When planning a project with McCall 5661 out of wool challis, I knew I wanted to do French seams for this lightweight, delicate fabric to ensure the project stayed in one piece. However, I got obsessed with wanting in-seam pockets as well. I had worn a Spring dress with a sweater over it for Fall, and it ended up being a little chillier than predicted. The dress has pockets and it made a remarkable difference in my comfort level to be able to keep my hands warm in them. So for this short-sleeve wool dress that can go into Spring and start up again in early Fall, I wanted pockets.
I had never heard of nor done side seam pockets in a French-seamed garment, so I went on the hunt to see if it is even possible. I found two tutorials. This tutorial for sewing pockets into a French seam includes a video showing how to do a basic French seam and a written description of how to do the pocket. This tutorial has photos, but the pocket itself is a little unusual and the tutorial only took me so far (other than marveling at the detail put into such a tiny piece of doll clothes). So, it seemed my dream was possible.
It actually turns out not to be difficult or complicated at all. You just sew a French seam with a bump in it for the pocket. Because of the bulk at the pocket, it can only be done in quite lightweight fabrics.
First, proceed as usual for in-seam pockets and sew the pocket bags to the front and back at the markings, right sides together. As per usual, I sewed this at a 3/8" seam allowance rather than the full 5/8" so the pocket bags would roll to the inside.
This is the only raw edge that will show in your garment, so finish that joining edge. I used a zigzag because I could not visualize all the way through to the end of the process. If I'd realized it would show I would have used a serger finish.
Second, take the first pass of your French seam. Pin the side seams--including the pockets--wrong sides together. Every time I do French seams it is *inevitable* that I will do the first pass as right sides together on at least one seam. I chant to myself "French seams are WRONG, French seams are WRONG, French seams are WRONG" over and over as a reminder, which helps a little. Stitch the first pass with a 1/4" seam allowance, pivoting at the pocket bags and sewing along their outer edges. I loooove using the serger for the first pass of a French seam, but I don't have the dexterity to use a serger for that pivot point, which makes this fairly fussy to sew.
Once that first pass is sewn, turn the side seams so they are right sides together as for normal sewing. Press, making sure that your first pass seam is at the edge. Your next step will enclose the raw edges of the first pass, so if you didn't use a serger make sure that your seam allowance is trimmed to 1/4" or smaller. Very small!
Now you sew that right-side-to-right-side pass at a 3/8" seam allowance. Again, pivot at the pocket bag, making sure that you are beyond the seam allowance from the first pass so that it will be fully enclosed. Press this seam. I normally press side seams sewn in a French seam toward the back, but in this instance you have to press toward the front because otherwise the pockets will be facing toward the back of your body.
You can see that this creates a lovely finish on the inside with no raw edges (other than the pocket joining seam).
And this is what it looks like from the right side, including the inside of the pocket. Very clean! You can also see that I sort of haphazardly drafted this pocket on the fly and it ended up way too small. I can barely fit my hands into them--so much for keeping warm!
I am very pleased to have figured out a new-to-me technique, though I'm not sure I'll use it much. The bulk at the pocket pivot point causes the dress to bulge out ever so slightly at the upper hip. I don't need any help there! This would be better for a dress with a waist seam and full skirt where a little extra width doesn't matter.
All photos are here. Full review for the dress is here.