoid cutting the seam or any of the other layers.
Sewing men's shirt yoke

To finish the back assembly portion, press both the yoke and yoke facing up and away from the shirt back. The edges of the yoke and yoke facing should match up.
sewing men's shirt yoke

Click to read how to sew the shoulder seams

How to Sew a Men's Shirt Lesson Index

How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Cutting the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Matching the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Pocket
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Yoke
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing Shoulder Seams
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Collar
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - the Collar Stand
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Sleeves

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