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Recreating gathered yoke

sewso | Posted in Fitting on

Hi everyone!

I’m trying to draft a pattern from my favorite (store-bought) dress, so I can recreate it again and again. 

The dress has a fitted circular yoke that goes around the front and back.  The lower front bodice is gathered where it attaches to the front yoke  (please see attached sketch… there’s only one image, just in two different picture formats).  The pattern piece I am trying to recreate is in pink.

Other than the gathers, there are no darts or other shaping outside of the seams, and the dress is very fitted, with a smooth, fitted waist. 

Do you have any suggestions on how I can re-create this lower front bodice piece into a flat pattern piece?  So far, I laid the dress out as flat as I could and used pins to poke through and transfer the outline to pattern paper.  However, this does not account for the fabric gathered into the yoke.  How do I “spread” the already flat pattern out to make room for the extra ease incorporated into the gathers if there’s no where else on the flat pattern piece to “take” the ease from?

I’m an intermediate sewer who primarily makes clothes.  I’ve been using Threads’ recent “cloning” article, Adele Margolis’ “Make Your Own Dress Patterns,” and David Coffin’s “Shirtmaking” as resources.  Ms. Margolis deals directly with ease, and I’ve read all of her information, but I can’t seem to figure this one out!

Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions you can give me!


  1. HeartFire2 | | #1

    My suggestion, without having to take apart the dress to measure it, is try measuring it an inch or so down from the gathered edge, use a tape measure spreading out each small section of gathers the best you can. After that, you may want to add an inch or to the length.

    An other option is that gathering is often (but not always) done in ration of 2:1 or 3:1 - meaning there is 2 or 3 times the length of the piece its gathered to. So, you could measure the lower edge of the piece its gathered to and then double that amount. The lighter weight the fabric the more it needs to be gathered, so this ratio could change if you use different weights of fabric for making your dress.

  2. Josefly | | #2

    There was a Threads article in the last year, I believe, that showed skirt patterns slashed and spread to achieve various effects. I think this slash/spread technique could be used to draft your gathered bodice pattern. I can't tell you which issue, but will look it up for you. Seeing how it was done with skirt pieces may help you visualize how to slash and spread a flat pattern for your bodice. - I looked up the Threads article "Two Vintage Twists on One Classic Skirt", Issue #127, Oct/Nov 2006, p.63. The illustrations on page 64 show how to slash and spread a pattern to create a gathered drape. In your case the slashes would be straight, not curved as shown.

    I understand from your drawing and description that the bodice is only gathered where it joins the yoke, and that it is joined to the waist without any gathering. This means that the pattern is narrow at the waist and flares out dramatically at the top so that it is wide enough to be gathered back in to the required width.

    Using the info that Heartfire gave you, measuring the fabric across the width at a place a couple of inches down from the top bodice/yoke seam, you can approximate the width of the top edge of the pattern before gathering. Then, if you can draw a flat pattern of the piece - as if there were no gathering - you can then slash your flat pattern piece vertically from the top edge down to the waist seam, slashing it in several places, and pivoting/spreading the resulting sections out until the top is spread to the width you approximated. Placing this spread-out pattern on top of blank paper, re-draw the pattern piece tracing around the outside edges of this spread-out piece. You may have to experiment with the number of slashes required to spread to the required upper width without distorting the upper curve. Since it will be sewn to the curved outside edge of the yoke, the top edge must still be curved, but wider - so make sure the lengths of the bodice at low point (which appears to be the center) and high point match the lengths you started with on your flat pattern piece.. Actually, perhaps the bodice is only gathered from center to the place where it joins the sleeve - with the fabric smooth and ungathered from the point where the armscye begins? In that case, slashing and spreading in the armscye area would not be necessary. It appears from your drawing that you will have to do something similar for the sleeves.

    Hope this is not too confusing.

    Edited 2/10/2007 9:30 pm ET by Josefly

    Edited 2/10/2007 10:34 pm ET by Josefly

  3. user-51823 | | #3

    sweet dress! it's hard to get a good measurement on gathers, considering that the section does flare out for the fit you describe.
    you could get a good estimate by machine basting a length of ribbon and gathering it until it looks similar to the dress. mark it and remove the basting stitches, and measure.

    1. sewso | | #4

      Thanks to all of you!  Those are some great suggestions, and really did help me wrap my mind around the problem.  I'll be trying again in the next few days - I think a combination of the slash-and-spread and measuring/ribbon ideas will help a lot.

      I'll let you all know how it works out!



      1. FitnessNut | | #5

        Also, if you are working with your sloper (and you should be), the waist dart is transferred to the bodice below the yoke seam. That accounts for fit only. The remainder of the fullness comes from added slashing and spreading. I estimate this for my own designs by taking a swatch of the proposed fabric and gathering a measured section until I am pleased with the appearance and then measuring it. Use that ratio to slash and spread your bodice. Don't forget to throw together a muslin to test it all and avoid a costly and frustrating mistake!

        1. Josefly | | #6

          Hi, FitnessNut. I wish I could visualize what you mean about transferring the sloper's waist dart to the bodice below the yoke seam. I think you're saying that the fullness required for the bust is provided by the gathered fabric design, but are you saying instead that the fullness that would have been managed by a waist dart is now somehow incorporated into the curved bodice/yoke seam?

          1. FitnessNut | | #7

            Actually, it could be either, but that isn't what I was saying. In preparing this pattern from a sloper, the first step would be to draw in the yoke and separate it from the rest of the bodice. Then transfer, either by pivoting or slashing, the waist dart to the yoke seamline where you want the gathering to start. Next, slash and spread further along this seam (toward the armhole) any additional amount for gathering. True up this seam, notch the beginning and end of the gathering on both pieces and you're away to the races.

          2. Josefly | | #8

            So with the pattern piece created by cutting the yoke off, you would close the waist dart, and create the same width dart at the top, "upside down" just above where the waist dart was?

          3. FitnessNut | | #9

            I'm not sure what you mean by "create the same width dart at the top". You close the dart at the waist, opening it up at the top. It may or may not be the same width, but its shaping function will be the same. This is a basic dart manipulation principle.

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