Like most people, I love having pockets in my garments. Pockets can come in many forms–patch, welt, in-seam, etc–depending on the garment and the style. One of the most common pocket styles to find in dresses and skirts are in-seam pockets. An in-seam pocket is where the pocket is literally sewn into the side seam, so it becomes invisible to see on the outside of the garment, but is right there at the hip whenever you need it.
For dresses, typically the in-seam pocket is simply sewn into the garment as part of the side seam. The pocket floats in the seam, flapping around on the inside of the dress. This is the only option if the garment has no horizontal seams across the body. Sometimes this causes the pocket to pull on the side seam, creating drag lines in a drapey fabric, and making a flattering garment anything but.
However, if your dress has a horizontal seam across the body, near or at the waist, there is another choice–sewing the pocket into both the side seam and waist seam. This secures the pocket into the waist, preventing it from pulling or dragging, and keeping it locked in place towards the front of the garment, so it is not flapping around inside your dress.
This is a very easy switch to make to your pattern. To illustrate this technique, I am using the Factory Dress from Merchant & Mills. This dress is a perfect example of this switch. The original pattern has an in-seam pocket that is sewn into the side seam just below the waist seam. I will show you how to alter the pocket and steps to sew the pocket into the waist seam.
I made this dress with gorgeous rayon print fabric from the Britex Fabrics site. It is beautiful black rayon with substantial drape and screen printed white polka dots. It is very hard to show details on black fabric in photos on-line, so some of these step by step images are slightly lightened to show detail and sewing lines have been drawn for ease of instruction.
Step 1- First, start with your pocket pattern piece. Usually for an in-seam pocket, the upper portion of the pocket curves to meet the side seam. But for one that is sewn into the waist, the top of the pocket needs to match the top of the waist seam so it can be sewn to match. Trace off your pocket piece onto tracing paper.
Step 2- Redraw the top of the pocket to match the top of the waist seam. For the skirt portion of the Factory Dress, it’s just a simple straight line, so I made it 90-degrees from the side seam corner. Then simply redraw the curved side of the pocket to smooth it out. Cut the pocket pieces as instructed by the pattern.
Step 3- Pin the pocket to the side seam of the skirt piece with right sides together. The top of the pocket should line up with the top of the skirt, and the side of the pocket should line up with the side seam of the skirt.
Step 4- Sew the pocket to the skirt using a scant 5/8” (or the amount in your project) seam allowance. Sew along the marked line from the top of the pocket to the bottom of the pocket.
Step 5- Press the pocket and the seam allowance away from the skirt so the pocket is now part of the skirt. I like to take this moment to finish the seam allowance of the pocket and skirt that you sewed in step 4. Repeat these steps so you have all four pockets (if you have in-seam pockets on each side) sewn to the skirt front and skirt back pieces.
Step 6- Place the skirt front and back pieces on top of each other, right sides together. Line up the pockets, skirt tops, and side seams. Because of the pocket, your seam allowance markings will be covered at certain points in the sewing, so I recommend marking the two areas marked in the photo: immediately to the side of the seam (on the skirt not the pocket) from the top of the skirt down about 1.5–2”, and at the bottom corner where the skirt and pocket meet.
Step 7- Sew down along the line you made at the top of the skirt to the side of the seam. This creates a seam from the waist to the top opening of the pocket. Then sew along the side of the pocket, pivot where the pocket meets the side seam, and then sew down to the hem. Because you sewed the pocket on at a scant 5/8” seam allowance, the sewing you are doing in this step will be just to the side of that previous stitching, making it invisible to the outside of the garment. Finish the seam allowance of the pocket and skirt as you wish at this point. Repeat these steps with the other side seam and pockets so both sides are sewn.
Step 8- Press the pockets and the seam allowance of the side seams toward the front of the skirt. When attaching a bodice or waistband to the skirt, sew the upper portion of the pocket into the seam, locking it in place along the waist seam.
And voila! Your pocket will now be exactly where it should be, and will no longer flapping around inside your garment. So much nicer!
Christine Haynes is a Los Angeles-based sewing author, teacher, and pattern designer with her own line of sewing patterns–Christine Haynes Patterns–which are perfect for the vintage-loving modern seamstress.
Christine grew up in Saugatuck, MI, a small beach community on the southwestern coast of Lake Michigan, where the arts were part of her daily life. Christine attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in the department of Film, Video, and New Media.
Her mother taught her to sew around the age of 10, and it grew as a personal hobby, until it eclipsed other mediums and became her main artistic outlet. After selling ready-to-wear garments for many years, Christine turned her focus to teaching others to experience the joy of making clothing for themselves through her patterns, books, and workshops.
"Sewing empowers you to be in total control of all the details of your clothing–fit, fabric, style–and frees you from having to rely on trends and fast fashion for a more thoughtful and conscious approach to your wardrobe." - Christine Haynes
She has written four books, How to Speak Fluent Sewing (2015, C&T), Skirts & Dresses for First Time Sewers (2015, Barron’s), The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction (2014, CPI), and Chic & Simple Sewing (2009, Potter Craft), and has contributed to other books, such as One Yard Wonders (2009, Storey).
Christine’s articles have been published in Sewstylish, Sew News, Craftstylish, and Craft Zine magazines. She teaches sewing classes both in person and online, and has presented lectures and workshops at the American Sewing Guild Conference, Camp Stitchalot, Camp Workroom Social, the 2012–2016 Craftcation Conferences, and the 2016 QuiltCon West Conference.
Christine was a featured guest on seasons 2 and 8 of PBS’s Sew It All TV show, and her work has been featured in Threads magazine, Mollie Makes, the New York Times, the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, Martha Stewart’s radio network, People.com, LA Weekly, Daily Candy, and NBC’s Today Show, among others.