Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

Side Seam Pockets Sewing Lesson

Many patterns call for pockets that are sewn right into the side seam. If these are well-done, they lie flat against the body and don't break the line of the skirt or pants. But sometimes, these pockets stick out from the sides and the result is not so pleasing. How do we sew these guys in the best way possible?

If you were sewing twenty or thirty years ago (dating myself here), you might recall that patterns that called for these pockets actually had seam extensions added for the pockets. The seam allowance on the garment was brought out 5/8" beyond the cutting line, as shown in this diagram, and the pocket was sewn to this extension. Now the pattern companies, in the interests of saving time, simply tell us to sew the pocket to the seam allowance with a ¼" seam. This means the seam joining the pocket to the garment is narrower than the regular seam and it will then be set deeper inside the garment.

Well, my vote is in. I vote for the pocket extensions. Think about it. When you wear these garments, does that side seam lie flat against your body or does it pull open slightly, revealing the pocket? Probably the latter. Part of this is caused by that narrow seam allowance. If the pocket is attached further away from the garment seam allowance, it is less likely to peak out.

It is also important that your garment fit well and not be tight. A too-tight garment will pull fabric from the side seam to cover you. Because the side seam is open in the pocket area, that area will pull open. The seam will be pulled towards the part of the body wanting more fabric to cover it (usually the back), and the front of the pocket will then be pulled out as well. So instead of a nice flat line over the hips, you get a pocket "pooch".

Whether you have those extensions or not, the method is the same. Sew the pocket to the garment, matching the notch on the pocket to the notch on the seam. Then press the seam toward the pocket. Generally I don't finish the seam allowances of this seam, because they will be covered by the pocket. But you can finish them if you wish. Sew one pocket piece to the front of the garment and sew the second piece to the back, right sides together.

Then place the front and back seams on top of each other, right sides together. The pockets will extend out away from the garment. Sew around the pocket, pivoting at the dot marked, and then sew down the side seam of the garment. Be sure to back stitch at the dot, since this area takes stress and needs reinforcing.

If your pocket extends into the waistline, you will be stitching the pocket and the side seam. If your pocket is in a garment without a waistline, you will first be stitching the side seam of the garment, then turning to sew around the pocket, then turning again to sew the rest of the garment. For a pocket not caught in the waistline seam, clip the back seam allowance above and below the pocket. For a pocket caught in the waistline seam, you only need to clip the seam allowance of the back below the pocket. In both cases, turn the pocket toward the front and press it in place. For a pocket that will be sewn into the waist seam, baste across the top of the pocket; this stitching holds the pocket in place on the front of the garment until the waistband is attached.

Note: You may not be happy with these pockets in a dress that has no waist seam. This is because there is nothing to anchor the pocket to the front of the garment and it relies solely on your hands to hold it there.

Copyright 2012, Julie Culshaw

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