Pocket Restoration

Holes in your pockets. The very image of lack and loss. But do not despair – the garment and its pockets can be saved. All you need are pins, needle, thread, a bit of fabric and the will to make a difference.

If you’re anything like me, the invalided garment sits in a heap in the mending pile until you either grit your teeth and get on to the job of mending it, or decide you don’t need it that badly after all and out it goes.

Laundry basket full of ferrets!
Signs You Have Left Your Mending Too Long #14: Ferret Infestation

And so it was with my husband’s trousers (except without ferrets). Before anyone objects to me mending my husband’s clothes for him, let me point out that he does my techie ‘mending’ for me. From each according to their ability; to each according to their need, as the apostle Paul said, though admittedly, not in those words.

The problem wasn’t so much finding the time or motivation to mend them, as finding the know-how. Because the problem was one I’d never tackled before. I knew I could put a patch on a patch pocket, but this is the other kind: set-in. Further complicated by discovering that the whole side of the pocket was so worn you could read through it.

Highlighting of hole provided by The Leaky Pen of Yesteryear. And how come we have yesteryear and yesterday but not yestermonth or yesterweek?

Would I need to replace a whole pocket? Did I know how? (Clearly, no.) But that didn’t stop me. The first thing I did was to wash and iron a long thinnish piece of calico (or muslin, depending on where you come from). That was it for a month or so while my eyes recovered.

The next step was to lay the calico (as I shall call it) over the worn side of the pocket and pin along the only straight line the pocket had. I used the selvedge (or selvage) for this. Some people say you should never use the selvedge for anything, but clearly, I am not one of them.

Then it was a matter of pinning, trimming, and pinning some more. Handy hint: if you’re going to tuck an edge under a pre-existing overhang, you can push the whole cloth under and then press down. Pull the fabric out and it’s got a crease showing you where the fold will be. Cut the excess off, a short distance from the fold, and Bob’s your uncle. Example:


In this case, the folded hem will fit under the waistband (the bit marked Domino). Don’t forget to fold the fold the other way to pin in place – raw edge underneath.

Carry on trimming and pinning, until the fabric is fitted all the way around.

To make my life that much easier, instead of shaping the calico to the curve of the pocket at the bottom, I simply pinned a hem and folded it over to the back of the pocket. Like this. (Clicking may result in a bigger image.)


Then I tacked it. Tacking is one of those things, like flossing your teeth and knitting a gauge swatch, that you know you ought to do, but frequently don’t. Maybe it’s my age beginning to show, but I find I am now doing all of those things. I don’t say I necessarily enjoy them, but I enjoy not having the after-effects of not doing them: wiggly seams, dentist’s drills, and outsize socks.

The other important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t tack through too many layers. If you can’t get your hand into the pocket, you’ve gone too far. The same goes for the fold-up seam at the bottom, unless you want a squared-off pocket.


The other good thing about tacking (besides the stability it gives when doing the actual sewing) is that you can have a try-on without the victim wearer having to do the Dance of Extreme Delicacy as pin-points menace their recoiling flesh. This is a chance to make sure that there are no uncomfortable bumps, chafing spots etc; and that the pocket hangs properly.

Then you retrieve the garment, and (at least if you are me) repeat the procedure from the top for the other pocket.


Once it’s all placed, pinned, tacked and tried, you are ready to sew. I sewed by hand, because there are some things that are fiddlier by machine than hand, and sewing through only some of the layers is one of those things. It didn’t take very long, to my surprise.

Once you’ve sewn everywhere that was tacked, you can take out the tacking. Finished? No, not quite. You still have a hole on the inside of your pocket, and unless you want to deal with the anguish of trying to extract something from between the original pocket and the new layer, you had better take the final step.

Simply sew an outline of running stitch around each hole, fastening it to the new layer. (But not all layers, unless you want a donut pocket.) As thus:


Well done! You have rescued a garment from the looming shadow of the rubbish dump and restored it to useful life. And that is what I call practical ethics.

Pocket Equality

Marching costume Chicago suffrage parade June 6, 1916
When pockets were first added to women’s clothing in 1913, a Paris reporter wrote, “It’s all over with men’s superiority over women.” Pockets are indeed indispensable, and they come in two types: patch and set-in.
from Sew Any Set-In Pocket by Claire B Shaeffer

Dr. Jeeves and Mr. Hyde Wooster

We are all, to some extent, Jekyll and Hyde. I don’t mean to suggest that we all make & take potions and turn into insane murderers (I feel sure I would have noticed), but we all have different sides to our selves. Not good vs evil necessarily, but, say, left-brain vs. right-brain.

Left hemisphere throbbing

The writing teacher Dorothea Brande suggests that in order to make the best use of these different elements of ourselves – she is speaking of the creative and critical functions – it is best to consider and develop them separately.

“By isolating as far as possible the functions of these two sides of the mind, even by considering them not merely as aspects of the same mind but as separate personalities, we can arrive at a kind of working metaphor, impossible to confuse with reality, but infinitely helpful in self-education.”

To arrive at the working metaphor: that was my goal. As I have mentioned before, there are few things I enjoy more than a really good metaphor.
Left brain / right brain, however, isn’t much of a metaphor, and it’s hard to visualize for someone who has never seen her brain (and doesn’t much want to).

inner child

The next classic metaphor is the “inner child” – which didn’t really work for me. While my creative side is frequently childlike, it isn’t like a child – and my “adult” self is frequently less than adult!

The thing is, in order to make the best use of the two sides, they need to work together; there needs to be a kind of equality between them. Adult/child is not a relationship of equality.

Yes, the creative side needs to submit to the ordered side’s discipline, or nothing would ever be achieved; but the ordered side’s authority is exercised solely to create the best conditions for the creative side. (Or at least it should be.)

I started considering relationships where this is the case.

Edwardian lady writing (6908558900)

The Governess, I decided, was an excellent metaphor for the ordered side: she governs, she educates, she assesses, she provides encouragement and rebuke as necessary, and she wields her authority for the good of her charge.

The only downside is that governesses do all this for children, and my inner self, etc etc. I suppose it is possible to have a governess for a lunatic (seems like something Chesterton would write) but I’m not sure that I’m that far gone.

Then I had a brain-wave: Jeeves and Wooster. Bertram Wilberforce Wooster is the immature undisciplined creative all-over-the-place person par excellence, and Jeeves’ whole raison d’être is to provide for his every need (if not want) and keep him out of prison, matrimony, and unsuitable apparel.

Books About Town, Book Benches, Jeeves And Wooster Stories

As mentally satisfying as that metaphor was, it still wasn’t quite ‘me’. My ordered side is more a Miss Silver than a Jeeves, and I’d like to think my creative side is less clueless than a Wooster. The Great Metaphor Hunt went on.

Eventually I realized that the metaphors for the two sides don’t have to ‘belong’ together, as satisfying as it would be if they did. I could pair the Governess metaphor with a non-child metaphor. But what?

The creative side really was much harder to pin down, which is fitting, I suppose. After some thought, I settled on the Jester – one of those simple souls who capers about singing songs of joy or sorrow and saying the sorts of things that reasonable people get their heads chopped off for. This is the side of me that laughs at toilet humour and howls at the moon. (I think it is best for everybody if I don’t sing.)

Decamps Les danseurs albanais

Interestingly, I’ve noticed a difference in what I like to wear, depending on which aspect is in the ascendant, or in use, whichever way you like to look at it.
The Governess side of me likes to wear 1930s style clothes: tailored, smart and tidy. The Jester, on the other hand, has a more medieval aesthetic: flowing garments one can move freely in, preferably topped with a funny hat of some sort (with or without bells).

Perhaps I can use that as a way to toggle the two sides. The Governess makes the plans for the day’s work, and then on go the ancestral dressing-gown and the funny hat, and the Jester comes out to play. When it comes time to review and edit, off with the funny hat.

John Ellys Hester Booth as a female Harlequin VA

Do you have recognized sides to your self? Do you have metaphors for them? I’d love to know!