Sunday, 20 June 2021

New problem, old solution

I don't feel as though I've done a lot of sewing in the first half of the year, and this is unlikely to change in the second half. I've been dealing with family illness on and off since before Christmas, and even when I haven't actually been busy with that, I've often not felt like sewing. However, this has now prompted me to start a new project.

While some people simply cannot be without their phones, I am the complete opposite. Most of the time it is not even in the same room as I am, and I rarely remember to check it more than a couple of times a day. Usually this isn't a problem - my friends are used to me replying to texts hours later - but now that I need to be contactable by carers, social workers, physiotherapists etc, I need to make sure that my phone is always with me. Not all my clothes have pockets (I dislike patch pockets, so it's in-seam or nothing, and not everything lends itself to in-seam pockets), so my solution is to make myself some tie-on pockets.

For readers not familiar with historical costume, tie-on pockets were an integral part of women's clothing in the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth. They could be worn over the skirt for ease of access, or underneath for greater security. In the latter case, they were reached through a slit in the side of the skirt. This book, co-written by Barbara Burman, is a fascinating and detailed look at the history of pockets and the important role they played in women's lives.

The woman on the right wears a (patched) external pocket

This is actually a project I've had in mind for some time, and I immediately knew what fabric I wanted to use. I bought this remnant years ago at an Adamley sale, but it is a furnishing-weight cotton twill, not silk. The design is not at all period accurate, it is far too large for a start, but is perfect for a set of anachronistic pockets!

The colours are almost right, but I suspect that is all

I decided to bind the outer edges rather than do French seams, as these would be bulky in such a sturdy fabric. The initial plan was to use some dark red cotton for the binding, but then I remembered that it had been banished to the 'toiles fabric' box because the colour bled relentlessly. I didn’t want to risk it rubbing off onto my clothes, so instead I used some leftover sashing scraps from the University Centre Shrewsbury banner.

The pattern is taken from the pocket in volume one of Patterns of Fashion. It is 16" long, and 10" wide at the bottom, tapering to 4" at the top.

My source material

I made the binding ¾" wide, and hand sewed it round the opening slit on the pocket front. Then the front and back were machine sewn together, for strength, with the wrong sides facing.

The bound opening, and machine sewing

The binding was then hand sewn over the raw edges. I had thought that this would be a quick project and that I would have finished pockets to show in this post, but I seriously underestimated the time and effort involved in sewing through four layers of binding fabric and two layers of furnishing cotton!

Outer binding complete on the other pocket

I think that the end result will be really useful, not just for my phone but for other things which I'm always mislaying, such as my glasses. Tie-on pockets are definitely long overdue a comeback!


  1. Oh my goodness this is so pretty! Absolutely love the fabric, and the modern use for an old old thing! I'd do it too except I'm trying to get AWAY from my phone these days, haha!

    1. Thank you Anna! I'm sure I'll be right back to my phone-ignoring ways when it's OK to do so!

  2. How appropriate, since I too am making a pocket; attempted to embroider but have given it up and just made the pocket, though mine goes under the petticoat and is a tad smaller.

    1. I love embroidered pockets, and there are some pretty patchwork ones in the book as well, but for this project I'm aiming for speed rather than looks. There seem to be examples in lots of different sizes, presumably depending on just what the owner wanted to use them for.

  3. I've been thinking about this lately too! (Great minds think alike!) My go-to skirt pattern this summer doesn't have pockets (or even the possibility of them, given the fabric/style lines) and I miss them! I was thinking of embroidering a pocket to tie on. Working class 18th century clothing was so practical in many ways.

    1. Indeed it was. Non-costuming friends who have seen my plan are amazed that such a useful thing was ever allowed to die out. I'm looking forward to seeing your embroidered one.