Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch is the class instructor for our Round One challenge, Design & Sew an A-Line Skirt on Craftsy. Deborah is a skilled and fun instructor, and we think her class is the perfect way to kick off The Super Online Sewing Match. Each pattern designer in the match will share a post each round of the contest, helping you learn a skill or sharing a great sewing tip along the way. Today Deborah shows you how to make in-seam pockets with French seams. It’s the key to perfect pockets!
Deborah is the author of Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew One Project at a Time. Registration is now open for her popular Fall Wardrobe E-Course; learn more on the Fall Wardrobe E-Course detail page and grab your spot today!
One of the things I love the best about drafting your own patterns is the way you can tweak all the little details. That means adding ruffles or shaping curves, but it also means changing the way the actual garment is constructed. In a pretty summer skirt, I’m very likely to add in French seams nearly any chance I get, especially if I’m using soft, floaty fabrics that fray easily.
Most of the time, if I add French seams, I’ll leave out in-seam pockets, because it can be confusing to think through the steps that it would take to add pockets when sewing a side seam using a French seam. Recently, however, I worked out how to make it happen and have been cheerfully adding it to summer skirts and dresses this season! If you’re familiar with the French seam, adding an in-seam pocket using this technique is just a few extra steps. If you’ve never sewn a French seam before, this is as good a time as any to learn!
Begin by cutting both your skirt front and back AND your in-seam pocket pieces. You can steal any in-seam pocket pattern you like, but for the purposes of this tutorial, the seam allowance MUST be 1/2â€³. Just a FYI: If you use a Big 4 pattern piece, just shave off 1/8â€³ from the straight side seam of the in-seam pocket pattern and you’ll be good!
Ordinarily, with an in-seam pocket, you’d be sewing right sides together, like always, like this:
You sew a 1/2â€³ seam on the edge of the pocket, press it away from the body of the skirt, then place the skirt front and back right sides together and sew ANOTHER 1/2â€³ seam where the new seam intersects with the pocket seam and merges the sewn edge of the pocket with the side seam of the skirt; the pocket, in this case, IS the seam. We’re going to add one additional step: making that seam a French seam, where all the seam allowances are encased inside the seam itself, and enclosed so that there are no exposed, raw edges anywhere on the finished garment– not inside the pocket, and not inside the skirt. Whoo!
For that reason, I’ve placed the skirt front and the pocket piece WRONG sides together. (Note that the skirt is cut on the bias here, which helps to differentiate the two in these images.) Instead of sewing a 1/2â€³ seam allowance, I’m going to sew HALF of that; I’ll sew half now, then press everything over, and sew again right sides together with the other half of my seam allowance. My final amount taken out will be 1/2â€³, but in two steps, which allows me to trap those raw edges inside the second seam. Cool, right?
Here’s the first half of that seam, sewn at 1/4â€³ and then pressed so that the pocket is facing AWAY from the skirt. I’ve sewn all the way from the upper pocket edge to the lower edge, just along that pocket side seam.
The next crucial step is to TRIM those seam allowance, but not all along the side of the skirt–- just on the seam between the skirt and the pocket. I want to reduce the amount of fabric that gets caught in the second seam so I’m sure I don’t have any threads hanging out, but I don’t want to reduce any part of the skirt seam allowance that we’ll use when we put the skirt front and back together. See above, where I’ve angled in and trimmed just the edge of the pocket seam? Do that now.
Once the seam is trimmed, press the pocket back toward the skirt front, right sides together, working to get that seam nice and crisp and flat.
Now sew your second seam, using the pressed edge of seam #1 as your guide for the new 1/4â€³ seam allowance. See how the edge of the fabric below the pocket– the skirt edge– is even with the new 1/4â€³ seam? That’s what we want; that means we’ve taken out a total of 1/2â€³ as planned.
That little curve where the skirt side met the pocket? We want to open that out flat so we can sew the skirt side seam next. So clip juuust above and just below the pocket to release those folded edges, and press the whole shebang before we move on to placing front and back together.
I’ve duplicated all those steps with my skirt back, making sure that the pocket is placed at the same spot on both the skirt front and back so that everything lines up properly. Get those raw edges nice and even, and prepare to sew the French seam at the skirt side seam!
Begin with the first 1/4â€³ seam. Remember, we’re still sewing a 1/2â€³ seam total here, but in two stages, so we’ve divided that seam in half. When you get to the pocket, you’ll notice that you’re not even with the seam that attaches the pocket to the skirt. That’s fine, don’t expect to be. You ought to be about 1/4â€³ to the right of that seam.
Sew 1/4â€³ PAST the upper edge of the pocket, and pivot your fabric on the needle to turn. Now, we’re going to sew around the outer, curved edge of the pocket pieces themselves to create the pocket bag. This way, the seam that attaches the pocket to the skirt is the side seam, and we create an opening to place our hands in when we wear the skirt, but the seam INSIDE the pocket is still a neat, tidy French seam.
When you get to the lower edge of the pocket, stop early again and pivot, then complete the side seam.
Trim those seam allowances up just like we did before, and take care to CLIP into the corners at top and bottom, up to the stitches but not through them. Press the pocket and skirt right sides together, taking care to get those edges and seams really, really crisp.
Now we come back and do the FINAL seam, this one around everything we’ve done previously. Since your seam allowances are all trimmed, and you’ve clipped into those corners, you should have a very neat, flat pocket to work with as we sew this last 1/4â€³ seam. Begin at the upper skirt edge, and sew along until you reach the pocket seam. See how the new seam is intersecting with the previous pocket seam, in the image above? That’s just what you want! That means that at your finished side seam in the skirt, the pocket will lie perfectly along the same line, and the pockets will be invisible in your seam.
Pivot and go around the pocket curve again– just like the last seam– but at the end of your pivot, take care to put your needle IN the pocket seam line before turning to complete the remainder of the seam.
On the interior, the finished pocket looks like this: neat and tidy, not a seam allowance in sight!
And on the outside, you get a pocket that’s perfectly in line with your side seam, but that is also clean and chic on the inside.