Tuesday, December 7, 2010

French Seams with In-Seam Pocket Tutorial

Pockets 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.

Sew Pocket Bags to Side Seam 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.

French Seam, Including Pocket Bags 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.

Turn Right Side to Right Side

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!

Complete French Seam


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.

Completed French Seam


You can see that this creates a lovely finish on the inside with no raw edges (other than the pocket joining seam).

Completed Seam from Outside of Garment

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.

14 comments:

Loren said...

Super cute. The color is very flattering on you, also I love the belt combo. With your hands in your pockets the 'extra bulk' isn't noticeable.

tanitisis said...

Nifty! And the dress is super-cute, too.

Karin said...

I can't actually see any extra bulk, so I think you pulled it off. You are on a roll with cute winter dresses. I liked your last one a lot, and this one is great too.

Adelaide B said...

Cute! I go back and forth on inseam pockets. Currently, I am at "nope." There is a 10 inch difference between my waist and hips, and inseam pockets create bulk where I don't want it. The fabric you are using is just perfect for this treatment though.

a little sewing on the side said...

I never thought of it, but it makes perfect sense to add pockets to a dress for the warmth factor.

I am going to sew winter dresses as soon as I have time and I will remember that.

Dress is really wonderful on you!!

Little Hunting Creek said...

This is a beautiful dress! I love this color on you

fancypants said...

Beautiful dress! Pockets really don't get enough press, do they? I love pockets in dresses!

Irene said...

Dress looks wonderful! Years ago, it seemed, all Vogue (that's the only brand I sewed back then, being young and a horrible snob) dresses had pockets of one sort or another. It was great. They don't do that anymore. Wonder why. Thank-you for making this dress-from-top, because now I see what I have been envisioning for a while. You beat me to it. So now, I guess I'll be copying you. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anita (Summer Gypsy) said...

Your dress is beautiful on you. Ahhh. the debate of pockets vs. no pockets and where to put them. It's so NICE to HAVE pockets, but I'm always afraid they look bulky. You've done a nice job on yours. They look perfect.

ps. It's funny to call yourself "slapdash" when you are such a meticulous, French-seam sewing seamstress. You do beautiful work.

bunny said...

nice job on the dress! it is very flattering on you.

Faye Lewis said...

The wool challis made such a beautiful dress. That is a great tutorial.

MushyWear said...

Your tutorial is very helpful. Great pictures and clear explanations. You look great in the dress, and I really love the print and color.

A Sewn Wardrobe said...

There have been a few instances where I needed to know how to do this (instead I used a serger or just left the pockets out). Thanks for this tut!

Audrey said...

I use Akris clothing for inspiration myself. I stole a Departures magazine from the car body shop on Saturday because in contained a multipage article on Akris. Enough about my petty thievery. I love the dress. it is a really pretty style and wool challis is such a yummy fabric to sew and wear.