Pocket Primer: The Ins and Outs of Pockets
by Kathryn Brenne
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A well turned out pocket is a useful detail that can add both function and beauty to your garment. It can be hidden or make a statement. It can hold small items or give your hands a place to rest.
Pockets can be divided into the following types: patch, inseam and welt. Our pocket primer covers a variety of techniques to help you obtain professional results for every style as well as suggestions for drafting your own pockets.
Side Seam Pocket
This nearly invisible pocket is often used in the side seam of skirts, pants and coats.
1. Fuse a 1” strip of lightweight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the garment in the pocket opening area. Pink outer edge of interfacing strips to prevent show through.
2. Cut a set of 2 pocket bags. Trim 3/8” away from the Front pocket bag.
3. Attach the Front pocket bag to the Front garment piece with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Press the seam towards the pocket bag. Edge stitch.
4. Attach the Back pocket bag to the Back garment piece only in the pocket opening area using a 5/8” seam allowance.
5. Join the Front and Back garment pieces together along the side seam above and below the pocket opening using a 5/8” seam allowance. Keep the top and bottom of the Back pocket bag out of the way by folding back on itself.
6. Press the seam open. The Front pocket bag will fold towards the Front. Press the Back pocket bag and the Back open first before pressing it towards the Front.
7. With the pocket open, edge stitch the Front pocket opening. Leave long thread tails and then use them to square off the end of the stitching. Take them between the layers and knot them off.
8. Pin pocket bags together. Don’t worry if the edges do not line up. It is more important that the pocket opening is laying flat. Stitch pocket bags together.
9. The inside of the Front pocket opening with seam is flat and hidden inside of the pocket.
The folded edge of the Front should sit nicely into the well of the seam.
10. Trim away any excess seam allowance from the pocket bag. Finish stitching the Back pocket bag for the short bit above and below the pocket opening to the seam allowance.
Invisible Zippered Inseam Pocket
This useful and attractive secure pocket that can be added to ready to wear as well as to garments you are constructing. By adding an invisible zipper after the seam is sewn you avoid the lumpy bit at the end of the zipper, which is always difficult to sew when closing the seam after inserting the zipper.
1. Fuse a 1” strip of lightweight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the garment. Pink outer edge of interfacing strips to prevent show through.
2. Sew the Front and Back garment sections together along the side seams with a 5/8” seam allowance above and below the pocket opening.
Press the seam open.
3. Attach one side of the invisible zipper to the seam allowance. Position the coil teeth along the pressed fold line. The zipper tape that extends above and below the pocket opening should be positioned just to the outside edge of the seam.
Stitch using an invisible zipper foot.
As you come to the end of the zipper, which has now extended beyond the pocket opening, make sure the coil sits towards the outside of the seam allowance.
Align the second side of the zipper and stitch in the same manner. As you near the end, position the coil towards the outside of the seam allowance.
4. Pull up the zipper pull. This can take a bit of patience the first time to get it up into the pocket opening but you will never have to work at it again. The invisible zipper will open and close in the pocket opening only.
The wrong side of the zipper lays nice and flat.
5. Sew the Back pocket bag to the seam allowance only catching in the invisible zipper tape. It is helpful to use a zipper foot to do this.
Trim 3/8” off of the Front pocket bag.
Attach the Front pocket bag to the seam allowance.
Press the pocket bags towards the Front. Pin the pocket bags together ensuring they lay flat.
6. The finished pocket has a secure invisible zipper.
Front and back Western Pockets
Couture Patch Pocket
This patch pocket is often found on jackets. It has a curved lower edge, which can be difficult to turn under. Follow these tips to achieve perfectly matched curved corners. If you are having difficulty turning under the edges of a square corner pocket or a back jean pocket try using this template technique. A Couture Patch Pocket should look like it is floating. It should not look ‘nailed down’.
1. Cut 1 patch pocket in wool, 1 hair canvas, 1 square of lining and 1 piece of lining selvedge 3/8” wide by the width of the pocket, to be used as a thin stay tape.
2. Thread trace wool pocket.
3. Place hair canvas on wrong side of wool. Stab-stitch along basting lines from right side of the fabric.
Pin stay tape (lining selvage) along facing fold line. Stab-stitch in place working from the right side of fabric.
4. Use a cardboard template to press in pocket edges. To create a template photocopy pocket pattern piece. Glue the copy to a thin (cereal box) piece of cardboard. Cut out the template with no seam allowances. Place the template on the prepared fabric. Use the tip of the iron to fold the seam allowances over the template. Fold in the edges first before turning down the facing. Press lightly, then remove the template and press again.
5. Trim the seam allowances to 1/2”. Use pinking shears to trim the curved corners slightly narrower.
6. Working from the right side of the pocket, baste close to the edge to hold seam allowances in place.
7. Loosely catch stitch seam allowance around pocket, making sure to only catch the hair canvas.
8. Baste pocket facing in place. Tuck in sides of pocket facing so they will not show.
9. Slip-stitch sides of pocket facing just back from the edge of pocket.
10. Hem-stitch the facing to the hair canvas only.
11. Create a template for the lining that is 1/8” smaller around the outer edges than the pocket. Press in lining seam allowances using the cardboard template. Trim seam allowances to 1/2”. Pink around the curves.
12. Baste lining seam allowances.
13. Pin in place on wrong side of pocket.
Slip stitch lining to pocket.
14. Pin pocket in place on garment. Slip-stitch pocket to the garment, starting 1/4” in along the top edge. These few extra stitches along the top edge of the pocket add reinforcement. Position stitching just to the underside of the pocket edge so it appears to be floating on the garment.
Option 1: Fusible interfacing could be used instead of hair canvas for a ready to wear finish.
Option 2: The pocket can be basted in place and working from the wrong side of the garment use a small catch stitch to sew the pocket to the garment.
Option 3: If desired, the pocket could be topstitched at 1/4 – 1/2” after step 14. The topstitching is only for decoration. Once complete the pocket can still be hand stitched to the garment.
Option 4: Instead of hand stitching the pocket to the garment, the pocket could be machine edge stitched.
The bellows pocket is perfect for activewear. It gives depth to a patch pocket allowing you to stash more items. The silhouette can be used as a fashion statement too. For drafting instructions see directions at the end of the article.
1. Chalk the fold lines and seam allowances onto pocket.
2. Press along the chalked lines, turning seam allowances under.
3. Fold the bottom corners and stitch with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press the seam allowance to one side.
4. Turn under a 1/4” seam allowance along top edge of pocket. Pin the facing in place and top stitch. Fold the sides of the facing in forming a little pleat. Press.
5. Chalk the pocket placement on garment. The size of the pocket is the front of the pocket without the side or bottom extensions.
6. Pin the sides of the pocket to the chalked lines.
Pin the bottom edge in place and edge stitch.
7. Take 3 stitches across the top of the pocket and with the pleat from step 4 pinned in place, edge stitch the pocket through all layers ending stitching at the facing.
Finished pocket. (White thread used just for clarity in tutorial.)
Depending on the type of fabric used, you may want to edge stitch the folded lines of the bellows. This can be done after step 3.
Simple Single Welt Pocket
This classic pocket is suitable for pants and jackets.
1. Fuse a rectangle of lightweight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric where you want your pocket to be. Cut the pocket bag extra long from self fabric. Fuse a strip of 4” x 8” interfacing to the upper part of the pocket bag. This will become the welt.
2. Place pocket bag over welt area right sides together. Chalk the welt outline 6 1/4” long x 1/2” wide. Stitch around the outline, decreasing the stitch length to 1.5 in the corners to prevent fraying. Be precise with your stitching as this will determine the success of the finished welt pocket.
3. Cut through the center of the welt and V into the corners.
4. Turn through and press the upper edge and sides. Fold up the lining to form a welt. Take care to ensure that the width of the welt is uniform and fills the opening.
5. Stitch the corner triangles from the wrong side.
6. Working from the right side, stitch in the ditch along the bottom edge of the welt. (Contrast thread for demonstration purposes only!)
7. Fold the pocket bag up and stitch the sides, catching in the welt and triangles.
Fold pocket bag up.
Pin pocket bag in place.
Stitch in the well of the upper seam allowance.
Once the top of the pocket bag has been secured stitch the sides and trim any excess from the top of the pocket bag.
Double Welt Pocket
Double Welt Pockets are suitable for back pockets and jackets. They have a reputation for being one of the most difficult pockets to sew. Take your time, mark and stitch accurately.
1. Fuse a rectangle of lightweight fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut 2 lengthwise strips 1” x 8” of self fabric and fuse with interfacing. Be precise cutting the welts.
2. Chalk a rectangle 6 1/4” x 1/2” onto the garment. Stitch around outline, decreasing stitch length to 1.5 mm around the corners to prevent fraying. Be very precise as this will determine the size and shape of the finished pocket. I like to begin stitching in the center of one of the long sides rather than at a corner.
3. Press welts in half, wrong sides together. Pin in place against the right side of the fabric. Line up raw edges with the center of the welt outline. Stitch in place, ending exactly at corners. Do not stitch across the short ends.
4. Cut welt opening down the center and V into the corners.
5. Turn through and press.
6. Stitch across short ends of welt from the wrong side, catching in the triangles.
7. Attach pocket bag to lower welt first, within the seam allowance. Fold pocket bag up and stitch to upper welt in same manner.
8. Stitch sides of pocket bag, catching in welts and triangles again.
Finished double welt.
9. To keep everything in place while the remainder of the garment is sewn, catch stitch the opening closed.
Other Options: Suit jackets often have a flap inserted into a double welt pocket. To create the flap follow these directions:
1. Trim 1/16” off of the outer edges of the flap lining.
2. Sew the flap and lining together, easing in the flap to meet up with the slightly trimmed lining. Use pinking shears to pink the corners.
Turn right side out. Use a pressing template to press corners.
3. Baste upper edge of flap and lining together.
4. Chalk a placement line along the top edge of the flap. Insert flap into double welt pocket opening.
Pin to hold.
Sew flap to the seam allowance of the welt.
Return to step 7 of double welt instructions to attach the pocket bag.
Finished double welt with flap.
Exposed Zipper Pocket
This is a useful zipper for keeping items secure. It is a flat pocket whose set up similar to a double welt pocket. Rather than attaching welts a zipper is inserted.
1. Fuse interfacing to the wrong side of the garment fabric in the pocket area.
2. Cut a facing 2” wide by 8” long. Pin to the pocket area. Chalk an opening 3/8” wide by 7” or the length of the zipper.
3. Stitch around the chalk line. I like to begin on a side rather than in a corner. Instead of backstitching, I overlap a few stitches once I have come to the beginning.
4. Cut down the center and V into the ends.
5. To help with pressing, I like to use the edge of the iron to press the edges of the facing towards the center.
Turn facing through to the wrong side and press. The rectangular shaped opening should be perfectly shaped.
6. Apply double sided Wonder Tape to each edge of the zipper tape.
Position the zipper in the opening taking care to ensure it is straight.
7. Edge stitch around the opening. As you approach the zipper pull, stop with the needle in the down position, raise the presser foot and open the zipper.
Once the end of the opening has been stitched, stop again and close the zipper.
Do not back stitch. Instead leave long thread tails, pull them between the layers and knot off.
The zipper is now attached to the opening.
8. Attach pocket bag right sides together with lower edge of facing.
Keeping the garment out of the way, stitch in the well of the seam.
Press pocket bag downward.
Bring other side of pocket bag up to meet the top of the facing.
Stitch across the triangular ends of the pocket.
Finished pocket bag
Finished zippered pocket.
Double Cloth Reversible Patch/Welt Pocket
This pocket is suitable for a reversible garment made with a double cloth fabric. The technique used to create the welt portion of this pocket is the piped welt. The seam allowance fills the welts in this pocket style.
1. Cut a patch pocket with a 3/8” seam allowance. Thread trace the seam allowance catching only one layer of the double-faced wool. Thread trace a second line another 3/8” in from first line of basting. This time going through both layers.
2. Tear the layers apart stopping at the second line of basting. Gently pull on the layers and carefully clip threads holding the two layers together. Press the pocket flat.
3. Tuck the seam allowance in on one layer of wool. Pin back the second layer of wool to match first. Baste it in place.
4. Slip-stitch around the pocket. Machine topstitch the patch pocket opening edge only.
5. Trace a welt window on the garment 1.5” wide by 6 1/4” long. Stitch around the marked opening.
6. Cut down the center of the opening and V into the corners. Trim to 1/2” seam allowance.
7. Cut two strips 3” wide by 8” long. Chalk 1/2” along one edge of the welts. Fold the welt to that line. Press the fold line. Baste.
8. Stitch the welts to patch side of garment, lining up the shorter edge of the welt with the raw edge of the window. Turn the welts through and stitch across the ends catching in the triangles.
9. Separate the layers of the welt seam allowance up until the stitching. Trim the under layer to a scant 1/4”. Turn the outer edges in, tucking them under the trimmed seam allowance. Edge stitch around welt.
10. Cross-stitch the welts together. From the wrong side of the welt, pin the patch pocket onto the garment, covering welt entirely.
Either slip stitch the patch in place for an invisible look, or edge-stitch (this will show on
the other side of garment).
Shaped Welt Pocket
A shaped welt pocket can add an element of fun to a garment. Triangles, circles, odd shaped rectangles are all possibilities for a shaped welt pocket. This technique is called the organza patch technique for making welt pockets. I have used this technique to create an odd shaped pocket, but the same technique could be used to make a double welt pocket.
1. Fuse a rectangle of lightweight fusible interfacing onto the wrong side of the fabric, a little larger than the opening.
2. Chalk the pocket shape onto the right side of the fabric.
3. Lay a piece of silk organza over the chalked shape.
Stitch around the chalked shape, which is visible through the organza.
Trim close to the stitching and clip into the corners.
Press the edges of the silk organza in towards the center of the shape.
Turn the organza through the opening and press, rolling the organza slightly towards the wrong side.
4. Interface two welts. Cut the welts big enough for the irregular shaped opening.
Press in half. Align the welts in the pocket opening. Catch stitch the two welts
together. Pin in place.
Edge stitch around the opening.
5. Attach the pocket bag to the edge of the lower welt.
Fold the pocket bag up and attach it to edge of the upper welt. Stitch the sides of pocket bag.
Drafting Your Own Pockets
Most pocket openings need to be 6-7” to accommodate the hand, but some pockets are smaller and shallower, allowing only a couple of fingers enough space to retrieve an item. My shaped welt pocket had a 6” opening from the tip of the triangle across to the center of the wide edge.
Pockets can be added to ready to wear garments. For instance, you can unpick a seam and use the invisible zipper inseam technique. Draft a pocket bag pattern and use a coordinating fabric to finish your pocket.
To draft the bellows pocket:
1. Begin with a rectangle 6 1/2” x 8”.
2. Determine how deep you want the bellows to be. For this sample I added 1” to the edges of the rectangle along the sides and bottom. I added a 1” hem allowance to the top edge. Whatever dimensions you choose, add a 1/2” seam allowance to the outer three edges and a 1/4” seam allowance to the hem facing.
3. In the two bottom corners, square off a 3/8” seam allowance.
4. Finished pocket pattern
To draft a pocket flap:
1. Draft a rectangle the length of the welt opening by the desired width. My sample was a finished width of 1 3/4”.
2. Use a template to draw curves on the lower corners of the flap. I used a metal pocket template.
3. Add a 3/8” seam allowance to the outer edges. This makes it easier to keep a nice curve around the corners as you sew. Add a 1/2” seam allowance to the top edge, which leaves some room for adjustment when placing the flap in the welts.
Wonderful, never let this tutorial go! Invaluable!
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Wow some fantastic pockets!!
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Absolutely awesome. Thank you very much.
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I am not afraid of a pocket anymore! Your instruction are easy to follow.
Thanks Kathryn! This article is document for the ages. As always very clear writing and perfect photos. And thanks to emmaonesock for stashing your great articles.
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Wonderful tutorial to achieve great pockets whatever the style.
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As you have probably discerned, I have an insatiable appetite for your tutorials, Kathryn! Today was a bonus day because I spent my lunch hour reading “Sashiko Embellished Kimono” in the current issue (Feb/Mar. 2019) of Vogue Pattern Magazine, and then discovered this unexpected Master Class upon arriving home! My garment sewing improves with every article I read! This article, like every other, is packed with advanced techniques, accessibly presented! The reversible patch/welt pocket is really neat (in every sense of the word!); I’ve never seen that one presented before!
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Wow! Even after decades of sewing, this article is amazingly valuable. Thank you.
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Wow, Kathryn! Best pocket tutorial EVER! Thank you.
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