Lucky Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it; Not a penny was there in it, only ribbon round it
~ 18th Century Nursery Rhyme
Women didn’t always carry handbags or reticules, but often had concealed purses or “pockets” worn close to the body under their outer layers. Slits in the gown or a petticoat would allow the owner to slip their hand into the hanging pocket that was tied to their waist to retrieve its contents (or allowed enterprising pickpockets to get at their prize).
Having done some research into these items whilst looking at possible types of belt purse, I decided that I would like to have one as Brigit to wear under her robe or her banquet dress to keep certain things close at hand, particularly when wearing her long cloak on adventures which hampers my ability to quickly get at all my belt pouches or my bag.
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I can’t remember when I started planning to make a pocket, but I must have seen something when trawling the web for kit ideas because when I went looking for other bags / purses / possible solutions to my problem I kept seeing pictures and knew what they were.
I did a search for making pockets and eventually narrowed it down to the rough time
period, and stumbled across the Victoria and Albert’s “how to” and other blog posts that link back to it – which is a good sign in my book.
I gathered together some left over cotton cloth I had used to make a Templar tabard recently, as I liked the feel of the material and decided making pockets like this might be a good stash busting project. I was tempted to use a Chinese silk blouse I’m re-purposing as its too small and too damaged to pass along to anyone else, but I’m glad I didn’t. My pattern still needs a little work …
The materials are simple and probably things you already have to hand.
- A4 paper, pencil and paper scissors
- Cloth (enough to cut two squares the size of your pattern and enough left over to make your own binding/straps)
- Linen tape, ribbon or bias binding (if you don’t want to make your own or use up scraps)
- Needle, general purpose thread, embroidery thread
- Tailors chalk and pins
- Tape measure and fabric scissors
Making the pocket
I folded the paper in half to make a short squat rectangle and drew a rough pear shape on one half that I reckoned would be deep enough for my hand. If I was to do this again I would fold the paper to make a tall thin rectangle as my bag doesn’t feel deep enough and I’m a little concerned about the contents working loose … I would also make the top narrower as it doesn’t need to be as wide as I made it, but it works for now.
I cut out the paper pattern and unfolded it. I ironed my cloth and drew around the pattern twice to make a front and back piece, leaving plenty of space between the two pieces so that I could cut out the rough rectangle that would fit my embroidery hoop.
I cut the rough rectangle and chose one piece to be my front, drawing on my embroidery design freehand. I marked the cutting line for the opening and made a rough guess as to the distance I wanted to leave between the opening and the embroidery to allow for adding the binding or adjusting the opening when cutting, leaving this space empty.
Putting the rectangle of cloth in my embroidery hoop I then set to sewing the decoration with black thread, working the leaves and stem in stem stitches and the rose in back stitches for contrast (see below for the completed embroidery).
I then cut out the two pieces of the pocket out and cut the slit for the front.
I pinned the front to the back and sewed a 3/8” seam, before sewing a second line of stitches at 2/8” to reinforce this. Some instructions say to bind this raw seam, but I reasoned that with two lines of stitching fraying or tearing through use wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I clipped the curves to help with turning and turned the pocket right ways out.
I then pressed the pocket and gently steamed the creases out of my embroidery as best I could.
Then I made my own binding. Using the remaining scraps of cloth cut from around the pocket I cut a band that would fit both sides of the opening . I did not cut this on the bias as I reasoned I would not be having to work the binding around curves. I tested the opening by pinning the top shut and ended up having to cut the opening a little longer, leading to a 4” slit to bind. I folded the cloth in half and pressed it, before opening it out. I then folded the outer edges back in towards the middle before refolding the seam I’d already pressed into the cloth and pressing the whole package together. I then used a trick I’d learnt from the Colette blog and put a pin in the edge of my ironing board to help press my binding flat. The tip is for folding bias tape using the pin, alone but I figured that using the pin just to help keep the tape folded together as I worked couldn’t hurt. Until you stab yourself in the hand with the end of the pin …
I then pinned the binding on the front side of the pocket and sewed the 3/8” seam. I then folded the other end back in on the other side of the opening, sandwiching the raw edge inside the binding, and sewed the whole thing shut from the front. I used the edge stitching of the front face of the binding to look like a deliberate detail, whilst sneakily avoiding having to hand stitch the binding down at the back. Win win!
There was a slight slip at the point where the binding turns sharply to go up the other side of the opening, but it’s not obvious from the front.
I pressed the binding flat and mused over what to do with the opening. The bottom of the opening gaped open a little because of how I’d sewn my binding, so I decided to overlap the bits at the bottom and sew the top down for neatness. There might be a better way of doing this – by sewing the binding differently, by using actual homemade bias tape or narrow ribbon or just accepting the gape – but I’m happy with how it looks now.
I then had to make the fabric belt that ties the pocket around the waist. I decided that rather than using ribbon I would make my own tie in the same fashion as my binding (I was very impressed with how it had turned out, can you tell?). I cut lots of strips of cloth that was twice as wide as I wanted the band to be (as you fold it in half) plus the appropriate 3/8” seam. I then sewed all the strips together at the ends and pressed these seams flat. I then folded the long bit in half and wrapped it round my waist to see if what I’d rustled up was going to be long enough. It was, even with factoring in that the ends would be turned in to stop them from fraying, but if you find it’s not long enough, just cut some more and add them to the length as before.
I then proceeded to treat these sewn bits of cloth as if they were the same as the little piece I’d manipulated earlier – folding it in half, pressing, folding in the edges, pressing the whole folded piece. I worked down the length section by section through each stage.
Having chosen to cut an uneven number of strips of cloth I was able to avoid having a seam as the mid-point of my pocket, which I preferred aesthetically. I pinned the open top of the pocket to one edge of the binding around the mid-point and sewed it down through both the front and back pieces, before folding the rest of the binding over the raw edge.
I then turned in the ends of the binding and pinned the whole lot together, sewing the binding together to make the bands and closing the sandwich formed around the top of the pocket (similar to when I closed the binding on the opening for the hand) and pressed the whole lot once more for good measure.
Using your pocket(s)
If you wanted a pair of matched pockets to go either side of your hips (like pockets in your trousers) then you just change where you sew the pockets on the band, but apart from that a pair are made in the same way as a singular one.
This pocket will be worn over my tunic but under my robes when adventuring, and between the two layers of my dress when at banquet so I can keep those important little things to hand. If you want you could wear it in the traditional way between the petticoat and outer skirt, just adding an opening in the seam near the waist band so you can slip your hand into your pockets.
But for now, I’m just going to admire my handiwork until I get a chance to use it.