Pockets In Skirts and Dresses Tutorial

You want pockets in your skirts and dresses? You shall have them.

What you need:

  • Skirt or dress with a side seam
  • Some fabric that strikes you as pocket-like (bearing in mind it might be a little bit visible in the end)
  • Threaded sewing machine. Thread colour match is not terribly important, as all stitching will be fairly invisible from the outside. Also, you can hand sew if you prefer.
  • Seam ripper. Or tiny-tipped scissors will do.
  • All the normal sewing kit stuff, pins, scissors, etc.
  • Probably at least basic sewing skills, and/or a positive attitude and a willingness to screw it up once or twice without freaking out.

Right, let’s make a pattern. This tutorial assumes your pocket will just hang from the side seam. You can get fancy and tie it in with a waistband if you want, but this will do the trick, won’t mess too much with your skirt movement and is easier to explain.

Lay down a piece of paper and put the sort of thing you want in your pocket (e.g. your phone, your hand, etc) on the paper. Trace round it with a little room to spare, in a sort of wonky tear-drop shape, as below, so one edge is straight (on the right in the picture below) in order to meet the skirt seam. You could make it square bottomed, but corners collect lint. Eugh.

Don’t forget you need to add seam allowance as well as a little wiggle room for your phone/hand.

(Ignore the holes, I was just using up old notebook paper.)

Use that pattern to cut out some pockets. Below, I’ve cut from doubled fabric, so this is two pockets’ worth (two piles of two layers).

Measure the width of your hand (or your phone, whichever’s bigger) and add a little to find the width of the pocket opening.

Mark that distance on your 2-layer pile of pocket cutouts before sewing round most of the perimeter of the pocket. Start 1.5cm (or your chosen seam allowance) in from the top corner rather than right at the edge.

Although I rarely bother with back-stitching at the ends of my seams, this is one place where I would recommend it, because you will be splaying this seam later on and putting pull on that point.

Sew round to the point you marked for opening width and back-stitch again.

You can finish the raw edges any way you want. Zigzag or even just straight stich just outside the first stitching line and trim close. Or overlock. Or just leave it raw if your fabric isn’t much prone to fraying. But don’t do anything that will stop you from splaying the opening.

Test your pocket for sensible size and amend pattern for later use if necessary.

On your skirt/dress, figure out where you want the pocket to sit. Turn the garment inside out and mark the top and bottom of the pocket in the side seam, same length as the pocket opening.

Get out your seam ripper and open that seam. You can do a little reinforcing stitch at the points either end of the hole if you’re worried it will open too far while you’re sewing the pocket on. Those points are pretty important in a minute.

Now then, both pocket and skirt should look not *entirely* unlike this when you splay the seam in the area of the opening. Note the black dots I’ve put at the top and bottom aforementioned points. These are what you will line up between pocket and garment.

You are going to splay both openings (press them open if you want) and stick their splayed faces together, matching top and bottom point.

This is, no kidding, super fiddly. I recommend letting go of any dream you had of making all parts fit together at once and concentrate on just getting the top point matched and getting a pin through pocket and skirt fabric on one side only, folding everything else out of the way.

Bear in mind, the skirt and your pocket might have different seam allowances. Here, Lisa’s skirt had only what the overlocker left her, which was, like, 5mm, in contrast to the 1.5cm she drafted into the pocket. Just match up the pressed-open lines, not necessarily the fabric edges.

Fiddle, fiddle, pin, fiddle and faff your way to dropping the machine needle into the top point, through one layer of skirt and one layer of pocket, with everything else folded out of the path of the needle.  Sew along the junction of skirt and pocket to the bottom point. Maybe don’t backstitch too much in case you need to unpick/remedy something. That’s basically why I never backstitch much.

At this point, you can have a look at the join from the right side and judge whether you got everything lined up adequately or need to unpick and try again. If it all went ok, flip all the excess fabric over and do the same seam on the other side of the opening.

Put however many little neatening or reinforcing hand stitches in the top and bottom as you think you will need. If in doubt, don’t put any and see how you get on. There’s a lot of over-finishing in home sewing, in my opinion. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Enjoy your fabulous pockets and when you get other skirt wearers telling you how lucky you are to have them, send them here to make their own!

Many Projects Starting At Once

Ok, I’ve got the knitting of a sweater, the making of a tweed 3-piece suit and an Elizabethan dress all starting up in the last week. This doesn’t make for tidy blogging but I will probably just rely on tags for people wanting to follow progress on one thing and not ALL THE THINGS. And I will probably put together a proper documentary post on at least the suit and the dress when they’re done.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of each thing to get us all in the mood:

Above, sweater progress. Need to watch more tv.

Below, suit progress. Mainly cutting out and overlocking pieces so far. Will hopefully get the trousers constructed in one day and get started on the Jacket. Have yet to draft the waistcoat pattern from an existing garment.

And now, the Elizabethan dress. I am very excited about this. I have been given a brief and a few resource pictures by my boss at the costume shop and a pile of fabrics that have been languishing in the hamper for god knows how long. Now I get to Make Shit Up. I love this more than anything. Cartridge pleats… stomachers… starched neck ruffs. I’m like a pig in shit.

So watch this space, or like me on the various social media options and there will be more soon!