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Los Olivos, California, United States
You can reach me at fool4fabric (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pocket Tutorial

Enough people have asked me how I do my pockets on travel vests and jackets to warrant a tutorial...I've never done one before, so be kind!!!

I'm showing you two jackets and two vests that I've put pockets into...

and my recent red vest...

You'll see how I learned from each garment, how to improve the next one!

The first thing to do is to determine what YOU are going to use the pockets for.
What one person needs a pocket for is not necessarily universal. For instance, I travel often, so I need:

  •  an easy-to-reach pocket for my airline boarding pass and my passport; for security, I put this on the inside of my left  side, as I am right-handed and need to be able to easily reach this pocket.
  • a place for a small package of tissues and a lipstick.
  • a secure place for my glasses/sunglasses.
  • a secure place for money and ID, if I'm not carrying a passport.
  • a small water bottle.
  • a pocket for my point and shoot camera, ready to aim!
The rest of the pockets are for various things, depending on what I'm doing.

                               Choosing/Adapting a Pattern

If the vest or jacket pattern you're using doesn't include a lining, you'll need
to draft one. Do not use facing patterns...or you'll wind up like this, unable to access your pockets!

It's a good idea to cut a size larger than you normally would, to allow room for inner pockets to expand when full.

If either the lining or the fashion fabric you're using is lightweight, you may need to interface the back side so the pockets won't sag. I didn't do that on this jacket

and should have. I can't put much of anything in these pockets without the jacket shifting out of shape. It's also more flattering to put the inside pockets up higher and down lower (unless you need extra inches in the waist area!)

On my second try, the fashion fabric (denim) was a little heavier and more stable, so I didn't need to interface the pockets on the front. The lining, however, was a vintage rayon crepe, so it needed the reinforcement of interfacing.

Another thing to take into consideration is if there are belts or waist casings on the pattern.

On my silver vest, I made the pattern pretty much as is, and wound up  sacrificing some of my pocket depth to the waist casing, marked above with the dots. I went back in later and added a few hanging pockets to get the depth I needed (but it wasn't very pretty...)
I also made the pockets according to the pattern, and found they weren't deep enough; every time I bent over, things would fall out of the pockets, especially because both fabrics are slippery.


                                      The red vest...

I think I was able to significantly improve on this 4th try...I drafted all my own pocket sizes and changed the construction order so that I was able to have both the waist casing and the depth of pockets I needed.

I finished the inside lining completely before I started on the outside of the vest.

I basted the area for the waist casing on both sides before drafting the pockets,
so that they would not converge.

All the sizes for the pockets are arbitrary; the only limit is how you can fit them on the pattern piece. I draft them as I go...sometimes I will draw one on a piece of graph paper to see how it will look. A pocket for boarding pass and passport needs to have a finished size of 4.75x9.25 (that's the boarding pass); I add a smaller pocket on top for the passport...finished size of 4.75
x 5.75.

The picture above shows a double pocket, sewn then turned inside out, pressed,top serged and turned down and a decorative ribbon stitched down. The separate little "piggy-backed" passport pocket is shown with Steam-A-Seam on the edges before turning them in. Then it is top-stitched on the pattern piece.

I decided, for the sake of security, to make one pocket with a zipper closing
and one with a velcro closing
I made a double pocket with a gathered hem for my glasses...

The rest of the pockets I deepened considerably, so there will be less chance of
items falling out. After I finished putting the lining together, I cut out the outside, drafted pockets and sewed them on. I lined the crinkle pockets with the lining fabric for stability; the upper front pockets are 4.75x7.00 and the lower front pockets are 8.00x8.50. These are finished measurements.

I hope this helps those of you who have a need for pockets...if you have any questions, let me know...have fun!
(in the interest of full disclosure, I used to be a systems analyst...it shows!)


  1. This was definitely a trial and error approach to perfecting your pockets, but then I guess that is how the best of us get to where we need.

    Thank you for a complete analysis of pocket construction

    1. Thanks, Pauline...I'm not sure it would take FOUR attempts for most of us...

  2. You REALLY need to write a book on travel dressing. You are a master!

  3. Excellent explanation. I agree that deep pockets are the essence of travelling well - literally and metaphorically.

    1. Thanks, Gail...I love "deep pockets are the essence of travelling well - literally and metaphorically"...how true!

  4. So smart and practical - I love how the garments still look sleek and are so flattering; thanks for the tips to try a larger size and to make a full lining. Personally, I want a sandwich pocket! ;)

    Great tutorial, thank you!

    1. A sandwich pocket....of course! The front pockets are big enough for a submarine sandwich!
      Thanks, Robyn!

  5. A great tutorial - I am now very keen put it to practice. . I am always checking out what you are sewing and am so impressed with your style and sewing. thank you.

    1. Thank you, Sara...have fun with pockets!

  6. This is excellent, Margy! It's very interesting to see how each garment taught you something. I will have to figure out how I can use this for my figure as I generally try to avoid pockets at bust level. :) Thanks for spending the considerable time to create this. An excellent first tutorial!

    1. Thanks, Sharon...you could use "sham" pockets on the top...hahahah

  7. Wonderful, extremely helpful tutorial. Thank you so much for putting it together. You do such exquisite and interesting work. I will definitely benefit from your experience. Just wish I had more excuses for that outer layer. In the Southeast, summer has arrived.

  8. Thank you so much for this tutorial. What was the dimensions of the double pocket you did for your glasses?

  9. You're welcome, Liana...the glasses pocket was 7" wide by 8 1/2" deep. I cut the gathered part of the pocket about 10" wide, then sewed it down the middle. It's best to measure YOUR glasses and see how much you need...

  10. This is so helpful...thanks so much! I am going to use these ideas when I try again on my riding vest. I need pockets for cell phone, keys to trailer (truck keys inside tack room of trailer), horse treats, sunglasses, sunscreen. Everything must be accessible when on horseback and pockets able to be opened with one hand. I made a vest last year but the fabric was not sturdy enough and the pockets were difficult to use. Someone now has a VERY loud zig zag vest.

  11. You're welcome, Mary...I'll be interested to see how your riding vest turns out!

  12. Like you, my husband are traveling quite a lot now that we're retired - yippee! I can really see the benefits of your heavily pocketed vests/jackets and am anxious to give one a try thanks to your informative tutorial. I'm also considering sewing a wardrobe where everything goes together and limiting my color pallet as you have done so successfully. I fear this will be difficult as I love and wear so many colors. I admire your fabric choices and so enjoy your blog!


  13. Oops - meant to say my husband and I

  14. Thank you so much, Margy! This is all really useful information - all the things you wish you'd thought of earlier. I loved reading the comments, too. Sham vest! I need those too! And I agree with Rhonda that you could write a wonderful book on travel dressing. With horses, I don't travel much but I think a barn vest might be in order.

    1. Oops,I meant 'sham pocket'. I wonder what a 'sham vest' might be?

  15. Just reviewed your pocket tutorial before starting on the vest.
    What is the binding on top of pockets, arm holes and bottom of vest?
    Is it ribbon or regular cotton or same fabric as lining?

    Thanks so much for your inspiration

    1. The binding is the same as the lining fabric, belle...it's a stretch taffeta, so it's very easy to use as a binding. Good luck on your vest!

  16. Thanks, Margy. One more question...did you enlarge the size of the collar? It looks bigger than the pattern.

    1. No, the collar is as drawn on the pattern. Be sure you let me see your vest!