How to make and insert pockets into your clothing
Pockets have always been a convenient way of carrying around the essentials for living our lives. From money to identification and now our smart phones. Sewing pockets into most garments are amazingly simple and does not take much time or effort to do. I even made a pocket specifically designed to hold my fabric shears.
In every person’s closet is that garment that you would like to wear more but it just does not have a pocket. You don’t want to carry around a purse because that just gets annoying. I have resorted to just wearing one of those hip bags that I bought at a renaissance fair years ago when I’m out and about. Fanny packs may be coming back into style with the gaining popularity of EDM concerts but who wears those outside of that setting?
I will be giving instructions on how to make two types of pockets in this tutorial. The patch pocket and the inseam pocket. Both are easy to construct, and you don’t need much in materials. It also took me less than an hour to complete one of my pockets.
Some basic tips
Always press your seams and clothing. I am horrible about following this advice, but it takes your sewing from looking messy to looking sharp. Professional.
Pre-wash your fabric. When you get your fabric from the store, it has not been washed. This means that if you don’t wash your fabric, it will warp when you do finally wash it. Also if you do a lot of thrifting like me, it’s always a good idea to wash whatever you buy. They do not wash anything when something gets donated.
Back stitch at the beginning and end of your line of stitches. It will lock your stitching in place so you don’t have to worry about them when you go to wash your clothing.
You do not have to run your sewing machine at full throttle. As you have probably noticed in my pictures, I’m horrible about running a straight stitch. It’s a bad habit that you should not do. I have been trying to break myself of this. Sometimes going slow or taking that extra time to cut a straight line in your fabric makes things easier. It will also make things look more professional.
Lastly, put on some music or have a YouTube video running in the background. I tend to do this because it keeps me focused. I also like having a true crime documentary going when I am doing some hand stitching. It allows you to just keep with the vibe and not get bored with repetitive parts of putting together a project. Or sewing in the tenth pocket into a dress because manufacturers do not want to put pockets in anything anymore.
The garment you want to add a pocket to
Matching/contrasting fabric (you can use scraps from your last project)
Straight pins or clips
Iron with ironing board
Picking out your garment
I chose a simple skirt that I had bought from a local vintage store a while back. It is mostly black so I can easily use some black fabric that I had saved from a previous project. It has side seams so I can rip those open quickly and add my pocket to it without worrying about cutting into the fabric. I also don’t have to worry about adding bulk around the waist. This can also be an issue to look out for when choosing a garment and also where to place your pocket.
First I laid my phone down on the fabric for my pocket. I don’t have a picture of that because I use my phone for taking pictures. I used the standard shape for a pocket that goes into side seams and left room for a 5/8th inch seam allowance all the way around.
I made a pair of white pockets for another dress I am going to be inserting pockets into. Once you start looking through your closet for possible pocket candidates, you’ll realize you have more than you thought. I came up with two dresses and two skirts just to start with. If I really dug into my closet, I know I’ll find more.
The pocket pattern
I traced and cut out four pieces of fabric for two pockets on either side of my skirt. It’s wise to make your pocket bigger than you think you’ll need just because its easier to cut a pocket down than to add more fabric later. I used a standard pocket shape but there are many options out there.
You can trace out a shape like a diamond or heart and make a window pocket. Or make a welt pocket where a little bit of the pocket lining sticks out, also known as the slash pocket. This is because you cut into the fabric of the garment to insert the pocket. This is a good option for those garments that don’t have a good side seam to use for an inseam pocket.
There’s also the patch pocket that hangs out on the outside of your garment or one with flap and closure. You can even add in jean pockets into your garment if you’re feeling adventurous. There’s cargo pockets and so on. For this specific tutorial, I’m going to stick with the most basic, easiest pocket you can do. The in-seam pocket.
Preparing your pockets and garment
Once you have your pocket cut out of your chosen fabric, go ahead and surge or overlock stitch around the edges of the fabric. This is so you don’t have to do this later when the pocket is in the garment. Now stitch around the pocket leaving the straight side open to insert into the seams.
Seam rip your garment open, in my case, I seam ripped the side seam of my skirt. The zipper was to the back so this makes it easier. I can just open up the seam starting an inch down from the waist band. I then turn the skirt inside out. The pocket is pinned to the edges of the seam. Be careful not to sew the wrong side of the pocket to the wrong side of the skirt seam.
Now it’s time to sew in your pocket. You can over-lock the raw edges of the seams of the skirt and remaining side of the pocket. I reinforced the top and bottom of the pocket just above and below the opening.
And you’ve just finished sewing in your new pocket!
I decided to sew another type of pocket to make this cardigan better. When I wear it I have a place to put my fabric shears. I wanted to do an odd shape and the fun part about patch pockets is that they really don’t take up as much material.
You can cut two of them and I had an extra strip to use as a cute way to reinforce the top of the pocket. The material of the cardigan is stretchy so it’s best to really think about how the pocket is going to hang on the garment. I chose to sew the sides of the pocket on to the side seams for added stability.
Because the fabric I chose is also prone to fray, I pressed the edges of the pocket inwards. Then I zigzag stitched around the pocket and top flap.
Once you have prepared your pockets, pin them in place on the garment. Sew around the pocket, I used the 2 setting with a straight top stitch. Leave the top part open. Always remember to back stitch a couple of times at the start and end of your sewing. This locks your stitches in place so they don’t come out later.
Pin the top flap in place. I sewed up the sides of the flap, across and down the other side. This attaches the flap to the pocket. Unfortunately, because of the stretchy material, the pocket still hangs open. Because of the contrasting material of the pocket, I believe it adds something to a basic part of my wardrobe.
Don’t forget to use the sheath for your scissors so they don’t poke a hole in your new pocket.
Enjoy your pockets!
Pockets are a great way to take a basic garment to the next level. Purses and bags can be so inconvenient and a hassle that I prefer to just have pockets already in my clothing. Sewing pockets into your clothing allows for you to explore your own style. I also believe that having a pocket really makes us think about what we are carrying around. I don’t think one needs an umbrella every time you go outside but then again, I’m happy with dancing in the rain.
There are so many other creative ways of making and inserting pockets into garments. Morgan Donner has a fantastic video tutorial on how to make window pockets that I really want to try.
Pockets have been around for centuries. Even in men and women’s garments. The Victorians were great about hiding their pockets in bustles while the French had all that room in their Paniers. Purses are a somewhat modern invention that I personally don’t care for.
Bring the pocket back into our everyday clothing!