How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress

Written by helen thomas
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How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
A serviced machine will give you a more accurate stitch. (Sewing machine image by Kumar RR from

The yoke is essential to the composition of a tunic dress. A yoke is a fitted panel around the neck and shoulders from which the dress is hung, and can have sleeves or a collar attached. Whether the yoke is circular, square, large or small, the instructions are largely the same. Tunic dresses hang from the shoulders, so this yoke needs to be well sewn with strong seams. Use good quality materials, including fabric and thread, to create a long-lasting piece.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Interfacing, cut to yoke size
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Pins

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  1. 1

    Iron the interfacing on to the wrong side of the yoke sections. Application is usually by ironing, but follow the manufacturer's instructions for full details. Pull the interfacing away from the fabric to test how strongly it is attached; if it comes off even slightly, continue ironing it on. The yoke pieces should now be stiff.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Required levels of heat and pressure differ, depending on the fabric. (ironing image by jovica antoski from
  2. 2

    Stitch the yoke sections together (right sides together). Use a single running stitch with strong thread to get a smooth but secure stitch. Flip the yoke to the wrong side up and press the seams out with the iron. Identify a front section of the yoke, and one or two back sections (depending on whether the finished tunic is to have a back opening such as a zip or buttons).

  3. 3

    Lay the yoke on a flat surface, right side up, and fold the neck edges (the facing edges) under it. About 1/2 inch of fold should be sufficient. Pin and press the folded edges. Unpin and fold these edges under again, so that the rough edge of the fabric is hidden. Pin and press. Stay-stitch the edges. Stay-stitching strengthens the fabric when it is curved, as the yoke will be if it is circular. This stitching also keeps the edges neat for a more professional finish.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Use a thread colour similar to that of your fabric. (sewing in purple image by robert mobley from
  4. 4

    Fold, pin, press and stitch the yoke's outer edges in the same way. Stitch 5/8 inch from the facing edge. This will allow for space to sew the yoke fabric onto the tunic fabric later.

  5. 5

    Press under the edge along the stitching to ensure the interfacing is intact. Then press the stitched edges down.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Iron both sides of the fabric to ensure the edges are smooth and flat. (animations 195 image by Jacques Ribieff from
  6. 6

    Pin the front centre point of the outer yoke edge to the centre point of the front tunic neck edge, matching notches. Pin the rest of the front yoke section edges to the front tunic edge. The yoke and tunic should both be right side up. The yoke should extend over the edge of the tunic (this will help hide any messy edges on the tunic), and may not align symmetrically, depending on the design of the garment. The tunic fabric may naturally pleat, depending on the ratio of tunic fabric to yoke fabric. Allow for armholes or sleeves when you decide how much of the yoke edge to pin to the tunic.

  7. 7

    Baste along the centre front, and then stitch along the stitching lines on the front yoke section.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Keep a consistent distance between yoke edge and stitching all the way around. (sewing image by pncphotos from
  8. 8

    Pin the outer edges of the back yoke section to the edges of the back tunic, matching notches. If the tunic has a back opening (like a zip or buttons), line up the straight ends of the yoke (the yoke's center back) with the straight edges of the tunic's center back. If there is no back opening, match the centre of the back tunic to the two ends of the yoke as they are brought together to make a complete circle. Again, the tunic fabric may naturally pleat, and remember to allow for armholes or sleeves.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Use pins with large heads for easy removal from the fabric. (pin box image by Edsweb from
  9. 9

    Baste along the pins, and stitch the yoke in place. Take care over any pleats or integral designs on the tunic, and keep the fabric flat to give a sleek finish.

  10. 10

    Trim the excess seams and corners, and cut triangles into the curves. Do this with a triangle point facing inward to the stitching--this will allow the fabric to bend in where it curves and avoid its bunching together.

    How to sew a yoke on a tunic dress
    Be careful not to cut through stitching. (scissors image by Pefkos from

Tips and warnings

  • You can skip folding the yoke edges by making two yokes, stitching them together (right sides together) and turning the finished yoke right side out. This reveals neat edges with no need to fold.

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