Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fear not the pocket

Everyone has that one thing that they're afraid to do. The mental block you can't climb over. The one sewing trick that makes your stomach knot up and sweat break out in your bra.

Mine is welt pockets.

It used to be invisible zippers, but that was before I got a good invisible zipper foot and realized that welt pockets were within my grasp. Once I realized that I could do them, the idea of doing them made me queasy.

Still does.

I've been talking about learning to do them for ages. I even did a faux-welt pockets on my recycled jacket last year. In leather. So I know that technically it's possible to do them, but I got off the hook on the jacket since there was no space to actually put a pocket; I just needed something there to break up the tweed and leather welts seemed more interesting than a pocket flap. And since they were just ornamental, I didn't have to worry if they were technically right.

But New Year's came around, and my only real resolution this year was to beat these little suckers into submission. I dug out all my best sewing books, all my back issues of Threads that had welt pocket (or bound buttonhole) tutorials, and I read until my eyes crossed. I printed out Kathleen Fasanella's tutorials, which everyone recommended highly. Again, I read until my eyes crossed.

I'm sure that Kathleen, and all the books, and all the Threads articles were very clear. They have to be, or no one would know how to make welt pockets. But can I tell you that I just could not get my head around some of the directions?

Which is ridiculous. My one thought on starting this whole process was, "I'm too good at what I do not to be able to do this."

So back to the bookshelf I went, looking for some other source that would explain it in a way I could understand. I pulled out an issue of Vogue's pattern magazine from August/September 2009, and there was an article called "No Fail Welt Pockets" by Pati Palmer. I read the (profusely illustrated) instructions. I didn't get it, completely, but I got enough of what she was saying that I decided this would be the method I'd try.

I dug through the remnant bin and came up with some cotton left over from one of Mario's summer shirts. Loaded up the machine with leftover bobbins and thread - I figured the more visible the thread, the better - and started in. Pati's instructions are actually really good. I was able to follow along, occasionally stopping to scratch my head, but I got from Step 1 to Step 22 in . . . 2 hours, the first time.

All in all, not a bad first result. You'll see where I circled at the outside corner - the stabilizing stitches are showing, and I can't figure out exactly why. Did I cut too far? Not far enough? Should I have backstitched on the long sides of the welt to make sure it didn't wiggle like this? The pocket itself is stable - I pinned the whole construction to my dress form, dumped some notions in it and left it to hang overnight, and it didn't bag - so that at least is good. Any ideas what's wrong in that corner, though?

Pocket #2 (in the scraps from Mario's jacket) only took 40 minutes, so apparently at least there's a learning curve here! In the instructions, Pati only mentions interfacing/stabilizing the fabric that you're inserting the pocket into. I think interfacing of the welts themselves probably depends on the fabric you're using. In the crisp cotton of Pocket #1, it wasn't necessary. In the heavier, more drapy wool of Pocket #2, the welts would have benefited from a bit of beefing up because they seem a little wishy-washy and inclined to not hold their edge.

And again, look where I've marked at the corners. It did it again. Grrr. Need to figure out what I'm doing wrong here.

Maybe now that I've absorbed one person's way of making welt pockets, I can go back to the other sources and see the difference - try out one or two of theirs and see if I get a different result. But for now, that's enough.

I faced my fear. I made 2 pockets. I did not get sick on my cutting table. That alone is good enough right now, as are the pockets. Good enough can, sometimes, be good enough. The more I make, the better they'll get. And if I stop using contrasting thread, that little line of stitching won't be as obvious (until I figure out how to make it go away).

Last, and loudest, one more quick KS 3338 tshirt from a 3/4 yard remnant I got at Jomar last summer. I loved the print but I wasn't sure there was enough of it to do anything with it. I was figuring on one of those Ottobre tank/camisoles I made last year, but when I flattened it out and laid out the t-shirt pattern pieces, I managed to get them all on, so long as I used the shortest sleeve variation. It'll be good for either warm weather or under a plain jacket. That's a fabric that would fight back paired with anything else.

And yes, Evelyn has grown arms. My housemate had a display body that she used as a dress form, but now that she no longer sews I liberated its detachable arms and they're pinned to Evelyn's shoulders. If they get repossessed, I'll make her a new set - it really helped with working on the plaid jacket.


Little Hunting Creek said...

Cute tshirt! And I also have fear of welt pockets. I've made a thousand patch pockets but never a welt

KayY said...

I find your photos a little fuzzy but from what I think I see, I believe your problem is that you're not clipping right TO the corners when you clip your pocket open. You have to get through ALL the way to the corner or your rectangular opening will not open completely. MaryBeth referred to this as "chicken snipping" when she blogged about this very thing a few days ago at Her post is about bound buttonholes which are constructed in exactly the same way. See if her pictures look familiar.

Kerry said...

I guess we're all channeling each other - I tried double welt pockets this week as well. Only, I did so using my "bound button hole" technique as described in the manual that came with my 1973 Kenmore. I just made everything larger and made the piece of fabric that you attach to the right side of the garment big enough so that after flipping it inside I could sew the edges shut and have a functioning pocket. Then I looked up some tutorials online and was totally lost...what I did and what they tell you to do were totally different...but mine sort of look like welt pockets...I think the only thing I was lacking was interfacing. I'll post pics later on tonight of my method. I am glad I am not the only one dazed and confused with these here pockets.

Nancy K said...

I agree with Kay that you probably didn't clip right up to the stitch. Birgitte also has a post with great pictures on making buttonholes, which again is the same thing just smaller, and she uses a magnifying lamp to see the stitches. There is another very easy method and if you have Kenneth Kings book on Couture details it's in there, but not in the earlier edition that I have. It is however in Threads #72 from 1997. He uses grograin ribbon as the base and they are pretty easy to do. Marji mentioned they he demonstrated it in class on her blog. So if you have KK's book, old Threads or the new dvd you'll find a really easy method.

Sherril said...

Yep! Chicken clipping is your problem. Really, just one thread away from the corner is how close you need to be.

Sarah C said...

The t-shirt is adorable! Congrats on conquering your welt pocket fear!

Elaray said...

Do you have Pants for Real People? That's how I got over my fear of welt pockets.

Kathi said...

Congratulations on your diligence with the pockets!
Your tshirt is really, really cute!! I really like that fabric! That looks like fabric I would choose!!

Silknmore said...

How brave you are to have done 2 in one day. They're tough but look so clean when finished. Good job.

meredithp said...

Good job! I'll echo those who said "not clipping enough". And yes, that's where the queasiness comes from if you ask me. Sewing seams in a nice jacket and then the FIRST thing you do is hack a hole in the front (shudder).

Love that shirt, but does anyone else shiver just looking at it? Brrr...will it ever be warm again? It's like working on a wool coat in August. But of course you have to do it in the summer to make sure it's done in time. ;-)

Meg said...

Uh-oh. If you're having trouble with welt pockets...

gwensews said...

Yep--definitely Chicken-Clipping! Keep practicing. You'll get it. I think a lot of us cringe when we cut a hole into a perfectly nice piece of fabric, regardless how many times we've done it.

Terrific T-shirt!

Pati Palmer said...

Good job! Be sure to make the welts even and pull the little triangle while fiddling with the welts before stitching the ends.

Kathleen C. said...

I think the deeper clipping certainly could help... but I also wonder if you're stitching right on the previous line? Or maybe you're a teeny bit to the inside of it?... because the stabilizing stitching shouldn't show if the welt stitching is on top, or just a wee hair's breath to the outside of it.
If you're not backstitching are you tying off the threads at the ends of the stitching?
But regardless... good for you! Welt pockets are NOT easy and those are an excellent first time job!!!