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3/25/2010

Why I will NEVER sew this Shirt...

 I recently bought a  McCalls Mens Shirt Pattern that I will never sew.  While I hand-draft most of the shirt patterns I use, when a pattern company comes out with a new menswear pattern I usually buy it to see if it has anything interesting to yield.  However, if I had taken the time to look at the envelope of this one more closely, I would have put it back in the drawer !

At first glance, it looks like a perfectly "OK"  shirt pattern, doesn't it?
 
 Silly me...I didn't look closely enough at the front sketch or the back envelope pattern diagrams...which would have kept me from spending my money. Let's take a look at the pattern diagrams, below.



 I know you are already ahead of me here. Yes, you are correct, this shirt pattern does NOT have a back yoke!  The yokes you see in view D and E are merely shaped pieces appliqued onto the front and back. But there is no separate back yoke piece.

So What? 

Well...while omitting the back yoke can be called a design option, in my opinion it is not a good one.  A yoke on a man's shirt is quite important because it forms the "foundation" that allows a smooth shoulder line, along with supporting the front and shaping the back of the shirt.

A "back" yoke is also important because it is also is part of the "front".  It extends over the natural shoulder-line and that extension becomes part of the shirt front. This extension is important for the front of the shirt to hang straight, to keep the button plackets from "twisting", and to add a touch of support to the pocket so that it doesn't "droop".

In my opinion,  a back shirt yoke is vital for adding enough ease to lay smoothly over a man's shoulder blades and so that the shirt does not get "hung-up" at the waist or hips. The back can still look smooth, providing this ease without pleats or tucks. The ease is virtually invisible when the back is drafted with a curved upper edge, and the yoke drafted with a straight bottom edge. The cut fabric pieces are then carefully eased together when sewn. The patterns for a "smooth-but-shaped" back often look something like this, one of my original drafts.
 This is how you can still have a smooth back with no pleats or gathers, because the ease in incorporated into the curved edge of the upper back. When a menswear shirt is drafted without a back yoke, there is no way to add the necessary ease to glide over the shoulder muscle and shoulder blades, aside from making the back wider at the side seams. When ease is added that way, you often see bunching at the armscye and the upper sleeve..never a good thing.

As you can see, I am very opinionated about the importance of a shirt yoke. A shirt yoke needn't be very deep..I often draft them for a finished back depth of only 3", but this shirt-maker thinks every man's shirt needs one ! 

_____________________________
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Judy asked  my recommendation  for a casual Hawaiian-Style shirt pattern with a back yoke.
 
The best one that I have personal experience with is the 
Men's Islander Shirt Pattern. I've made it a few times, and really like the way it is drafted. Click here to see the one I made from Distressed Silk.
---------------------------------

Ann asked, "...if a pattern I have doesn't have this [a yoke], is it possible to just cut & draft one from the pattern or is it better to just get out my pattern drafting software and start fresh? 

That depends on your level of drafting expertise.  You can merely cut the pattern to make a yoke (don't forget to add seam allowance!), and then expand the back (at CB) to add a pleat for ease (don't forget to add seam allowance !)...Or if you have more advanced pattern drafting experience/skills, you can slash and spread the back *slightly* to form a gentle curve to add ease to the lower back piece (I know I am a broken record, but...don't forget to add seam allowance :)  
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I sincerely regret that I cannot give complete fully detailed lessons on drafting a pattern within the limits of a blog post. Any pattern drafting book will have this information.
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22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pam:
Thanks for the wonderful lesson on the how and why's of yokes. I really never had thought of it in that way. I hope you are working on a book on men's shirts. (Yeah, I know, between 2 and 4 am is your only free time). Seriously, you are very generous with your knowledge! I would love to see all that info assembled in a single place - a book by you!
Lynn B.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Weedwacker said...

Very informative post! I agree with Pam about the book! I would buy it.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Pam, I enjoy reading your article on creating men's shirts. However I have a question regarding yokes.
What happens when you want to make a man's shirt with the princess seam shaping. Do you still use a back yoke piece? I would presume you would still use one but perhaps not too deep?

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Rena said...

Thanks for posting a well written commentary on men's shirts! I will file this for future reference:-)

9:33 AM  
Blogger judy said...

I am glad to read this....I have made my dh a few button up (Hawaiian style) shirts from a kwik sew pattern that doesn't have a back yoke and I have never been that satisfied with them. I was thinking I needed a new pattern with a yoke. My dh loves tommy bahama shirts, could you recommend a pattern?

9:54 AM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Sue, if the back of the shirt pattern also has "princess seams", hopefully the pattern drafter has incorporated "shoulder blade ease" into those seams. In that case, a yoke would not be *necessary*. However, I personally prefer a back yoke on a man's shirt, regardless of any seaming details... be they functional or just decorative.

The depth of the yoke on any shirt is personal preference, but usually looks best if it is at least 1" above the top of the wearer's shoulder-blade.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Pam, so if a pattern I have doesn't have this, is it possible to just cut & draft one from the pattern or is it better to just get out my pattern drafting software and start fresh?

10:06 AM  
Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

Thanks for the great info Pam. I was planning to make this shirt for DH, who's been a saint throughout my whole ordeal. Maybe I'll try redrafting it, or maybe I'll just look for a different pattern.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Nancy K said...

I really had no idea of the real function of a back yoke on a man's shirt. Thanks for sharing.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

i always put a yoke on my Little Man's shirts, but I didn't know why. Thanks

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Theresa in Tucson said...

Good points on the yokes. Just love the silk shirt. I have a TNT McCall's camp shirt that I think I will modify to add a yoke and pleats. Much better than adding width at the side seams to cope with the hips. One question - when using a fusible interfacing in a shirt, how should it be laundered? I'm having some trouble with orange peel dimples after washing.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Garments made with any fusible interfacing (including mine from Fashion Sewing Supply) should be laundered in cool to warm water and dried on low (warm) heat dryer settings.

Usually when you get that "orange peel" effect after washing, it is because the fabric has shrunk a little bit and then "carried" the interfacing with it. A firm press using a thin pres-cloth and a fairly high heat iron should take care of it :)

1:04 PM  
Blogger vespabelle said...

I'm making my husband a shirt right now. The yoke is really important because his back is quite rounded. I added about 5/8 inches to the yoke and back (tapering to the side seams.) I pined it together last night and it's a huge improvement over the non-adjusted pattern where the yoke was curved rather than horizontal.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Liana said...

Pam, You always know the Why of things. I can't imagine a men's shirt without a yoke. It would be sort of like a woven T-shirt, wouldn't it? At least in the fit dept. Yuck.

5:41 PM  
Blogger meredithp said...

And that lovely curve on the back seam that joins the yoke takes care of men's sloping shoulders. I guess all men have them, don't they? :-)

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

I always learn something from you, Pam. It makes my day when y ou post! Thanks a Million X

7:56 PM  
Blogger judy said...

thanks for the pattern recommendation!! I purchased it and hope to make one up in the near future!!

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Cristian said...

Pam,

Considering the slope of a man's shoulder, how would one go about deciding how much to curve the back seam? Would it work just like a dart, playing with the size until the grain is right, something that could be more visually assessed with gingham fabric for testing?

Thanks!

Cristian

11:02 PM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Cristian, the answer to your question is "yes" :) That is how a shirt pattern is made by the draping method :)

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Cristian said...

Pam,

Thanks for your reply. My main concern in finding the point at which I need to create a dart/consider the curvature for the back seam is that once I move the yoke up, that point of curvature for the back seam is no longer at the precise point, but rather above it, since I don't like a wide yoke that sits about midway up the back armscye. Have you played with this before?

-Cristian

5:02 PM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Hi Cristian...yes I have worked with this concept extensively, because I cannot abide a shirt that does not flow smoothly across the back and over the shoulder-blades.

I prefer a narrow yoke as well. Bear in mind that all we are doing by curving the back seam (where it joins the yoke) is adding ease...it really is as simple as that. :)

Making the yoke more narrow does not change the point at which the back seam curve is the highest. It will always be at CB.

Of course, this is assuming normal anatomy.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Tie Dye Diva said...

How I wish I would have found this post before buying Simplicity 5581 and making the same mistake - didn't look at line drawings and assumed it would have a yoke. Now instead of an afternoon sewing project, I have a drafting project and will have to sew next week.

1:51 PM  

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