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Pattern hacking Leo - adding patch pockets and buttonhole straps to your dungarees

In case you missed it, we just launched a new pattern! The Leo Dungarees is all I want to wear these days - extremely comfortable and ridiculously joyful, I've already made three for myself and I still have plans for at least two more! If you want to keep an eye on the hashtag to see how other people are sewing Leo, be sure to check out #bhlLeo!

We specifically designed this pattern as the most simplistic version of itself, providing you with the perfect canvas for your imagination to run wild! You wanna add pockets? We can show you how! Change up the straps? Easy peasy. Crop the legs, embellish the bib, make it into a pinafore dress? Go forth and hack!

In today's tutorial, we're making a version of the Leo Dungarees with roomy patch pockets and a buttonhole strap fastening, as well as omitting the elasticated ankles, and pointing you in the right direction if side seam pockets are more your jam.

You will need:

  • the Leo Dungarees pattern
  • some extra fabric for the pockets
  • paper and pencil to draft the pocket pattern piece (or you could just measure and cut directly onto the fabric)
  • buttonhole foot for your sewing machine

Patch pockets

Patch pockets are the easiest and most straightforward way to add pockets to almost any garment, and unlike side seam pockets, they are decorative as well as functional. It's really as simple as cutting out whatever shape pocket you want (plus seam allowance), and stitching it on where you want your pocket to be. I opted for a basic rectangle shape, but you could fashion round pockets, scalloped pockets, heart shaped pockets.... you catch my drift.

I cut my patch pockets to be 8" wide and 10" deep finished. I allowed 1/2" seam allowance at the bottom at both long sides, and an inch at the top.

TIP: If you want to check how your pocket will look before committing to a size/shape/placement, cut your idea out of paper and pin it to your trouser leg (after the side seams have been sewn). Hold your trouser up to your body - and you could pin/baste the inseam at this point enabling you to try your trouser leg on more easily - and check your pocket out in the mirror.

The Leos I'm making are from some leftover check linen I had from our Little Flora dress photoshoot, and I didn't have enough of each individual colour to make a whole pair of dungarees, so I'm using both colours for an even more joyful, borderline ridiculous clown look! I love contrasting straight checks with bias cut checks (rotating the direction of the check 45º so they look like diamonds as opposed to squares) so I'm cutting my pockets on the bias. Unless you're choosing to cut your pockets on the bias in order to play with print direction, then I would recommend cutting your pockets as normal on the grainline as they will be easier to assemble and sew on.

Neaten the two vertical edges and the bottom edge of the pocket on an overlocker/serger or on your regular sewing machine with a zigzag stitch.

Fold and press the three finished edges in by 1/2".

TIP: I like to use my metal ruler when pressing straight lines like this.

Fold and press the top of the pocket in by 1/2" and then again by the same amount and stitch into place.

Repeat for the other pocket if you are making a pair. This process is also the same if you are making a pocket to go on the dungarees bib, although the measurements of the pocket will be different.

Your pockets are ready to pin to your dungarees, so you'll want to jump in after you have sewn the trouser leg side seams (and topstitched it if you're doing that) and faced the waistline, but ideally before any crotch or inseams have been sewn. This is mostly just for the sake of ease and being able to see your trousers flat; the great thing about the looseness of the Leo legs is that you can actually add your pockets to your dungarees even after they're finished - in fact, you'll see that I originally sewed contrasting pockets, but after I had finished I decided that I preferred each leg with it's same colour pocket, so I simply unpicked and switched them over.

Lay your trouser leg out, right side facing you, and position one of your pockets in place. Measure on your body where you want your pockets to begin in relation to your waistline, and then apply that to your trouser legs by measuring down the side seam from the waist.

Because my pockets are large and roomy, I wanted to share some of the width beyond the side seam so the pockets would sit out to the sides and not too close to the centre front, so the pocket sits over the side seam by about an inch.

When you're happy with the placement, pin your pocket into place and repeat for the other pocket on the other side.

Topstitch into place, leaving the top edge of the pocket open.

If you prefer the look of your dungarees without patch pockets, but still need the functionality of a pocket, head to this post which will walk you through adding side seam pockets (and it includes a free side seam pocket pattern piece for you to download).

Buttonhole straps

The second thing I did differently for these Leos was to change up the way the shoulder straps fasten. On the pattern, we have you cut four strap lengths and join them to both front and back bibs so that the shoulder straps can be tied up in a bow on the shoulder.

To give a more utilitarian look to these check linen Leos, I cut longer straps (about 50cm) that I sewed to the back bib only, and made horizontal buttonholes on the bib front, through which the straps can be inserted and knotted.

TIP: if your fabric is delicate, lightweight or drapey, slip a small piece of interfacing or stabiliser behind the buttonhole area before you sew to reinforce it.

Aaaand instead of elasticating the ankle cuff as directed by the pattern, I simply hemmed the legs and left the free flowing and fancy free!

I looove these linen Leos! I just know that I'll be wearing these all summer long - whether I'm in the garden, on the beach or sweating it out in the city.

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