There really is a formula, and it fulfills all the pocket sewing nerdiness you would expect from the Sew Everything Blog.
Did you think sewing on patch pockets is the easiest sewing task ever? You’re right. However, there are details to consider when applying one. I bet you didn’t know that there’s an entire book dedicated to the patch pocket, authored by Claire Shaeffer. It’s called “Sew Any Patch Pocket”. The publisher seems to be no longer in business. I highly recommend it, and it seems to be still available on Amazon. Yay.
I won’t divulge everything in that book, except just one detail which was a surprise discovery, even after owning the book for a couple of decades (looks sheepish). Hey, I read most sewing books as a reference when I need them, not as fiction. This time I was curious about location of patch pockets when there was none in a patch-pocket-less pattern, as in this polka dot robe, or this boxy black jacket. Claire’s book came down the shelf immediately.
So, here is a formula for determining patch pocket placement, and the steps I followed:
- Determine level of pocket placement. Measure from the shoulder seam at crook of neck down to the pocket top at your preferred level. Recommended is about 2 inches below your arm when bent horizontally at the elbow. This can vary with length of jacket and comfort level. My top-of-pocket level was higher for this boxy jacket because of it’s short-ish length. (I came up with 19 inches from the neck/shoulder to pocket level.)
- Measure center front to side seam at the pocket level. (Mine is 12.5.)
- Subtract pocket width (my pocket is 6″) from measurement in step two; divide the result by 3; then multiply that result by 2. This is the distance from center front to the edge of pocket. (I ended up with 4.33″ from front to pocket.)
- The image below is an example in the book.
Interesting, huh? Using Claire’s formula, I determined pocket placement for this minimalist loosey-goosey jacket from a circa 1935 pattern to be 19 inches down and 4.33 inches from center front. I decided to make some general adjustments, however. It was either make the pocket much smaller, or be happy with the bottom of the pocket even with the hem. So, I raised the pocket level by ½ inch thereby reducing the height of the pocket at the bottom.
How about the size of the patch pocket? The general rule is that for a functional pocket, the width should be as wide as your palm, plus one inch. Here is where I consulted another long-neglected tailoring book: Classic Tailoring Techniques, A Construction Guide for Women’s Wear by Roberto Cabrera and Patricia Flaherty Meyers.
Therein lay another surprise. They recommend that it’s lays better if the bottom of the pocket is 1 inch wider at the bottom than the top. Oka-a-ay. I used that info to make my pocket pattern, tapering to a wider width by adding 1/2 inch on each side at the bottom. Of course, the seam allowances are added after.
Below is the pocket pattern pinned to the jacket. Now for sewing it down. Stay tuned.
My gratitude to Claire Shaeffer for educating me extensively through her books and classes all these years.
Until next time,
2 thoughts on “Patch Pocket Placement: Yep, There’s a Formula.”
Two reference books for patch pockets and a complicated math formula – I’m surprised! And I can’t quite get behind the asymmetrical pocket; one inch seems too much to me.
Right? Who would have thought there was a formula? 😀 According to the tailoring book, patch pockets on jackets “lay better” if they’re a little wider at the bottom. I’m about to hand-stitch my pockets into place, so we’ll see.