A Moveable Waist, Extras; Part 2

One big lightbulb that went off for me in my quest to become a more creative and flexible sewer was realizing that I didn’t need to always have a pattern for everything, or to have every edge drafted, measured and cut precisely before starting to sew. As I watched pro sewers and tailors work (thanks to my great old job at Threads!), I noticed these folk doing a lot of eye-balling, rough cutting, and shaping stuff as they went along. It was all very logical and liberating; and it’s a major theme in my book.

Written sewing directions, especially those for ‘home’ sewers, are very likely to obscure this aspect of a pro’s process in favor of presenting easy, step-by-step directions that will feel comforting to somebody used to working from commercial patterns, in which every tiny scrap and detail has a pattern piece, usually with hearty 5/8-in. [1.6cm] seam allowances, no matter how small the piece itself is. My Threads article is a good example of this, with its directions for drawing “The Pocket Bag Pattern.”

I don’t HAVE a pocket bag pattern, and you don’t need one.

My pants pockets are just big rectangles; they get their shape from how I sew them, not from how I cut them. Here’s what I started with for the sample in the article:

For my own front pockets, I use two 15-in. [38cm] squares of some sturdy cotton I know I’ll like feeling every time I use my pockets. That may be too big for a women’s pant, and too small for some folks, so use whatever will give you a pocket you like—and it doesn’t have to be a square. I arrived at 15 inches of width because I like a front pocket about 7 or so inches wide [18cm] and I need about an extra inch [2.5cm] for covering the side seam, about which more later.

Because I like to extend my front pockets all the way to the top edge of the waistband or waistband area (also detailed in the book), 15 inches of length works out nicely; adjust this for your own pockets.

Whenever possible, I also like to cut my front-pocket rectangles so that one edge of each piece is a selvedge. I arrange the rectangle so the selvedge edge winds up at the side seam when the pocket’s finished, as you’ll see.

I don’t pre-shape the pocketing to the pocket opening, either. I stitch the front to the rectangle along the edge opposite from the selvedge edge, matching the front side-seam cut edge to the bag edge, then trim the pocketing to follow the mouth stitching, matching the 1/4-inch [0.6cm] seam allowance I used for the mouth.

You may also have noticed that despite the directions on p.43 for starting with cutting and binding the slit at the front-edge fold of the pocket bag, in the photo for Step 2, there’s no slit yet.

That’s because I only cut the slit after I know exactly where the fold is going to be, and I don’t know that until AFTER I stitch the bag to the front and (maybe) to the pocket facing, or pocket BACK, as they call it in the article. Before I add the facing, I fold the pocket rectangle vertically back over the mouth so the selvedge edge extends about 1/2 inch [1.2cm] beyond the front side-seam allowance. This establishes where the fold will be, at which point you can cut and bind the slash, or add the facing, then cut and bind; the order doesn’t matter.

Tomorrow: Closing the bag, and about that clip…


  1. Anonymous on October 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    hi David Page Coffin – I’m having trouble opening the video files on your dvd ‘making trousers’ with my new i-mac! I can see the video clips here on your internet page – just not on my dvd. Could you help me with this? I do have adobe reader – do have quick time player – but where there are like 4 video clips on one page – I can’t make the go-button to start the clip. What am I doing wrong? On my notebook I could see the clips- just not on the mac. Do you have an idea, what’s wrong here?
    Greetings from Germany: Gabriele.Schiffmacher@uni-tuebingen.de
    ps: it’s such a great idea to do videos about sewing !

  2. David Page Coffin on October 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Hi, Gabriele
    You shouldn’t have any trouble viewing the videos on a Mac so long as you are actually using Adobe Reader to open the pdf that contains them. If you just double-click on the pdfs (any pdf), the Mac will open them in Preview by default, and they’ll look fine, except the videos won’t play and the links and navigation buttons won’t work. So just be sure to open the pdfs in Adobe Reader and all should be well.


  3. David Page Coffin on October 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    If you continue to have problems with the DVD videos on a Mac or a PC, make sure your using the most recent version of both Reader and QuickTime.

  4. Anonymous on October 27, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Hi David,
    thank you very much – it works!
    You made my evening!
    Greetings again!
    Gabriele S.

  5. Anonymous on October 28, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Hi David,

    thank you very much – it works!

    You made my evening!

    Greetings again!

    Gabriele S.

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