Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bluff-stitching a Patch Pocket.

I was never been a big fan of patch pockets until I learnt this method of sewing them onto a jacket. Not having any topstitching showing on the front of the pocket leaves people wondering how on earth you have achieved it. It’s quite easy, but I must confess that I saw this method years ago while visiting an atelier in Paris and I thought it was a clever adaptation of the way we did it when I trained as a tailor. In a commercial tailoring establishment we applied them by just a chalked pocket outline, half a dozen alignment marks and a very slim foot on the machine that resembled a two pronged fork that you would eat with. No pins or basting and ever so fascinating to watch being done. Mastery of this technique was quite an achievment but it is virtually impossible to do on a domestic machine with the wide feet and lack of industrial foot pressure. I'm sure some will talk me down on this but I've tried on many machines of all different brands and have ended up ripping the pocket off time and time again and being very frustrated. The following method is easy to perfect!

Prepare the front of the jacket to a state of readiness for the pockets to go on. The side body (or side front) of the jacket is attached to the front and an extra piece of interfacing has been put in place where the top-back of the patch pocket will be sewn through. This reinforces this area, giving the pocket some strength and will prevent it from pulling away if it gets caught on something (as patch pockets sometimes do)!
In the photo above we see that there are a couple of “tailors tacks” to show the placement of the top of the pocket (you can chalk an outline of where the pocket is to be place if you like). The entire pocket has been bonded with a lightweight interfacing to give it a little more body and prevent the curved edges from fraying out. By reducing the seam allowance to 1cm (3/8”) from 1.5cm (5/8”) allows easier turning of the curved corners and reduces some of the bulk in the finished pocket edges. Each patch pocket will have a pair pocket-linings cut for it (i.e. the 2 pockets will have 4 linings).

Turn and press the top facing of the pocket and attach one of the pocket linings as shown.

Pin the other (with the seam allowance pressed over at the top) on top of this (right sides together is the lining has a pattern) and stitch ¼” in from the edge around the pocket edges, through all layers.

This will hold everything together so the edges can be turned in and pressed. Clover have a product that is a curved corner turing template which definately helps getting curves perfect.
Observe the gathering thread that has been stitched around both the curved edges of the pocket (through all layers). This thread, once pulled up, will help the corner form during pressing. Have a look for a pocket template on

Place the pressed pocked into position on the right side of the jacket front and pin as shown above. Try no to "over pin" as too many pins make this process more difficult. Pin in the same fashion as shown.

Using an “opened toe” embroidery foot (this foot gives great visibility for all sorts of sewing – it’s also referred to as an “appliqué/craft foot”) stitch the edge of the pocket with a very shallow “zigzag” with the stitch length set at 4 or what would be used for machine basting.

This zigzag stitch is a holding stitch to allow the edges inside the pocket to be firmly in place and will help keep the inside seam firm when opening it up for stitching the patch pocket on the inside.

By using the edge of the foot against the raw edge of the seam inside the pocket will give a 7– 8mm seam width, for this final row of stitching. This gives the pocket a sort of “floating” look then the zigzag stitch is finally removed on the outside. Stitching too close to the pressed fold of the pocket will make the pocket look tight from the right side.

The underside of your work (pictured above) when both the zigzag and the final row of stitching are in place.
Remove the temporary zigzag stitch from the outside of the pocket (be gentle, just in case any of these stitches have been caught in the inside stitching) and lightly press. Stitch down the extra piece of lining that in still floating free in the inside of the pocket.

This will seal in all the raw edges on the seam allowances inside the pocket and make it a joy to put your hand in your pocket. Finish the top of the pocket by topstitching a distance of2.5cm (1”) in total (this stitching is usually about 1cm (3/8”) in the finished edge).

This final stitching is to reinforce the top edges and it also captures the raw seam allowance that has not been covered by the extra piece of pocket lining.

Press the pocket very carefully from the front with a pressing cloth. Bruising a patch pocket is very easy to do. I hope you have a go at this, it seems like a lot of fuss, but the finished result is so professional.


  1. This is awesome! Thank you for explaining this technique, I always wondered how its done.

  2. A-MAZ-ING! I love it! Thanks so much!

  3. Looks fantastic -- think I'll try it. One question: are the top seam allowances (fashion fabric) raw? It looks like it.

  4. This is a great method and I'm going to use it to finish some patch pockets I was already making. I not quite certain about the step where they are sewn from the inside after the zig-zag holding stitch.

    It surely can't be easy to get a machine foot (of any kind) into a pocket to sew around the curves? Would it not be far simpler - not to mention less fiddly - to back stitch the pocket by hand from the back, following the zig-zag stitch line?

  5. I understand your comment about back stitching a pocket onto the garment but that method is just not for me! Bluffing these pockets on with a machine is just too quick and easy and my techniques are all about bridging the gap between commercial and domestic sewing techniques.

  6. I was skeptical, but followed your instructions with great results. Sewing inside the pocket was tricky but not as difficult as I thought it would be. The pockets are exquisite. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  7. I'd visualized this method; however, wasn't it tight/uncomfortable to sew this pocket inside? Thanks.

  8. Thank you for the great tip! I'd like to ask though, if I can't get hold of the embroidery foot, can I substitute it with a hand basting?

  9. thanks from germany for this great tutorial.

  10. Excellent tip...thank you for sharing, and I hope you come back with more tutorials.

  11. Wow, you've got a great idea. I liked your idea, and I would want to use your idea for the pocket. I admire the valuable information you have been able to share us through this post. Thanks a lot for this beauty Enjoying article with me. I appreciate it very much!