Welcome to Part II of the (half) mysteriously-named “On Pockets and Genetics”! I’m currently writing this from our tiny, wonderful cabin at the wonderful Campbell’s Cove Campground on wonderful Prince Edward Island in wonderful Canada (I am 100% NOT being compensated in any way by Campbell’s Cove Campground, or PEI, or the government of Canada; I’m just having a great vacation). It’s about 40 degrees outside, the wind has been howling without taking a breath for five hours, it’s been absolutely spitting rain, and the waves are amazing and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.
So, remember those totally baller pockets I lashed onto my riding pants? Want to bling out your own pants with a splash of functionality? Read on (please note that these instructions assume you have, or have access to, a sewing machine*):
The fabric: For this particular type of low-profile, no-closure pocket, I recommend something stretchy to help grip your stuff. Cotton jersey might be a little too thin on its own, but should work if you use two layers. I used two layers of a stretch faux suede, which is about the same thickness as jersey.
The measurements: I designed my pockets to hold my phone, but make them whatever size you want to carry whatever thing you want! Just remember that when you’re cutting your fabric, cut it at least two inches larger in each direction than the actual pocket size that you want. For example, I needed pockets that would fit my phone, which is 6″ long by 3″ wide, so I cut my fabric pieces to be 8″ long by 5″ wide.
The layers: I used two layers of fabric for each pocket, because I know they’re going to get a lot of wear and tear. This is not strictly necessary; if you have a thick enough material and you don’t expect the pocket to take a lot of abuse, one layer should be fine.
The thread: Either cotton or polyester thread will work. I tend to favor polyester because I find it binds less often, but it’s dealer’s choice here. Use any color you want–match the color of the fabric for a more seamless look, or use a contrasting color for a visual pop!
The stitch: I used a basic straight stitch for this. It’s not usually my choice for stretch fabrics, but since I was using stretch fabric on top of stretch fabric, the seams themselves didn’t need to give that much. If you have a walking foot** (also known as an even-feed foot), use it!! These nifty little gadgets “walk” the fabric through one stitch at a time, which prevents stretch fabric from, well, stretching. This ensures that your fabric doesn’t pucker or get stretched out of shape.
- Once you’ve cut your fabric pieces, line them up right on top of each other. If your fabric has different sides (mine had one smooth side and one textured side), make sure the side you want facing out in the end is facing in. Pin the pieces together at the edges to make sure they stay lined up while sewing.
- Sew three sides of the fabric: both long sides and one of the short sides. Keep the stitches no more than a quarter inch from the sides, to avoid making the final pocket too small. You should end up with something that looks like a tiny pillowcase.
- Flip that little guy inside out! Use your fingers or a pen or ruler to push the inside corners out as much as possible, to maintain the rectangular shape.
- On the end that you didn’t sew shut, tuck the edges down inside so they look like the other three edges (this may take a few tries to get it even). Once you have it folded in, pin the edge in place and sew it shut (ignore the side seams in the picture–those will come next). Alternatively, you can just leave that edge unfolded and sew it shut that way. It doesn’t really matter, as long as this edge is sewn shut so you don’t have a double-pocket thing going on (unless that’s your jam).
- Your pocket should now have all edges sewn shut. It’s ready to go on your pants! Choose where you want it to go on your pants, then pin it in place. Be careful NOT to put the pins all the way through both sides of the pant leg. This is a really good way to completely sew one leg shut. BEEN THERE.
- Sew it on! Like before, keep the stitches about a quarter inch or less from the edge of the fabric; otherwise, your pocket will end up too small to hold your item. As with the pins in Step 5, make sure you’re ONLY sewing through one side of the pant leg. Many sewing machines let you remove part of the sewing surface to make it easier to slip tubular pieces around the sewing base.
- Since the top corners of the pocket are going to take a little more force every time you slide something in or out, I recommend reinforcing the stitching on the top half inch or so of each side of the pocket. You can do this easily by sewing forward a half inch, reverse-stitching back over the first stitches, and then sewing forward again and then continuing on. Some machines have a button that will reverse the stitch for you; if yours doesn’t, just turn the hand wheel on the right side of the machine clockwise and it should start sewing backwards.
- Slow and steady wins the race here. Pants are an awkward piece to work with, and it’s easy to get impatient and end up sewing something you didn’t mean to because it got bunched under the bit you did. Make sure the part you’re sewing is always the only layer being sewn, and that another part of the pants hasn’t shimmied in there to ruin everything.
- Enjoy your new pocket***! May you put many things into it, take many things out, lose fewer phones, and look way cooler.
* Can’t get your hands on a sewing machine? Stay tuned–I’ll cover some useful, basic hand stitches in a future post.
** If you don’t have a walking foot, but have a sewing machine and plan on using it in the future, I highly recommend getting one. A walking foot will let you cleanly sew all kinds of fabrics that a regular sewing foot just can’t handle. It’s opened up a lot of options for me (fabric-wise, and also emotionally and in life in general).
*** Experiment! Try different fabrics, shapes and sizes, or if you’re brave, dabble in some buttons or snaps. The world is your pocket.