There are 3 different groups of pockets, roughly of increasing difficulty to sew.
A. Pockets which are applied outside the garment or bag surface, so the whole pocket is visible :
– patch pocket.
B. Two types of pocket where the pocket bag hangs behind the garment or bag surface, so the opening into the pocket has to be part of the design :
B1. Pockets which hang from an existing seam, or a specially added seam :
– in-seam pocket.
– slant/hip/jeans/western pocket.
B2. Pockets which hang behind a specially made opening in the middle of the fabric :
– letterbox pocket, usually with exposed zipper closure.
– welt pocket.
I’ve just listed the classic basics for technique. Many many variants on each of these : changes in shapes, embellishments, extras such as flaps and tabs.
All pocket types can have an added zipper closure to the opening. I’ve mentioned an exposed zipper pocket.
In bag making, pockets without a zipper closure may be called ‘slip’ pockets.
All pocket types can have an added flap covering the opening. I haven’t given links about flap making.
Start from a basic garment pattern : add different pocket(s) each time you make it, and you probably have a lifetime of projects. . .
Sketches are from Diane Ericson’s Just Pockets pattern (also includes many creative ideas).
Patch pockets are one of those techniques said to be easy for beginners, which actually need care to get a good result.
As the whole of a patch pocket is visible, they need to be carefully shaped when pressing, and when placing on the surface. The quality of a patch pocket may not matter on a garment made from a busy print and worn for moving around, or inside a bag. But when a patch pocket is noticeable in a stable location, such as a chest pocket on a shirt made from plain fabric, it needs more care.
At the extreme, couture and bespoke tailoring patch pockets are sewn on by hand.
As usual in sewing, several methods, so try them to find which technique and result you like best.
Here’s a video from Sure Fit Designs, on several shapes of patch pocket (from 5.05).
And couple of photo tutorials :
from Folkwear patterns.
from Jules Fallon of Sew Me Something patterns, for a patch pocket with curved corners.
She uses a pressing template for the corner curves. I prefer to press angled corners over a template too, as the shape is more accurate.
You can cut your own card pressing template for the specific pocket.
You can also buy pressing templates.
For angled corners there’s the Prym marking/ironing set.
And this metal pocket template has several different radius curves.
There are many variants to patch pockets which add capacity with pleats or gathers, or add depth with gussets.
As patch pockets are added on the surface they can make a strong design element. Many ideas for patch pocket shapes and flap shapes on this pinterest board.
This pattern from Rebecca Page is for a variety of patch pockets.
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Pockets hanging from a seam
A pocket in a horizontal seam is easiest, pocket bag pieces can be just cut-on to the main fabric pieces above and below the seam.
Pocket in a vertical seam.
A couple of photo tutorials with pattern pieces :
Sew Over It patterns.
I add a square of light fusible interfacing at the upper and lower corners, to support these stress points.
Folkwear patterns, includes video.
There are patch pockets and in-seam pockets in the Homer & Howells free pattern pack.
Photo and diagram tutorial on adding an ‘in-seam pocket’ to pants without a side seam, from Christine Jonson patterns.
And a photo tutorial from In the Folds about how to combine in-seam pockets with french seams.
Here’s a photo tutorial on pattern making for and sewing a slant pocket, from By Hand London patterns.
The pocket edge is typically horizontal on jeans styles, vertical on other pants and skirts.
out-of-print McCall’s patterns
Variants in the bag of a slant pocket :
The next links are about making denim jeans, but the methods apply to slant pockets in any garment made from any thicker/stiffer fabric.
Photo tutorial for sewing slant pockets with thinner fabric lining, from Closet Core patterns.
And a photo tutorial for a simplified method for that, from The Last Stitch.
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Pockets behind a special opening
Exposed zipper pocket, zipper set behind letterbox opening
photo from Project Run+Play
Exposed zipper pocket insertion, video from Fashion Sewing Blog TV, for a letterbox opening in woven fabric. Make the opening at least 5mm-1/4″ wider than the widest part of the zipper pull.
(Pocket bag : cut a rectangle of fabric about 25cm-10″ x length of zipper.
Sew one zipper-length side to one side of the zipper, the opposite side to the other side of the zipper. Close the sides of the pocket bag.)
An alternative method is to make the letterbox opening using a facing. Video demo at Sewing Quarter, from 1hr.24min. to 1.32.
Photo tutorial from Project Run+Play.
This pocket is much used in non-fraying fabric such as fleece, as you can just cut out the box shape opening to put the zipper behind.
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy – in marking, stitching and snipping.
I suggest making samples before doing this in a conspicuous place 😀
Symmetrical pockets on fronts : to avoid a home-made look – make sure the pockets are at the same angle (mark matching positions after cutting out fronts), and the welts are the same width.
There are 2 types of single welt pocket :
They both have a letterbox-type pocket opening. In one the letterbox surrounds the welt, in the other it’s hidden behind the welt.
– the welt is set into a visible surrounding letterbox opening.
image from Wardrobe By Me Easy pants
This method is easier, it’s also said to be stronger for a pocket that gets heavy use.
Here’s a quick and easy video from Fit Nice.
Or a slow and very detailed single welt pocket photo tutorial from In House Patterns.
– the main fabric extends under the welt – high end tailoring.
image from an article in Seamwork magazine about making the surrounding letterbox type of welt pocket.
The pocket opening is hidden behind the bottom of the welt.
Kenneth King shows how to make these in his Craftsy class video.
Here’s a free video from Professor Pincushion – makes it clear you need to be very accurate marking, sewing and cutting the ends of welt and pocket opening so the main fabric and end of the welt match up without pulling them into position.
Try a curved double welt pocket if you love a technique challenge ! Much the same method : take even more care, and the welts are cut from bias strips.
Kenneth D. King has a Craftsy video class (not free) which shows how to design and make single and double welt pockets, as well as patch pockets.
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The Book of Pockets, by Gorea, Roelse, Hall
Diane Ericson uses pockets as a major design feature in art-to-wear. Her pattern for 60 pockets comes in paper and pdf versions.
While Saf-T Patterns are the opposite, rich with hidden pockets.
Jennifer Stern’s Pocket Workbook has patterns and instructions for : various patch pockets, jeans and conventional slash pockets, double welt pocket.
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Finally, here’s a treat for pocket freaks 😀 (sorry, don’t know source).
Actually quite easy to make, not so easy to wear !
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Originally published June 2019, links checked February 2021
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