Bluff pockets

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.

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  1. Susan Claire says:

    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!

  2. Josh says:

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

  3. Mia A. says:

    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.

  4. Yvonne says:

    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.

  5. Kathleen says:

    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.

  6. Natasha says:

    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.

  7. J C Sprowls says:

    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.

  8. J C Sprowls says:

    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?

  9. Gidget says:

    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.

  10. Kathleen says:

    >Did you attach the lining, turn out 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.

    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.

  11. Carmen says:

    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.

  12. Patricia says:

    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?

  13. Gidget says:

    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

  14. Danielle says:

    “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?

  15. Melita says:

    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

  16. Els says:

    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.

  17. Carmen says:

    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.

  18. Sarah says:

    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.

  19. Julie L. says:

    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.

  20. Amitai says:

    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.

  21. Sarah says:

    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.

  22. Annie says:

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

  23. mini says:

    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.

  24. Judith says:

    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???

  25. Lynn says:

    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.

  26. Melissa Brown says:

    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.

  27. Kathleen says:

    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.

  28. Eion Todd says:

    It really is a very simple way to make a Patch Pocket, it is even easy to match checks from Pocket onto the jacket. The self Pocket fabric is cut with a hem at the top, then the two lining layers are cut to sew onto that hem, but, only one layer is stitched to the pocket, the second layer has it’s seam allowance pressed over, ready to be stitched to the jacket body, as the second last operation. All of the layers, Self and two layers of lining are stitched onto the body at the same time. One single row of top stitching closes all of the seams from view, and bar-tacks hold the top two corners of the pocket and the small bit of raw seam that shows above the lining. It really is an elegant way to make a pocket, I love it! It is also very strong, as there is no cutting into the jacket body.

    PS. There is a silent video on You tube, showing how to stitch this, it is fairly clear once You know the basic idea. I think that it was posted by a Chinese worker. There is no speech, nor written words, just the video of the pocket being stitched.

    When I was teaching night classes, I usually demonstrated this pocket, and I always used a checked fabric, to show how to match the pattern from pocket to jacket body.

    On You Tube, the video is listed as : Bluff Pocket – Coat By Jay Kang
    It has a diagram of the Patterns needed., but it is completely silent.

    • Glad you found that video. I have been sending people to watch it because of how she/he sews -the mechanics of hand movement. So handily enough, here is the link:

      She/he is using the same process as you are, and as was illustrated in the Cooklin book. This method is definitely not wrong as many people have been successful with it but I reiterate that I’m doing it a completely different way.

  29. Denise D Simon says:

    There’s also this article from Threads . If you have a membership, you can download the PDF for the complete instructions.

    There’s also this video (also no dialogue) . This guy also has a great video on making a reversible shirt from double-sided fabric.

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