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A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Recently I decided to make an 18th century pocket, and – after a little deliberation – I thought I should make a second one to match. Although there are many extant examples of a single pocket, I thought a pair might be useful. However, pairs of pockets were often not an exact match, as we generally desire today. They were often stylistically similar, but featured different arrangements of flowers in essentially the same design.

These pockets were not sewn into women’s gowns as they are often sewn into garments these days. Instead women had a pair of pockets – or a single pocket – attached to some ribbon or tape which was tied around their waist. The pockets were rather voluminous and were reached through a hole in the side of the skirts of the dress.

Once fashions changed at the end of the 18th century – with the popularity of the long, clingy dresses of the Regency – these large pockets were dispensed with in favour of the hand-held “Ridicule” or reticule. However, there is evidence to suggest that these larger pockets were still widely used, though possibly more by the older generation. I have even seen Regency “versions” of the tie-on pocket, which were smaller and easy to access through the front seams of a bib-front dress.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

I have never really considered the necessity of making a pocket for my 18th century costumes before, but there are some great reasons to do it. Firstly, it gives you somewhere to hide your mobile phone and a purse! It is also fantastic for easy access to a fan while you are dancing. Secondly, it can be a really quick and easy project to whip up, especially if you are wanting a plain pocket. But it also gives some creative scope for the embroidery of a smallish project (by historical standards, anyway!).

Pattern and Construction

I used the same pattern and construction process as I had used on my first pocket.

As with my first pocket, this one was made with white cotton broadcloth and bound with printed cotton quilting fabric. The design was embroidered with cotton DMC thread (No. 798). The tie was made from a length of cotton tape (25mm wide), made long enough to tie around the waist. This project was hand embroidered and hand sewn.

Embroidery

Embroidery Stitches used:

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with...

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with backstitch, seed stitch and satin stitch.

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch...

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch, backstitch, buttonhole pinwheels and seed stitch.

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, chain stitch, ...

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, backstitch, running stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and double feather stitch.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, ...

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, running stitch and a buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheel, chain stitch, and ?.

This flower is embroidered with buttonhole pinwheels, chain stitch, and square laid filling stitch.

And here it is all finished!

The pair of pockets completed

The pair of pockets completed

The second pocket took a lot longer to finish than the first, largely because I had less time spare to sit and embroider. But I still managed to get the entire project finished within three months, which is pretty good.

The great thing about these pockets is that, when they are tied around my waist, my hands can reach right to the bottom of them to easily grasp any item that sinks there. Now I just need to make an 18th century dress with some pocket holes!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Pocket

An Embroidered Regency Letter Case

Making an Embroidered Stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Victoria and Albert Museum

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Museum of London

Make Your Own Pocket – Victoria and Albert Museum

Pocket Research – by Sew 18th Century

An Embroidered Pocket – by American Duchess

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials – on Rocksea and Sarah

How to bind your project – by HowToSew.com

Read Full Post »

An embroidered pocket, done in monochrome, held at Victoria and Albert Museum.

An embroidered pocket, done in monochrome, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In the 18th century, pockets were not sewn into women’s gowns as they are often sewn into garments these days. Instead women had a pair of pockets – or a single pocket – attached to some ribbon or tape which was tied around their waist. The pockets were rather voluminous and were reached through a hole in the side of the skirts of the dress.

There were a great variety in the types of pockets that were made. They could be embroidered, patchworked, and even made with plain or printed material. They could be bound with plain binding, contrasting binding, mismatched binding or patterned binding. The pocket holes were often centred and vertical, but I have seen horizontal and curved openings as well.

Embroidered cotton and linen pocket, c. 1775-1800.

Embroidered cotton and linen pocket, c. 1775-1800.

Once fashions changed at the end of the 18th century – with the popularity of the long, clingy dresses of the Regency – these large pockets were dispensed with in favour of the hand-held “Ridicule” or reticule. However, there is evidence to suggest that these larger pockets were still widely used, though possibly more by the older generation. I have even seen Regency “versions” of the tie-on pocket, which were smaller and easy to access through the front seams of a bib-front dress.

I have never really considered the necessity of making a pocket for my 18th century costumes before, but there are some great reasons to do it. Firstly, it gives you somewhere to hide your mobile phone and a purse! It is also fantastic for easy access to a fan while you are dancing. Secondly, it can be a really quick and easy project to whip up, especially if you are wanting a plain pocket. But it also gives some creative scope for the embroidery of a smallish project (by historical standards, anyway!).

An unfinished pair of pockets, at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

An unfinished pair of pockets, at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pattern

I used the tutorial on “Make your own pocket”, by the V&A to get a sense of the manner in which pockets were constructed. There are patterns for pockets in both Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, and Linda Baumgarten’s Costume Close-Up. I used both of these to get a sense of the dimensions of the average 18th century pocket.

The dimensions of my pocket are: height – 17.5 inches; width at bottom – 13 inches; width at top – 8 inches; and length of pocket hole – 8 inches.

I particularly wanted to embroidery my design in a monochrome colour, so I looked at a variety of extant items that used this technique.

This pocket was made with white cotton broadcloth and bound with printed cotton quilting fabric. The design was embroidered with cotton DMC thread (No. 798). The tie was made from a length of cotton tape (25mm wide), made long enough to tie around the waist. This project was hand embroidered and hand sewn. It took 2 and 1/2 weeks to do the embroidery (in my holidays) and a few days to sew it together.

Construction Steps

Step One: First I traced the shape of the pocket, the pocket opening, and the embroidery design on the fabric with an erasable fabric pen.

Step Two – Embroidery: Then I embroidered the design.

The design has been traced on the panel and has been embroidered.

The design has been traced on the panel and has been embroidered.

The embroidery pattern I have drawn up is a very classic 18th century design. I modified the embroidered pocket pattern used on the pocket in Costume Close-Up, and just changed some of the flower types. It was very common for pockets to have asymmetrical designs, and even for two pockets to be similar in design but different in the details.

Embroidery Stitches used:

The centre flower; stitched with backstitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, french knots, and fly stitch.

The centre flower; stitched with backstitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, french knots, and double feather stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, bullion knots, cross stitch, and buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, bullion knots, cross stitch, and a buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheel, chain stitch, and ?.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheels, chain stitch, and square laid filling stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, back stitch, seed stitch, french knots, long and short stitch, and satin stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, backstitch, seed stitch, french knots, long and short stitch, and satin stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, blanket stitch, satin stitch, long and short stitch, back stitch, and seed stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, blanket stitch, satin stitch, long and short stitch, backstitch, and seed stitch.

Step Three – Assembly:

In order to stop things catching on the back of the embroidery, it was often backed with a layer of plain material. I laid a plain piece of fabric at the back of the embroidered panel and then slashed the pocket hole through all layers. The edge of this hole was then bound with printed cotton bias binding.

The embroidered layer is laid on top of a plain layer. The pocket hole is slashed and bound.

The embroidered layer is laid on top of a plain layer. The pocket hole is slashed and bound.

Then another layer of plain fabric was laid below and all the outer edges were bound with the same binding.

The three layers are put together and the outside edges bound.

The three layers are put together and the outside edges bound.

Finally, a piece of cotton tape was used to bind the top edge and also act as a string, which could be tied around the waist.

The top edge of the pocket bound.

The top edge of the pocket bound.

And here it is all finished!

The finished pocket, tied on to my mannequin!

The finished pocket, tied on to my mannequin!

I am making the second pocket, so look out for more pictures to come.

Related Posts

An Embroidered Regency Letter Case

Making an Embroidered Stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Monochrome pocket – “Pockets in the V&A Collection”

Image Source: Cotton and linen pocket – at National Trust Collections

A History of Pockets – Victoria and Albert Museum (Image Source: Unfinished pair of pockets)

Make Your Own Pocket – Victoria and Albert Museum

Pocket Research – by Sew 18th Century

An Embroidered Pocket – by American Duchess

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials – on Rocksea and Sarah

How to bind your project – by HowToSew.com

Read Full Post »