Bluff pockets

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Jun 14, 2006 at 4:04 pm / Contest and Projects, Glossary, Sewing / Trackback

I’m not sure why I’m posting this. It’s not as though I’m going to tell you how to do it; I think it’d be more fun for you to figure it out yourselves so let’s call this a challenge. This construction process is one of those things that has sat in my head for years. When some people are trying to get to sleep, they count sheep. Me, I walk through this process. Below is a photo of what’s correctly known as a bluff pocket.

[Yes, I realize the shape is a little wonky but that's because my too quickly made pattern was wonky. The shape has nothing to do with the construction process.]

Bluff pockets are named such because they are “bluffed on”; there is no outside stitching as is seen with traditional patch pockets. Some people describe these as “inside stitched pockets” because that’s how you sew them on -usually. I think Threads magazine did an article on these a couple of years ago (sing out if you have a citation). Have you ever made one? The article’s author claimed that the sewing looked harder than it really was. It did look complicated; I never tried it myself. Not like that anyway.


A couple of years ago, I came across some schematics and instructions for the drafts of these. I’ve scanned those for you; maybe you can figure these out with those. You’re probably smarter than I am but they didn’t help me much. I almost hesitate to put them up because it may lead you off on rabbit trails. For one thing, the instructions really don’t help you much with construction. That’s one problem with pattern books. They’ll tell you how to make the pattern for something but don’t give the sewing instructions, assuming you already know how to do it. Well I didn’t. Luckily, I figured out my way before I ever found these instructions, otherwise I might never have figured it out.

This first scan is from pg. 106 of Carr and Pomeroy’s Fashion Design and Product Development (not a bad book; I like the English books).

This is a typical way of representing seam formation (this is the image I go to sleep by, trying to figure it out). In the text, the authors mention that the pocket can be lined but the bag is loose inside the pocket. This I can’t figure out. My pocket is also lined but the bag is most definitely not floating around loose. It can’t be (that’s a clue). The full page scan is here (256 kb). Speaking of lining the pocket, here’s a photo of the inside of mine. You’ll notice there are no raw edges either (another clue).

The drafting instructions I found in Gerry Cooklin’s Pattern Cutting for Women’s Outerwear; another English text. By the way, I recently heard from Cooklin’s daughter Sasha who wrote me with some remembrances of her father (he died about 6 years ago). Apparently, he was a card and an unusual person (aren’t most pattern cutters?) to the extent that Jonathan Safran Foer wrote a book about him (I asked which title but she hasn’t said yet). Sasha writes:

He was very ill in his last years, but he still insisted on going to teach, oxygen cylinder and all. His motto was “work hard, play harder” – he loved to party, dance, good music (he was a fantastic jazz pianist). Superb cook – he actually started to write a cookbook – and he adored animals. He died very peacefully – at his funeral I read him an excerpt of his favorite book “the Call of the Wild”, and as befitting an Englishman, the day’s football results.

He was pretty tall and skinny, and a real ladykiller. We never lived together, but were pretty compatible on many levels. I think he left behind a great legacy as a teacher, and I think his books are a testimony to that.

I’ll bet he smoked :) but I digress. I scanned two pages from the aforementioned book which explains the drafts [pg.1 (278 kb) and pg.2 (265 kb)]. My pattern is different. The lining and shell are slightly different but other than a notch for hem allowance, my pattern shows no other notches. Cooklin’s drafts shows scads of notches but then, he’s assuming you’re sewing the pocket on from the inside so you’ll need them.

Anybody up for the bluff pocket challenge? It’d be interesting to see what you guys come up with. Oh and I almost forgot. My pocket was sewn entirely by machine. No hand stitching.

32 Responses to “Bluff pockets”

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Susan Claire
June 14th, 2006
4:32 PM

Strange, I was thinking about bluff pockets just last night!

My dad sent up some clothes of mine from high school and college, including a jacket I made which has machine sewn bluff pockets on it.

Now I am trying to remember how I did it, its only been 25-30 yrs LOL!

Josh
June 14th, 2006
5:29 PM

Ok, I think I might try this. But I’ll make Jess do most of the thinking. I’ll be holding the lemonade. lol

Mia A.
June 14th, 2006
6:09 PM

I am up for the challenge. This was done with only a straight stitch machine? I have to take a look at some old jackets now.

Yvonne
June 14th, 2006
6:22 PM

After reading Construction Sparkle the other night, I pulled out my college tailoring notes & samples to refer to what my instructors at the time(18yrs ago) called a Continental Patch Pocket. Mine is lined and the edge of the pocket stablized with tailor tape and completely machine stitched. There is no bag of the lining, but many notches and raw edges. I haven’t sewn that many of them but I don’t recall them being difficult to sew.
The no raw edges presents an interesting challenge I’ll have to attempt somewhere between my day job and current freelance project.

Kathleen
June 14th, 2006
7:03 PM

This was done with only a straight stitch machine?

Yes, just your basic straight stitch. The copy in the text (see the full size scans) mentions that a narrow bar tack would be handy and having done it myself, I can see how that would be useful but I don’t have one myself. I just straight stitched everything.

Oh, I forgot another clue. As far as I can tell, with the commonly known method of sewing this up (from the inside) the only pocket shape you can do is the curved edge pocket. You can’t make a pocket with squared edges. With the method I cooked up, you can square those edges.

Natasha
June 14th, 2006
7:23 PM

Hmm straight stitch only. i’ve done something similar from a singer tailoring technique book but it involved zigzag the already lined pocket to the jacket then straight stitching on the inside.

J C Sprowls
June 14th, 2006
8:32 PM

I’ve been stimming on this a while, myself. I can grasp the ‘no raw edges’ step. But I haven’t quite figured out the bluff attachment sequence, yet. I guess I’m just going to have to sit down, cut out 6 samples, and keep trying until I figure it out.

J C Sprowls
June 14th, 2006
8:45 PM

Did you attach the lining, turn out the pocket, catch (top) stitch the edge of the lining a scant 1/8″ to the inside of the placement line and then roll/steam the topside out?

Gidget
June 14th, 2006
9:14 PM

I did one and it looks like the average patch pocket w/o the topstitching, but in mine, you can see the folded edges underneath at the top corners, and there’s a backing to the pocket.

Is yours done with a welt type application? I don’t see any seams under the top edges, yet there seems to be a press mark of a seam under on the right side as there would be for a welt.

Kathleen
June 14th, 2006
9:33 PM

>Did you attach the lining, turn out the pocket…

Nope.

Is yours done with a welt type application? I don’t see any seams under the top edges, yet there seems to be a press mark of a seam under on the right side as there would be for a welt.

Nope, not a welt app either. There is no seam under any of the sides, right or otherwise. The backing is one solid piece; it hasn’t been breached (cut into) in any form or fashion.

Carmen
June 14th, 2006
9:46 PM

There is a very easy solution to the bluff pkt issue. I have worked in the industry for close to 30 years, and learned from the most perfectionist pattern maker to make templates for placement of pkts, bttnholes, embroidery, darts, etc.
I tried really hard to describe the process, but it got to convoluted and long.
Is there another way to describe the way the templates are made, I am able to sketch on Ilustrator, but I am not usre how to attach the sketches to this email.

Patricia
June 14th, 2006
10:37 PM

WHAT IF… the lining is sewn to the pocket along sides and bottom, but left open at the top. a small hem is turned and stitched on the upper edge. Then pocket is turned right side out and pinned in place. Then the layers are separated, so that one can sew the pocket to the garament through the seam allowances and the lining. Then the top edge is turned down (to the inside) on the creaseline and FUSED in place? Would that be cheating?

Gidget
June 14th, 2006
11:05 PM

Nope, not a welt app either.

Oh well, wishfull thinking that I saw that shadow. LOL

Did you use fusing? Is it a vegetable? lol

Danielle
June 15th, 2006
5:37 AM

“WHAT IF… the lining is sewn to the pocket along sides and bottom, but left open at the top. a small hem is turned and stitched on the upper edge. Then pocket is turned right side out and pinned in place. Then the layers are separated, so that one can sew the pocket to the garament through the seam allowances and the lining. Then the top edge is turned down (to the inside) on the creaseline and FUSED in place? Would that be cheating?”

I’m thinking what Patricia is thinking… except I can’t tell how you’ve attached the facing to the lining. I see a small black line there… what is that?

Melita
June 15th, 2006
8:39 AM

Carmen, you have it. I’ll try and describe as best I can without pics and maybe Kathleen and you can decipher for the rest of us. The template is in card (or apparently sandpaper) with twice the seam value taken off (1/4″ seam allowance is easiest). If the pocket has curved corners, nicks on the apex of the curves are very helpful. Do this on both template and pattern piece.
Line up the template with your drill holes on the garment and chalk around.
Now have faith in your abilities. Line up one top corner of the pocket with the chalk line and start stitching. Do not under any circumstances try to use pins or even attach the other side of the pocket to the garment before starting – like you would with a topstitched pocket. Just match the corner/ curve apex nicks and you’re done.
Back to the sandpaper reference. I have been told by makers – but never tried the template made from sandpaper which saves you chalking because the sandpaper sticks.
Good luck all. Any feedback would be appreciated

Els
June 15th, 2006
8:49 AM

I learned how to do this so called bluff pocket from a tailor, but that was long ago. The tailor used this kind of pockets on wool blazer type suit jackets , the one with the metal buttons. I remember there was a lot of chalk marking both on the finnished pocket and the jacket which had to match while stitching the pocket from the inside. Hope I can find my templates so I can try to make such a pocket again. I call this kind of pocket, invisible stitched blazer pocket.

Carmen
June 15th, 2006
6:34 PM

Daniella, that is a much beter way to explain it. You have to remember that the pkt needs to be finished at top,(fused, hem folded, lining attached, etc) the rest of the pocket is just lock stitched with the lining and shell wrong sides together, if needed to, you can serge the edges to prevent fraying.
The pkt is placed face down onto the body at the upper rigth corner, matching the inside marking on the garment.
You need to add notches at both curve corners, and at the center on both the pkt and the template. This is very important. This is what will help and guide the pkt and to match it perfectly and evenly.

I have never liked using sandpaper, it can damage delicate fabrics, or not stick with fabrics that have too much texture or pile. We used oaktag all the time, I have also used the same “platic” that is used for stenciling, or the ticker plastic used for office hanging folders. They can be stabilized with a few strips of masking tape underneath, or runing thin strips of hot glue, or even the small dots that are used on card making.

Sarah
June 16th, 2006
9:16 AM

I understand what Patricia and Danielle are talking about, but would that still work if you wanted to do a square pocket?

Carmen, if I understand you correctly, the inside of the pocket when finished would have raw/serged edges exposed? I don’t see any in Kathleen’s pic.

Julie L.
June 16th, 2006
10:42 AM

I think I understand how the “free-floating bag” part of it works, but since I don’t know most of the technical terms associated with sewing, I’m not sure whether anyone else has already explained it, much less how I could do so. Nevertheless, I shall make a foolhardy attempt anyway.

Roughly speaking, you’ve got the outermost layer of fabric that’s similar to a patch pocket, and then the separate lining piece that may be slightly narrower, but is definitely about twice as long as the outermost patch. The lining gets sewn together at the sides to form the “bag”, which is then attached (only at the top) to the outer patch in front and the main jacket fabric in back, leaving the sides and bottom to float freely.

Amitai
June 16th, 2006
12:24 PM

Hi,
I guess this pocket is made of 2 layers. The first (bottom) is sewn on the sew line. The second layer (top) is attached from the inside of the pocket to the first layer’s cutting line. After that, the upper part of the second layer is folded (if it wasn’t folded we would actually see two pockets…)
Now, if you understand that – you will realize it can be done in a single piece – by folding it into half, you get the 2 layers.
Cheers,
Amitai

Sarah
June 17th, 2006
3:35 AM

Okay…what about this idea, : Pocket lining and shell of pocket are cut the same,except the top of shell is 1/2″longer than lining. Turn down top of lining 1/4 inch to the inside – twice, and press. Turn down top of shell the same way…(1/4″ – twice, and press). Stitch pocket lining onto shirt top, with right side of lining facing up, using 1/4″ seam allowance. Flip over the whole thing. Folding in and sandwiching the shirt fabric, place the shell pocket piece against the pocket lining piece(right side of shell against wrong side of pocket lining…shirt fabric is now sandwiched within the pocket)and stitch on top of previous stitching (or just inside of it is better). Turn right side out. You now have a bluff pocket with the top unattached. Fold the top in at fold line, matching folded edge of lining. Pull that edge out and edge stitch from side of pocket to side of pocket getting as close to side edge of pocket as possible. Fold back down and press.
The only limitation I see with this is if you were using very bulky fabric,say for a jacket, that would not all fit into the pocket area when sandwiching, but otherwise…it can be done in a square as Kathleen suggested, and all raw edges are hidden AND no sewing “inside” the pocket.

Annie
June 18th, 2006
8:22 PM

Hurry and tell me! I would like to know how to do this bluff pocket. I’ve always thought it was hand stitched!

Wave Shoppe Hawaiian Shirts
October 23rd, 2006
5:01 PM

Aloha,
We have been enjoying the articles in here, thank you. We were wondering if there are any articles on pocket matching techniques and variations. If you know of some would you drop a email so we can check them out?

mini
December 26th, 2007
12:11 PM

Hi, great site!!!

I learned a good bluff pocket method from one of Nancy Zeiman’s early books-maybe it was the Busy Woman’s Sewing Book? Actually, I think there were two methods, but one seemed easier. It was a completely lined (can be seflined if your fabric is thin),and invisibly zigzagged in place. The outer layer isn’t stitched at all, it is pulled backs lightly during the stitching, and the zigzag catch stitches the lining fabric all around, very close to the point where lining meets fashion fabric. Hmmm-that wasn’t very clear was it? But if you find the book the pictures are clear.

It helps to pin, glue-baste or hand baste the pocket before stitching (obviously) :). I would just baste trhough the center of the pocket so that it stays in place- use a good hand position and maybe you don’t even need that.

Claire Schaeffer did a small book on pockets, with matching and other useful techniques.

Judith
May 16th, 2009
8:01 PM

I still can’t work it out. I need to do a lot of pockets on band jackets….can anyone give me step by step directions? Please???
JD

Sabine
March 1st, 2010
8:18 PM

stumbling over this the other day, I made one, or two, anyways, took pictures and added descriptions there: http://cid-281d31b5f9ee1882.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/pocket.pdf
it downloads as a pdf, have not figured a better way to post something like that on the internet yet.
But really, is there an easier way?

Lynn
June 24th, 2010
8:38 AM

Threads magazine issue #121, October/November 2005, p.76: “Patch pockets sewn invisibly by machine.” Patricia Moyes, author of … Just Pockets, answers a reader’s question in the Q & A feature. Note: In the illustrations, her pocket is hemmed at top, and hem is overlocked and pressed under, but her pocket is not lined. She advocates basting pocket from outside with zig-zag that barely catches pocket edge, then sewing pocket from the inside. Start at center bottom and attach one side; then repeat for other side. Sew an inch or two at a time, stop with needle down, adjust fabric so you’re always sewing only two layers at a time, keep work as flat as possible under the needle. Patricia Moyes says it works best with a curved corner patch, as it is tight work.

How to Sew Bluff Pockets « Britex Fabrics
January 14th, 2011
6:07 PM

[...] salted caramel wrapped tightly in waxed paper, and pockets to slip love notes into. Kathleen from Fashion-Incubator.com, and Sandra from TheSurlySeamstress posted these fabulous tutorials on how to stitch on bluff [...]

K
June 20th, 2011
4:54 AM

cut 2 lining
cut 1 self

Sergio
January 31st, 2012
10:39 AM

Can this be apply to shirt collars? how can be?

Melissa Brown
March 3rd, 2012
6:37 PM

Nobody has mentioned that there is an error in the “vertical section” of Figure 6.9.

At the top of the diagram, near the pocket top/opening, the left hand seam should go through three layers of fabric: from left to right, the garment shell and two layers of lining. Currently it only joins the two layers of lining. (Talk about a pocket that hangs free! According to this illustration the pocket lining only hangs from the pocket fabric and isn’t attached to the garment/shell fabric.)

Kathleen, I am wondering if this error in the drawing of the seam formation is causing you to not be able to see how the pocket lining hangs free below where it is joined to the garment and the pocket. What do you think?

When I look at the lower part of the vertical section it seems to me the lining is free. Is that how you read this diagram?

I’m still working on understanding your bluffed pocket technique.

Kathleen
March 4th, 2012
11:31 AM

To know there is an error implies you understand what the author is talking about. I never got that far so you did better than I did. For me it was GIGO.

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