Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

Inset Point Sewing Tutorial

Sewing inset geometric shapes like rectangles & triangles (aka godets) can be intimidating and confusing at first glance, but they are nothing to be afraid of!

You can see examples of point sewing in some of the dresses I made for my sister’s ‘30s style wedding (my dress specifically, which is also pictured here, along with a copper skirt involving some crazy points set into gathering); in the envelope art on many of my favorite vintage ‘50s patterns in my collection; on the front skirt of my navy ‘40s dress; and most noticably (because of the contrasting fabrics) in my Stars & Stripes skirt. (Is it obvious that point sewing is one of my personal favorite sewing challenges?)

You need to completely disregard pattern instructions when it comes to point sewing, because they just make it more complicated than necessary. I’ll demonstrate the simplest way to sew inset points with a short picture guide, and you might even find yourself drawn to the challenge of point sewing!

I recently took some photos of the process of point sewing while demonstrating it to a friend, who was making herself a dress using retro Butterick 5708, which has a V-shaped seam pointing down under the bust in both front and back.

Technical line drawing of Butterick 5708.

In most situations, it’s best to first stitch together any straight seams that join to a pointed piece. I find it easiest and the most likely to produce a precise point in the end.

Straight seams stitched on the mockup first.
Red thread used for better visual.

Press seam open and mark match points. (Once you start practicing and have begun to master point sewing, you may not need to mark the match points every time.)

And this is the key to point sewing: Do not try to sew the point as one continuous seam! Treat each point as two separate seams and always start from in the middle at the point.

Just knowing that will save you hours of frustration. =)

Match points marked with dots.
(I used a dark marker for illustration purposes.)

Pin through the dots to match the points.

Pinning through the match points.

Then pin out from the point for the rest of one edge.

Pinned and ready to stitch.

Start sewing right on the dot at the point.

Hand-crank the needle down right on the dot and then remove pin to start sewing the seam.

First half of point stitched.

Remove any stitches above the dot on the pressed open seam that was stitched first. If pattern does not have a seam lining up with the point, clip to dot to spread fabric for pinning to second half of inset point.

Clip to point, spread, and pin second half of pointed seam.

I find that most times at this stage, it’s easiest to flip the pieces over and sew from the other side – once again starting at the point. (However, I sometimes decide to end the second half at the point. It really just depends on the fabric and how it is behaving.)

Starting stitch at the point again.

Completely stitched point. Wrong sides both front and back.

Point sewn and seam allowance pressed down, following direction of point.

And there you have it – a nice sharp inset point!

The same method also works with more complex shapes like a T-shaped yoke (illustrated in views A & B of this vintage pattern). Just start at a point and stitch each edge in separate steps.

But remember: there are no real rules in sewing! There’s always more than one way to do something – some ways are just easier than others. =)

(By the way, my friend finished her dress and her inset points turned out beautifully! If I ever get a photo, I’ll update the post to include it.)

If you ever have a sewing dilemma, feel free to leave a comment, ask me by email or find me on Twitter – I’d love to help out if I can!

23 responses to “Inset Point Sewing Tutorial

  1. Leila June 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    This is SO clear. Now I wanna go play with this. Thanks for putting it together, Brooke.

  2. sweary sewer June 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    dear god how i wish this was up two weeks ago! how right you are when you say to disregard the pattern instructions, that mccall’s pattern didn’t really have too many instructions, but it did have me clipping corners BEFORE sewing which just meant everything slipped and stretched everywhere. oh boy, this would have saved me so much frustration. i searched and searched for a t-shaped yoke tutorial and there was nothing before you. so THANK YOU! i know i will be referring to this next time i need to do this technique.

    thank you so much!

    • Brooke June 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      You are very welcome! Glad this will be helpful to you next time! Thanks for pushing me to finally edit the photos and finish the post I’ve had sitting in my drafts for a few weeks. =)

      Patterns are terrible about having you cut and clip before you really should. I always say you should only cut your fabric when you absolutely have to – go as far as you can with it whole and then clip into points & curves as late in the build as you can.

      • sweary sewer June 10, 2013 at 2:17 am

        this one just said, “clip the corners and attach the yoke,” which SOUNDS right and easy, and in fact, t-shaped yokes LOOK easy, but then i discovered the reality of it all. :/

        anyway, i’m drawn to sharp lines and pointy shapes, so i know i’ll be back at this post very soon. plus, i do quite fancy a grey striped version of the mccalls top i am making. thank you so much. 🙂

  3. sewlittletime June 10, 2013 at 8:18 am

    really helpful! thanks brooke!

  4. Karen June 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Great tutorial, Brooke! I, too, love the look of inset points – perhaps this will encourage me to do more of them!

  5. Gjeometry June 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for the great post, Brooke! I will bookmark this for when I have to do this type of sewing.
    Which, correct me if I’m wrong will be for my Sewaholic Crescent skirt. The yoke is made up of several pieces that join together. I’ve been a tad afraid to cut and sew it up.

    P.S. I really like your Stars and Stripes skirt.

    • Brooke June 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      You’re welcome! =)

      It does look like a tiny bit of point sewing on the Crescent skirt. I think it would be a good first try at the point sewing – the gathers will probably make it a little easier around the point (might not need to clip) but the yoke will have a much sharper point when you do it as two seams like I demonstrated. If you did it as one seam with a pivot, it would come out a bit rounded at the point. Don’t be afraid! You can definitely do it!

      And thanks! – that skirt was a fun project with scraps and just a little less than a yard of stripes I really wanted to use.

  6. shel July 2, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Thank you so much, at last I will be able to finish my tunic top with a nice neat point.
    Wish I had found this sooner, would have saved a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

  7. Kikulinka December 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I love you! I am trying to sew exactly the same dress today and I found difficult to sew it properly at this place. This is so helping!

  8. Gina mac September 9, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Your instructions have saved me so many hours of frustration. Thank You. I’m working on a pattern by vogue 1847. Vest has insets. The picture on patten doesn’t show its black.

  9. Brooke September 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Yay! You’re welcome! So happy my post helped! =)

  10. RoadDust June 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I am working on Anne Adams pattern 4510 with the yoke similar to the Advance dress pattern you have with the points on the skirt.
    There are absolutely no instructions other than sew the yoke to the dress….which is panels with no sewn in waist.. fuller than a-line . Will your example above be the same on these tight curves?
    So far I have only pinned and repinned………

    • Brooke June 29, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Yes, I would approach a curve that comes to a point the same way as the example in my blog post. It might also be helpful for you to draw the exact stitchline on your fabric so you can have a guide line to follow as you stitch the seam. When I sew curves, I leave the pins in but hand crank the needle over them when I get to each pin.

      Hope this helps!

  11. Emma August 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I am trying to make vogue 8975 and I am struggling with the inverted V seam right at the front. The pattern is designed for knit, which makes it harder then woven (I made Burda 6916) which had lots of inset points. After the first one I had no problem, but I pinned and repinned and sewed and unpicked this knit project and I still can’t seem to get it right. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • Brooke August 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      It sounds like you might need to use some wash-away stabilizer and/or add some clear elastic to the seam to help keep the fabric from stretching out of shape. For a fast low-tech solution, you could even try stitching it sandwiched between some layers of paper so it feeds more easily through the machine. Then you can just rip the paper off after you stitch it. Sometimes you just have to use a bunch of trial and error solutions when it comes to knits – good luck!

  12. Pingback: pivotal points – wrong doll

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