Make your own pocket

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Making your own pocket is very easy. Just follow these steps:

1. Choose the shape

The first step is to decide what shape you want your pocket to be. The Workwoman’s Guide of 1838 shows us some of the traditional pocket shapes. An easy way to make one side the same shape as the other is to fold a piece of paper in half and draw half a pear-shape. If you want two pockets, then cut four pieces (two backs and two fronts) from the same pattern. Surviving pockets show us that many were not perfectly symmetrical in shape, so you can draw them freehand if you want.

Or you could invent a completely new shape of pocket, or Follow 5 Simple Steps to Make a Pocket Template:

1. Find a plain piece of paper.
2. Fold the piece of paper in half.
3. Draw half a pear shape with a flat top.
4. Keeping the paper folded, cut out along the lines you have drawn.
5. Open paper to reveal symmetrical pocket shape.

2. Choose the fabric

Embroidered satin pocket, Germany, 1775-1825. Museum no. 1437-1871

Embroidered satin pocket, Germany, 1775-1825. Museum no. 1437-1871

Back of an embroidered satin pocket, Germany, 1775-1825. Museum no. 1437-1871

Back of an embroidered satin pocket, Germany, 1775-1825. Museum no. 1437-1871

Pair of pockets (reverse), Britain, 1718-1720. Museum no.T.41&A-1935

Pair of pockets (reverse), Britain, 1718-1720. Museum no.T.41&A-1935

Pair of pockets, Britain, 1718-20. Museum no. T.41&A-1935

Pair of pockets, Britain, 1718-20. Museum no. T.41&A-1935

Pair of pockets (reverse), Britain, 1700-25. Museum no. T.281-1910

Pair of pockets (reverse), Britain, 1700-25. Museum no. T.281-1910

Traditionally linen was used for pockets. In the 19th century, cotton became more common than linen. Both are easily washed, which is helpful if you expect to be carrying pens or fruit. Silk was used too, for fancier pockets, either plain or decorated. You don't have to buy new material to make a pocket. Many were made up of fabric from old clothes and textiles. So rummage through any fabrics you are about to throw away and use them to make a pocket. Use as many wild and crazy materials as you can!

3. Choose the decoration

You can use lots of decorative fabrics for your pocket or leave it plain. Or you can add ribbons around the edge. Or you can embroider your pocket. Choose any of the following three options.

  • Print the pattern for the pocket on the right in black and white. Enlarge it (193% on a photocopier) for the same size as the original. To copy this pattern exactly, click on the image to find out more information on the fabric, thread and embroidery stitches
    Pocket pattern (PDF file, 174 KB)
    Pocket pattern (Word file, 186 KB)
  • Or find your own pattern from a magazine or design book
  • Or draw your own entirely unique design. Draw or transfer the pattern on your fabric with tracing paper, including the shape of your pocket 
The embroidery is done before the shape is cut out.  Traditionally the square piece of fabric was sewn into a wooden frame to hold it tight. This made the embroidery easier to do. An embroidery hoop from a needlework or craft shop will also hold the fabric tight.

Pockets from the 18th century used either silk or wool thread for embroidery. Yellow thread was very popular, as were red, green and blue.

Commonly used embroidery stitches were backstitch, outline stitch and chainstitch. 

But you can use any colour or type of thread you like, in any stitch you fancy.

Most pocket backs are completely plain.  After all, no one is going to see them.

4. Sew it together

  • When the embroidery is finished, cut about 1 cm around the outside of the pocket shape
  • Cut the opening in the front of the pocket
  • Place the wrong side of the back and the front of the pocket together and sew about 5 mm from the outside edge. You can hand sew with running stitch or backstitch. Or use the sewing machine.
  • To cover the raw edges, use a ribbon or linen tape, wide enough to cover the stitching. Don’t forget to bind the raw edges of the front opening as well
  • Sew on a piece of ribbon or linen tape, long enough to go around your waist plus some extra for tying.

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