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 (‘hung’ pockets) :
– 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 art-to-wear ideas).

When you’re familiar with pocket making techniques, there are infinite possibilities for making pockets a style feature.
Here are a couple of pinterest boards :
My own collection
Susan Lazear’s collection
Some of Tina Givens patterns have interesting added pockets.

Patch pocket

patch

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.
If you like a challenge, here’s a video of someone sewing on a patch pocket from the inside.

There are several ways of making a patch pocket. I prefer the method which has little seams at the ends of the hem. More trouble, but without them it’s difficult to attach the pockets without some little bits of raw fabric poking out. As in Jules Fallon’s tutorial, or here :
patch pocket
Vogue Sewing Book 1978

Some people make pockets with curved corners by gathering. Other people press the corners over a pocket template. 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. 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.

Lined patch pocket :
This pdf from U. of Kentucky is about making a lined patch pocket with curved bottom corners.
Lined circular patch pocket, photo tutorial from Sew Me Something patterns.

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Pockets hanging from a seam

In-seam pocket
in seam horiz in seam vert

I prefer a separate pattern for this pocket. Cut-on pockets waste fabric, while separate ones can be cut from scraps. And the extra stitching strengthens the pocket opening.

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. I prefer to stabilise the opening edge with stay tape.

Pocket in a vertical seam.
A couple of photo tutorials with pattern pieces :
Sew Over It patterns.
I prefer to add a square of light fusible interfacing (or twill tape) 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.

This course from SewSewGuild includes patterns, instructions, videos for patch, cargo, in-seam pockets.

Special cases :
Photo and diagram tutorial on adding an ‘in-seam pocket’ to pants without a side seam, from Christine Jonson patterns (scroll down).

And a photo tutorial from In the Folds about how to combine in-seam pockets with french seams.

Slant pocket

Here’s a photo tutorial on pattern making for and sewing a slant pocket, from By Hand London patterns.

Three fabric pieces involved :
slant pocket
images from Homer + Howell’s Maud pants

Place the pocket facing onto the main fabric piece, right sides together.
Stitch along the slanted/curved pocket opening edge and turn the facing in.
Then add the pocket back, right sides together with the pocket facing, and stitch together round the outer curve. The pocket back completes the waist line and side seam edges of the main pattern piece.

Here’s a lovely video from Twig & Tale on making slant pockets (scroll down to ‘view a sample video’).

The pocket opening is typically horizontal on jeans styles, vertical on other pants and skirts.
slant pockets
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

expose zip
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.

Welt pocket

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.

Single welt
single welt

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.
inset welt
image from Wardrobe By Me Easy pants

This is sometimes called a ‘casual’ welt pocket.
The method is easier, it’s also stronger for a pocket that gets heavy use. Much seen on RTW.
There are several different ways of making these, some use the same fabric for welt and pocket bag, some attach the bag to the main garment while some have a free-hanging pocket bag.
Here’s a quick and easy method on Vimeo video from Fit Nice. She uses a separate fabric for the welt, so you can have contrast feature welts 😀

Or a slow method with very detailed photo tutorial from :
Closet Core Patterns, separate welt piece, 2-piece hanging bag.
In House Patterns, welt made from one side of pocket bag.

– the main fabric extends under the welt – so the actual opening is hidden behind the welt, used in high end tailoring – a ‘tailor’s’ welt pocket.
tailor welt
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 (not free).
Here’s a free video from Professor Pincushion on how not to do it – makes it clear how awful the result can be if you aren’t very accurate marking, sewing and cutting the ends of welt and pocket opening so the main fabric and the end of the welt match up without distorting the fabric.

Double welt
double welt
Similar technique to a bound buttonhole, so sometimes called a ‘buttonhole’ pocket.
A couple of detailed photo tutorials :
Simplified double welt pocket photo tutorial from Palmer-Pletsch.
from Folkwear patterns.

curve dbl welt
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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Books and pattern packs

Books
The Book of Pockets, by Gorea, Roelse, Hall

Out-of-print books
Pat Moyes : Just Pockets
Claire Shaeffer : Patch Pockets, Set-in Pockets

Patterns
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, many of these clothes are rich with hidden pockets (paper only).

Pattern packs :
This pattern from Rebecca Page is for a variety of patch pockets.
Three patch pockets from Alabama Chanin, with an emphasis on hand-stitching.
There are patch pockets and in-seam pockets in the Homer & Howells free pattern pack.
Jennifer Stern’s download Pocket Workbook has patterns and instructions for : various patch pockets, jeans and conventional slash/slant pockets, double welt pocket.

SewSewGuild has two pattern pack + sewalongs :
Part one : patch, cargo, in-seam
Part Two : hip/slash and welt
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Finally, here’s a treat for pocket freaks 😀 (sorry, don’t know source).
pocket geek
Actually quite easy to make, not so easy to wear !

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Originally published June 2019, links checked October 2022

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