Inseam pockets

Pockets are essential for me these days. Inseam pockets are the kind I use the most but it’s always bothered me how most patterns instruct you to sew them. Generally it goes: sew a pocket piece right sides together to each of the body front and back pieces, press them outwards, lay the front on the back and sew up the side seam of the garment making a detour around the edges of the pocket bag. It’s simple to construct but I’ve always found it a pain in the neck to finish the seam edges neatly afterwards. And if I finish the pocket edges before sewing the pocket I have to overlock around all four pocket pieces individually and that’s really tedious. If you look at inseam pockets in RTW they aren’t constructed like that.

Recently I’ve been using a method I came across in Burda instead. It’s harder to explain but I think it gives a nicer finish and it also means you can put a zip alongside the pocket or make French seams fairly easily. I keep forgetting the steps so I took some photos and am writing it all down here so I can refer to it later.

Sew the front pocket piece right sides together with the front dress piece. Start sewing at the raw edges of the fabric level with one end of the pocket opening. Sew inwards at right angles to the raw edge until you get to the side seam seam line. Pivot, sew along the seam line, and at the end of the opening pivot again and sew out to the raw edge. The stitching should look like three sides of a rectangle with the fabric edge being the fourth side. Clip into the corners of the rectangle.

Close up shot of a clipped into corner.

Turn the pocket to the inside and press. Here’s what it looks like from the wrong side of the dress.

And here’s the right side.

Finish the seam that was just sewn. In this picture the little triangular flaps you get from clipping into the corners are just about visible at the two ends of the seam. I’ll come back to those in a minute. This picture also shows a strip of interfacing. I always fuse a bit along the pocket opening edge on the dress front piece.

Understitch the seam.

Now place the back pocket piece over the front one, right sides together. The wrong side of the back pocket piece will be facing up. Sew just the pocket pieces together around their edges. At the two ends catch in the folded back triangles from the clipped corners.

Finish the edges of the pockets. This can be done by whizzing them through an overlocker.

From the right side it now looks like this.

Baste the pocket bag to the dress seam allowance above and below the opening.

Now the side seams can be constructed as normal, in theory as if the pocket wasn’t there, and finished however one likes.

In practice it’s possible to accidentally sew the pocket shut if you don’t sew very accurately. I find it helps to rub a piece of chalk over the back of the pocket opening on the wrong side of the dress front before sewing. It gives a very clear outline of the pocket edges so I know where to aim.

After I made the samples above I sewed a Vogue designer pattern which has yet another method for doing the inseam pockets, where the pocket bag ends up French seamed and the side seam is bound. I didn’t love the method but it’s a useful variant to add to the toolbox. I’d be interested to know about other methods too.

French seamed single welt pocket

Here’s how the french seamed welt pockets on my current project are constructed, with bonus paper models of the process. I suspect it will be easier to see what’s going on with the paper than with fabric samples. I’ve used origami paper which has one white side and one coloured side. The coloured side represents the right side of the fabric, and the white side the wrong side.

This picture represents the right side of the jacket front with the opening for the pocket marked. When doing these in fabric I like to make the markings on the wrong side and line things up by poking pins through to the right side, but I know some people prefer to mark the right side of the fabric with something that can be removed without a trace, like basting in a contrasting thread.

Square of paper representing jacket front marked with welt pocket lines and grainline

Step one is to sew the welt on. It goes on the lower marking with the opening edge pointing down. The side of the welt that will be visible goes against the jacket front.

Blue paper representing jacket with a piece of brown paper representing a welt laid across the lower welt pocket mark

Then the front pocket bag gets placed over the top, right sides together, with the marks for the opening in the pocket bag aligned with the marks on the jacket front. The pocket grainline marking isn’t right on my model, just ignore that.

Blue paper representing jacket with white paper representing pocket laid over

Then slash the pocket opening through both the pocket bag and jacket front, cutting diagonally into the corners. The right side of my paper pocket piece is brown, which is why brown bits are visible around the edge of the opening. The raw edge of the welt is making the slash in the jacket front difficult to see but it is there.

Blue paper representing jacket with pocket laid over and slashed

Turn the pocket bag to the inside through the opening and press as normal. It should look like this from the front, with the welt covering the opening.

Blue paper presenting jacket with welt pocket opening slashed and turned, The brown welt is visible, covering the opening

And now the clever bit: turn the pocket and welt back to their original positions and place the back pocket bag (red paper) on top, with wrong sides of the pocket bag pieces together.

Blue paper representing jacket with white and red paper representing pocketnlaid over

Sew around the edges, trim the seam allowances close to the seam, and turn the whole pocket back through the hole. The welt points up again and covers the opening. Then sew around the pocket bag again with right sides together, completing the french seam.

Finish as normal: sew the pairs of fabric triangles at each end of the opening together, sew the ends of the welt to the jacket front, and sew the pocket bag as close as possible to the top edge of the opening, sewing through both layers of the bag and the fabric flap from where the opening was slashed, but not the jacket front.

One thing I love about sewing is seeing how things like this get put together. It reminds me of when I was at university and learning to really think in three dimensions.

Bits and pieces

This blog waxes and wanes, but of late I’ve been managing to post consistently every week. I can’t say I’ve made a lot of progress on my jacket project since my last post though. I’ve made the welt pockets…which is basically step one of the pattern. Not a single construction seam has been sewn. I haven’t even made the darts.

The pockets are nice, though. Admittedly from the outside they aren’t the greatest welt pockets I have ever made. Slightly uneven welt, and the ends are a bit squashed.

Single welt pocket in black boiled wool

But the insides are gorgeous. The pattern instructions (Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design) include a new-to-me technique that makes the pocket bag end up french seamed. Not an untidy or even overlocked edge in sight. I’m not normally one to care about beautifying the inside of a garment, but this jacket is unlined so the pocket bags are going to be seen. I’ll have to go through with the Hong Kong finish the pattern recommends on all the other seams now, simply in order not to let the pocket bags down.

French seamed pocket bag

Anyway I imagine anyone who’s still reading has heard more than enough about welt pockets by now. I also wanted to share a couple of links to blogs I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Some Use Some Wear is a blog about the evolution of a wardrobe. It’s not a sewing blog, but I enjoy it because the author talks about the stories behind her clothes.

The other one isn’t a single blog – it’s a whole series of blogs about creating incredibly screen-accurate Doctor Who cosplays. They aren’t being updated any more but there’s a huge amount of reading material in the archives. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who, the process the author goes through to source authentic fabrics and develop accurate patterns is fascinating. He covers several of the classic and new series Doctors. My favourite is his Fourth Doctor costume blog and all the others are linked from there.

Pocket samples

Welt pockets are high stakes sewing. Cutting a hole right through the middle of a pattern piece can’t be undone if it goes wrong.

The jacket I’m making has double welt pockets with very narrow welts, and my fabric is a very thick and elastic boiled wool. From the outset this seemed unlikely to be a successful combination, but I had nothing in my fabric stash that’s a suitable alternative fabric for the welts. So I tried making a sample following the method in the pattern (OOP Vogue 1465). I measured really carefully and hand basted every step. But it’s…not good. The back pocket bag isn’t sewn onto this sample – it would have been a complete waste of fabric.

Jetted pocket sample in black boiled wool

I’ve made welt pockets successfully lots of times in the past, even in boiled wool. But the combination of a particularly thick and unstable fabric and very narrow welts just isn’t working. Another complication is that for some reason the pattern includes a facing of the boiled wool which is applied to the pocket bag that attaches to the garment front, which means that there’s an extra layer of fabric to negotiate when cutting through the front.

I could make the whole thing bigger, but I think the double welts look a bit odd in the wool anyway and a single one would be better. I tried making a single welt to the same width as the pair of double ones, skipping the pocket bag facing too. Again no back pocket bag on the sample. I also haven’t hand sewn the ends of the welt down, which I’d do if this was the real thing.

Single welt pocket sample in black boiled wool

Not perfect, but a great deal better. I think the welt is a touch too narrow. I’m not making a third sample though – this is two evenings of sewing time gone already. I’ve cut my real welts a little wider and I’m going ahead with my actual jacket pieces. Wish me luck.

More Burda dresses: Burda 116 09/2014

I’ve been working on this shirt dress for about a month now. It’s Burda 116 09/2014. This has been on my Burda to-sew list for a long time, but I struggled to find the right fabric. Burda’s version is in grey chambray. The variant design (tunic length, with a hood instead of a collar) is made in wool muslin – a fabric I don’t think I have ever encountered in the wild.

Mine’s ivory stretch cotton poplin from Tissu fabrics. This makes it more of a big shirt than a shirt dress – at least that’s how I’m intending to wear it. I had the fabric in stash, left over from a very full-skirted McCalls shirt dress I made a while ago, and eventually realised it would work for this. There was only just enough and I had to piece the drawstring casing. It’s so satisfying to only have tiny scraps left over though.

This is a dress with a lot going on. I find a lot of sewing patterns have much less detail than equivalent ready-to-wear garments, but this one can’t be accused of that. About the only thing missing is a back yoke. I haven’t got any modelled pictures yet, but here are closeups of all the crunchy details.

The collar is unusual. It’s a band collar, but it stops where the front placket starts instead of overlapping. This makes for quite a weak point at that sharp inward corner between the band and the placket. I’m a bit concerned it won’t wear well and I think next time I’d add some interfacing there.

There are patch pockets on the front, which I suspect are more decorative than useful, and side seam pockets too.

And then there’s a drawstring at the waist. Don’t look too hard at the buttonhole position; it’s too high. It won’t show when the drawstring is tied though.

The back is plain apart from the drawstring casing at the waist. I think a back yoke would be a nice addition but I’m way too lazy to adjust the pattern.

I love the hem treatment. There is a very deep hem facing which gives a completely clean finish. A weighty hem is so much nicer on this kind of dress than a narrow one.

The sleeves are finished with elastic in a casing instead of cuffs. I like how it echoes the waist.

I’m looking forward to figuring out how to style this. I might try it over my silver jeans or my grey Oxford bags. Lots of possibilities. Ideas welcome!

Pattern tweaks

I need to have pockets in clothes these days. I know a lot of people say they ruin the line and it’s just as easy to carry a handbag. But for me if a garment doesn’t have pockets it languishes in the wardrobe, unworn. And it often happens that I fall in love with a pattern that doesn’t have them and need to add them. This one is a case in point. It’s Burda 110B 08/2017. I found it when messing around with fantasy wardrobe plans earlier this year, and it hasn’t let go of me.

Burda 110b 08/2017 model photo

Sometimes it’s obvious where you can put pockets but this one’s a little difficult. Although the skirt is a basic pencil skirt shape with side seams, there are both pleats and gathering just where a side seam pocket would normally go.

The gathering means it also needs to be made in a fairly lightweight fabric. But as it’s close fitting that has the potential for showing off things I’d rather hide. So I’m going to add an underlining layer to give some extra coverage. My plan is to cut another set of skirt pieces but with the extra fabric for the pleats and the gathering removed. I’ll pleat and gather the outer pieces and then baste the inner pieces to the back of them.

But what about the pockets? Rather than trying to put them into that lumpy side seam I’m going to try to hide them inside the horizontal pleats. I’ve cut the outer front piece across the fold line of the middle pleat and added seam allowance, plus an extension on the top piece to form the back pocket bag. I would have added an extension to the bottom piece as well but I don’t have quite enough length of fabric to fit such a big pattern piece into the layout. Instead I’ve made a separate pattern piece for the front pocket bag that I should be able to fit elsewhere on my layout.

I’ve a feeling this one’s either going to be a triumph or a complete disaster. Wish me luck.

Kimono jacket construction: patch pockets

I actually remembered to take some construction photos of my last project, the teal kimono jacket. I made an effort to document how to line the patch pockets because I originally found the process confusing. Lining the pockets rather than simply pressing the edges under seems like a faff, but it is totally worth it when you put your hands into them because the lining feels so nice!

My pocket fabric piece is 7″ wide by 9″ long and my lining piece is 7″ wide by 6″ long. The interfacing is 7″ by 4″. Seam allowances are 5/8″ and the pockets end up square.

Pocket piece with interfacing

Pocket piece with interfacing ironed to wrong side

Pocket piece with lining attached

Pocket piece with lining attached

There’s a gap left in the stitching for turning the pocket later on. I always think I’ve made this too small, and yet manage to turn the pocket anyway.

Pocket and lining after pressing

Pocket and lining after pressing

Pocket and lining after pressing (wrong side)

Pocket and lining after pressing (wrong side)

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges (lining side)

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges

Pocket folded in half and stitched around edges (outside)

Pocket with edges trimmed (lining side)

Pocket with edges trimmed (lining side)

I could just use a smaller seam allowance rather than doing so much trimming!

Pocket with edges trimmed (outside)

Pocket with edges trimmed (outside)

Pocket after turning (lining side)

Pocket after turning (lining side)

Pocket after turning (outside)

Pocket after turning (outside)

Turned and pressed pocket (lining side)

Turned and pressed pocket (lining side)

Turned and pressed pocket (outside)

Turned and pressed pocket (outside)

And here are the pockets top-stitched on.

P1030385

Almost wordless post (single welt pockets)

I had visions of one of those geometric Courrèges designs with perfectly symmetrical single welt pockets on the front. So I added welt pocket markings to Simplicity 5320, a structured A-line style, and cut it out in camel-coloured boiled wool. The basic dress is an easy sew but I’ve never done this style of pocket before and was pretty nervous about it. Here’s my Saturday morning in pictures.

(Wrong side of welt)
Welt

(Right side of dress)
Thread tracing

(Right side of dress)
Welt sewn to right side

(Right side of dress)
Welt with edge trimmed

(Right side of dress)
Under pocket bag sewn to right side\

(Wrong side of dress)
Cutting open the pocket

(Wrong side of dress)
Under pocket bag sewn to welt edge

(Wrong side of dress)
Pocket bag pieces from wrong side

(Right side of dress)
Sewing triangles to pocket bag

(Right side of dress)
Finished pocket

Success, I thought, heaving a sigh of relief. The rest of the dress won’t take more than an hour or two. I might even be able to post pictures of it on Sunday. Then the zip self-destructed as I was sewing it in, so no new dress this weekend after all. Maybe next week.