4 Ways To Add A Pocket To Any Outfit, Including A Life-Changing DIY

Because pockets are the best.
Publish date:
October 23, 2014
DIY, pockets, sewing, blazers, cardigans, Holsters

My favorite fall outfits almost always involve leggings or jeggings. They’re comfortable and versatile, and I’m definitely not the only one enjoying the stylish ease of these stretchy wardrobe staples.

The rallying cry of leggings-lovers is “anything pants can do, leggings can do better!” Which is almost true. But leggings will never do pockets like pants can, even though most of the time pants don’t even do pockets very well either. But pockets, oh pockets! I can’t live without them.

I’ve hunted far and wide for the perfect purse, backpack, clutch, something that could keep my basics on me at all times, but nothing can match a good pocket. Designers were on my side this summer, kindly installing my favorite design feature in summer dresses both casual and formal. But now I’m back into leggings and sweaters, leggings and flirty skirts -- fun fall outfits that leave me pocketless.

A life without pockets is a life of fumbling for lip balm. Without pockets, my phone sits awkwardly in the palm of my hand, and my hand -- the free one -- is nervously scrambling for something to fiddle with. Pockets hold what needs holding, and offer a safe place to hide for fidgety fingers.

Layers -- pocketed layers -- are the saving grace of fall and winter. My most versatile add-ons are in basic black, and together, they can complete almost any outfit with style and pockets.

A slightly oversized cardigan doesn’t detract from a slightly dressier outfit, and is equally at home with jeans (just kidding, jeggings) and a T-shirt.

This slouchy blazer takes turns with the cardigan and adds a touch more formality, while still leaving room to dress down.

Another option that I fell in love with over the summer is indie designer Lennard Taylor’s holster. It meets the basic criteria of adding pockets as well as standing on its own as a highly unique and bold accessory. I especially love pairing it with more feminine and vintage-inspired pieces for a subtle badass twist.

The holster often inspires a double-take and is a definite conversation starter. It’s also something that can’t always be worn lightly -- it may not be safe to wear pockets that can be mistaken for guns -- but in the right context, it’s an ingenious accessory.

Finally, when adding a pocketed layer simply just won’t do, you can always sew a pocket in! All you need are some basic sewing skills, a few supplies, and this tutorial.

This pocket will work with a garment that has a side seam (or a pair of side seams), and enough space inside the garment for the pocket; looser pants or a flowing skirt would be perfect. It’s an easy starter pocket because it hides in the inside of the garment, so if you don’t have matching fabric or are a hasty seamstress (I’m guilty of that one), those things won’t show.

You will need:

  • Your garment.
  • Another scrap garment, scrap fabric, or new fabric to cut the pocket out of. It should be similar in fabric content, texture and color (if you want it to match). You’ll want enough fabric to cut out 4 copies of your pocket pattern (about 2 square feet for sure).
  • A space to work in that is brightly lit and has a wide flat surface. The floor will do.
  • A sewing machine, needle, and thread. (This can be done by hand but will take a lot longer.)
  • A stitch ripper.
  • Sharp scissors.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler or measuring tape.
  • A piece of paper for your pocket pattern.
  • Optional: another pocketed garment to inspire your pocket pattern.

As a demo, I put a pocket into my mom’s favorite sweat pants, and we used scraps of an old hoodie. Though the hoodie is a bit more faded, (which doesn’t matter for this project), the fabric is almost identical.

Note: Almost every fabric you use will have a nicer side and a not-so-nice side, like a front and a back. The nicer side -- the side we would conventionally be facing out -- we’ll call the “right side.” We’ll call the other side the “wrong side.” On the hoodie/sweatpant fabric, the right side is flat and smooth, and the wrong side is fluffier.

Step 1: Make your pocket pattern.

Find a garment with a side pocket you like, and turn it inside out. A good pocket for this project will look like a half-heart shape. Trace the pocket onto a piece of paper as best as you can, and even out the lines. If you don’t have another garment, you can hand-draw the pocket-shape based on the pictures provided.

Make sure that your hand will fit comfortably into the pocket, and then add an extra 1/4 inch all around your pocket drawing for a 1/2-inch seam allowance (this means that your final pocket will be 1/2-inch smaller on all sides than the pattern). Cut your pocket pattern out.

Step 2: Anatomy of a pocket.

The flat side will be sewn into the seam, and the round side will be sewn together to make the “deep end” of the pocket. I’ll refer to the flat end as the “opening” side of the pocket and the round end as the “deep pocket” side.

Make a little mark about 1 1/2 inches form the bottom (the hanging part) of the pocket on the opening end; we’ll stitch this together to keep the bottom of your pocket safe and sound for smaller pocket items.

Step 3: Cut it out.

Lay your pattern out on your pocket fabric and make sure that you have enough for 4 pocket shapes. With all of your fabric laid right side up, you will need to cut out 2 pocket pieces with the opening side on the left and 2 pocket pieces with the opening side on the right. If you want to save time, you can fold the fabric in half and cut two pocket pieces at once.

Pin the pocket pattern to the fabric and carefully cut around until you have 4 pocket pieces.

Step 4: Make some seam space.

This is the most tedious part of the project, so put on your favorite song and get ready to dig in.

Take the garment that you want to put the pocket in. You’re going to stitch-rip the seam so there’s room for the pocket. It’s so tempting to just cut the seam, because stitch-ripping is the worst, but you need every little bit of fabric in there. Sorry.

You don’t want to mess with the waistband of most garments, so you can either stitch rip to really close to the waistband if you’re feeling daring, or mark the top of the pocket 1 inch below the waistband (on the right side of the garment) with a pin. Then measure the length of the opening side of the pocket pattern. This is the distance you want to stitch rip, so measure this out on your seams and mark it with a pin.

To rip out the seam, pull the two edges of fabric apart slightly until you can see the thread holding them together. Sneak the stitch ripper in there and cut that thread. There may be 2 or 3 seams; cut them all, but be careful not to pierce the fabric. You’ll have bits of thread everywhere that you’ll pull off after.

Ready? Go for it.

Step 5: It’s sewing time!

Well, almost. First it’s pinning time.

Lay your garment right-side out so that the opened seam is right in the middle, looking up at you. Take two of your pocket pieces, and lay them on top, right side touching right side (so wrong side up). The pocket pieces will flank the seam-hole, with the opening sides lined up. Pin these together (be sure to only pin through the two layers of fabric -- pocket piece and one layer of the garment).

Now flip the garment over, and pin the other two pocket pieces onto the other side.

You’re going to sew one straight seam attaching each opening side of the pocket to the side seam. Use a medium-distance straight stitch (test it on a scrap fabric first to be safe).

Note: Anytime you start and end a seam, lock it in place by sewing a stitch or two, then sewing backwards over this stitch. Now you’re really ready to go.

Snip off any extra threads. See that seam edge where your pocket and garment connect? Depending on the fabric, that can fray and make a huge, annoying mess later on, so even though it’s an extra step, go back over the edge of that seam with a zig-zag stitch to keep it all nice and tidy. (See why there was so much to stitch rip? Seams are serious business.)

Step 6: Seal the deal.

Turn your garment and the pockets inside out, and pull the pocket pieces out from the garment so they look like little elephant ears. You should be looking at the wrong side of both the garment and the pocket pieces.

Pin the pocket pieces together, lining up the whole round edge of the deep pocket side. Pull out your pocket pattern again, and mark the little pocket-notch on the opening side with another pin.

You are now going to go on a longer sewing journey all around the pocket.

With a straight stitch, start on the side seam just above the top of the pocket. Travel down the side seam and then take a hard turn at the top of the pocket. Leaving that 1/2-inch seam allowance around the edge, sew around the deep pocket side, and when you come back to the seam, turn down the side seam and sew until you join up with an un-ripped seam.

Now pull a 180 and go back up the side seam, past the bottom of the pocket, until you hit the pocket notch. Sew out about an inch into the pocket, and sew this bit really well (go forwards and backwards).

Then lock your stitch -- the pocket is in.

And to save yourself some trouble later, give that outside pocket seam a good zigzag stitch too. Repeat this on the other pocket.

Step 7: Bask in pocketful glory (plus optional fancypants)!

Turn your garment inside out. Try it on! Look at those sweet pockets. Put your hands in them and imagine all of the times you won’t have to worry about where to stash your important goods.

If you want to extra-fancy up your pockets, you can add a little top-stitch. Leaving the garment right-side out, start at the top of the pocket. You’ll sew the top of the pocket to the front of the garment. With a straight stitch, sew about a 1/2-inch out, then down the length of the pocket, then back in.

This simple little seam announces to the world that your pocket has arrived. Congratulations!