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Nerdy Sewing Tips: How to add side seam pockets

Briefly interrupting the Elisalex Dress Sewalong to bring you a quick and easy tutorial on how to add side seam pockets - not only to the Elisalex Dress, but also to just about anything with a side seam! I think we can all agree that the addition of pockets significantly ups the convenience of almost any garment - and you'll be surprised how easy it is to do...

Step 1:

Cut out 2 pairs of pocket bag pieces. You can either use our pocket pattern piece, download it here, or simply draft one yourself - copy the shape below, making sure it's big enough to get your hand in, plus extra all round for the seam allowance!

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Step 2:

Snip a little notch into the side seam of your main fabric (on each side of your front and back pieces) to mark the top of where your pocket will sit. On this high waisted skirt shown, we have snipped the notch about 5 1/2" down from the waistline. Using the image below as a guide, take one of your pocket bag pieces and lay it, right sides together, onto your skirt front piece (or jacket piece or whatever you are adding pockets to!), aligning the top of the pocket piece with the notch you just snipped. Pin into place. Repeat this on the other side, and on both sides of the skirt back piece.

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Step 3:

Stitch the pocket pieces into place with a 3/8" seam allowance. This is so that when we close the side seams, the pockets will sit slightly inside, for a more discreet finish.

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Step 4:

Turn the pocket pieces out, and press.

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Step 5:

Now place the skirt back pieces onto your front piece, right sides together, and pin down the side seams and all around the pockets pieces.

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Step 6:

Close the side seams as normal, pivoting when you get to the top of the pocket, stitching the two pocket pieces together, then continuing down the rest of the side seam, using the image below as a guide.

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

All done!

Now press the side seam towards the front and when you turn your garment to the right side, you'll have something that looks a little bit like this:

side seam pockets tutorial - by hand london

Super easy no? And this is a technique that can not only be applied to any skirt/dress/jacket/trousers etc that you're making (provided it has a side seam!), but you could even add side seam pockets to any existing garments simply by unpicking the side seams and following the instructions above - just think of all those vintage dresses in your wardrobe that would benefit massively from the addition of pockets!

Comments on this post (22)

  • Jun 07, 2019

    Just what I needed!!! Great instructions, easy to follow…thank you! thank you!! thank you!!!

    — Cynthia Albertson

  • Jun 07, 2019

    Haven’t sewed in years…making skirts without a pattern….this was a big help. THANK YOU so much,

    — Lucia diecks

  • Jun 07, 2019

    This was the best instruction on inserting pockets into a garment I’ve seen. And I did extensive searches, so I know what I’m talking about.

    I used to sew all the time, but it’s been a decade since sewing clothing, so very much appreciated finding this posting.

    Thank you, can’t thank you enough!

    — Barb White

  • Jun 07, 2019

    Excellent pictures and instructions. I am making pajamas for a friend of mine who got out of the hospital and didn’t have the side pocket in this particular pattern. You rocked it for us thank you so very much.

    — Sue

  • Jun 07, 2019

    Im teaching myself to sew. Im about to make some 3/4 pants with side pockets. I haven’t done pockets before. My pattern instructions are a bit hard to follow. But this tutorial is so easy to understand I now feel more confident to start my project. Thank you very much!!

    — Sue

  • Jun 07, 2019

    Thank you for such a clear explanation and great visuals. Helped me immensely! 👍🏼

    — Patricia

  • Feb 05, 2019

    Thanks for such beautifully clear instructions with excellent illustrations. Very helpful!

    — Liz Lumsdon

  • Feb 05, 2019

    Love this. I had forgotten how to do this. and it is so clear. Thank you so much

    — Helen Lemrick

  • Jul 30, 2018

    Thank you so much – a nice clear, simple tutorial that makes sense of the pattern I am trying to make..

    — Pat Mason

  • May 30, 2018

    Very simple&clear tutorial i have seen. Congratilation.

    — Mehtap

  • May 14, 2018

    Wow! Thanks

    — Angela

  • May 14, 2018

    I’m teaching myself to sew and this was the perfect! Thank you!

    — Patricia Holler

  • May 14, 2018

    Thank you so much. I am making a dummy run of a skirt that I love. Now need to add the waist.

    — Jo Ireland

  • May 14, 2018

    I agree that the slightly-smaller seam allowance looks nice and isn’t covered in the Big 4 pattern instructions. Nice tip! Thanks!

    — Mimi

  • Oct 19, 2016

    what a straightforward lesson!. pls keep it up.

    — grace

  • Jun 06, 2016

    Hi sorry I realise this isn’t a recent post but I’m wondering if ts suitable to do inseam pockets in a lines dress? And how would this work would you you jut do the same as the outer and have two layers to the pockets or just the lini g and some how attach in the outer edges?

    — Charl

  • Apr 16, 2013

    I bought this pattern, and find out there is no pocket patterns! can you please help

    — Lila

  • Apr 17, 2013

    Hi there! This pattern doesn’t come with pockets I’m afraid – we included the tutorial on how to add them as a bonus variation, not just to the Elisalex Dress, but to anything with a side seam! Drafting and inserting the pockets is very easy – just follow the steps in the tutorial, or email me at if you get stuck x

    — byhandlondon

  • Mar 22, 2013

    Thank you for this!! Definitely bookmarking.

    — CC Cesarik

  • Mar 29, 2013

    Oh wow thanks!!! SO glad to hear such a wonderful compliment!! We’ll be sure to keep em coming!

    — byhandlondon

  • Mar 22, 2013

    I thought this seemed fairly straightforward, but I like the tip of using a smaller seam allowance so the pocket sits slightly inside. Never thought of that before.

    Really need to get myself organised and get started on this sewalong!

    — Helen

  • Mar 28, 2013

    This is the most amazing website I’ve come across in months. Thank you so much for all of your brilliant tutorials. This will spice up my sewing and blogging considerably!

    — Lauren

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