Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Side Seam Pockets

A knee length black skirt. A very practical garment for the World Race. I planned to make one, but ran out of time so it didn't happen. Thus, for the first 2 months of the Race, I only had one skirt and it got a lot of wear. Then, at the end of last month I had a squad mate who decided she no longer needed the black skirt she'd brought along. So I snatched it off the free table, threw it in my pack, then wore it the very next day.

As thrilled as I was to have a second skirt to wear, there was one little issue, this skirt had (unsurprisingly) no pockets! So, my first week here in Peru I decided to fix that. I scrounged up some fabric (harvested from someone's torn up tank top), and set to work adding side seam pockets.

Several years ago I stumbled across a fabulous side seam pocket pattern. It was in a 1980's simplicity pattern I'd inherited from my mom's aunt. I don't remember why I was looking in the pattern envelop, or how I found the pocket pattern piece, all I remember is how much that pattern piece changed my sewing. Suddenly I started adding pockets to just about every dress I made! I went from making dresses I really liked and wore occasionally, to making dresses I loved and wore often. With pockets my dresses became practical to wear! I didn't stop with just adding pockets to new dresses I made, I went back and added side seam pockets to almost all of the dresses I had previously made as well.

Side seam pockets can be added to just about any dress or skirt, without much changing the overall appearance of the garment, and they can be made large enough to carry almost anything! These are definitely my favorite type of pocket! So, how do you go about adding pockets to an existing garment?

Step 1:
Using a seam ripper, open up the side seams where you want the pockets to go.

Start about an inch below the waistband and make your opening about 6-8 inches long.

For this particular skirt, due to the sheerness of the main fabric, I had to open up the side seam in both the outer fabric and the lining, and treat them as one layer for the rest of the process. Thus, I pinned the lining to the outer fabric around my new opening to keep the edges lined up.

Step 2: 
Cut out your pockets.

You will need 2 pocket pieces cut out for each pocket you plan on adding. If you have a favorite pocket pattern already, great! Use that. If not, you can make your own pretty easily. Lay your hand on a piece of paper, and draw the pocket shape around it. Add your seam allowance (about 1/2 inch or so) all the way around, and there you have a pocket pattern that is guaranteed to be large enough for you to fit your hands in. Or, if you don't want to do that I'm sure there are free pocket patterns to be found on the internet.

Measure what will become your pocket opening. It needs to be the same length as the opening you made in the side seam of your garment.

Step 3:
Sew your pockets.

Sew around the edges of your pockets, leaving the opening, well, open. This is really quick to do on the sewing machine, but if you happen to be in South America, living out of a backpack hand sewing works too. As does the little handheld machine you picked up at the market in Colombia.

You will be filling your pockets with stuff, so your pocket seams will undergo a lot of stress. Otherwise they will wear out very quickly (yes, I learned this the hard way) Thus, it's very important that you finish your seams. I sewed my pockets here with a french seam, but you could also serge or zig-zag stitch your seam allowance, or oven bind your seam with bias tape.

Step 4:
Sew the pocket in place.

Start by turning your pocket inside out. Then insert the pocket through the opening you made in the side seam so that the pocket itself is on the outside of the skirt and the opening of the pocket is lined up with the opening of the side seam on the inside of the skirt.

From the right side of the skirt it should look like this:

From the wrong side it should look like this:

Pin the edges all the way around then sew the pocket in place. 

Step 5:
Secure the pocket.

Once you have the pocket sewn in place you can finish you seams (I just whip stitched mine, but a zig-zag or binding your seams would work well too), then turn your pocket right side out, so that the pocket bag is on the inside of the skirt. Now, you have a pocket, but there is one last thing to do that will greatly improve the stability of the pocket.

Fold the pocket toward the front of the skirt. Lay the skirt out flat, inside out, with the pocket laying flat on top of the front of the skirt. Measure the distance between the widest point of the pocket and the waist band. Cut a piece of ribbon or twill tape that length.
Sew the one end of the piece of ribbon or twill tape to the top edge of the pocket, near the widest point of the pocket. Sew the other end to the bottom edge of the waistband. This will keep your pocket where it belongs, and most of the stress of the weight of whatever you put in your pocket off the side seam.

There you go! You now have a handy-dandy pocket to carry your cell phone, pocket knife, spare change, and anything else you might need! Now, to make your garment even better you can repeat the process on the other side seam! (I plan to do that with this skirt, it just hasn't happened yet.)

Once I finished adding the side seam pocket, I had another idea for how I could make this skirt better. I added a hidden patch pocket inside the extra wide waistband. This extra pocket is the perfect place to keep my cash, debit card, or passport on travel days.

 Speaking of travel days, this Friday I head to Africa to begin the second quarter of my World Race adventure! South America has been great, and I'm excited to see what's next. If you want to know  I've been up to here in Peru, and keep up with what I'll be doing over the next 8 months, check out my World Race blog and subscribe to it!

Hasta Luago! Next time I post it will be from Cote De Ivoire!