Idea Log: Side pocket pants

Idea Log: Side pocket pants

I’m fixating on an idea that might not even be a good idea, I don’t know, but I can’t stop running scenarios in my brain. The final pick for my third Summer of Basics Make-along piece remains undecided. I still want it to be some kind of simple pants, but can’t quite decide what exactly. And of course I’m complicating matters by dreaming and scheming something that would require pattern work on my part, rather than just picking a pattern from the thousands out there. But the idea I’m locked onto at the moment is a pants version of Purl Soho’s Gathered Skirt for All Ages. (Which I’ve made twice unsuccessfully, in different ways — here and here— through no real fault of the pattern.) As we head into fall, my top sartorial priority is figuring out the cool-weather version of my black linen pants I’ve been wearing nonstop since April, so that’s what I want: easy, wide-legged, elastic-waist pants, but in a nice flannel or melton. (I have a lot of charcoal melton at my disposal.) And I love the pockets on that skirt. So I’m trying to work out how to pattern that. This is all slightly complicated by the fact that I’ve never sewn pants so don’t have any reservoir of knowledge or experience to draw on as far as pattern modification. But here’s what I’m thinking:

Couldn’t I take a really simple elastic-waist pants pattern — such as Sonya Philip’s Pants No. 1 — join the front and back pieces into one big flat wraparound piece, and from there work out how to carve out the center strip for the side panel/pocket? Or maybe those pants are square enough, straight-sided enough, that it would be even more straightforward than that to figure it out.

The real question is whether I have enough time for this little project to be part of my SoB 3 … I still have a lot to do on my fisherman and my Archer.

UPDATE: Savvy commenter @jddietrich has pointed to the Tofino Pants from Sewaholic that look like they could be the perfect starting point for this.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)


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49 thoughts on “Idea Log: Side pocket pants

  1. I love this idea! And I can’t believe you’ve never made pants! Not even pajama pants? They’re not tough at all but the idea of the panel up the sides of the legs would definitely add an extra level of difficulty — i feel like your sketch captured the “skirt for all ages” feel. Looking forward to seeing where this leads!

  2. I’ve been toying with the same idea since the beginning of spring. My main inspiration is the ES’s Clyde pants. I’m not a newbie about pants, but I’ve never actually draft any.
    The advices I gave to myself so far, and that could work for you as well are :
    1/ Sew the pants as they are out of the box, with inner leg seam and side seam. Sew it in a striped fabric, so you can see the grainline easily.
    2/ On that pants, once you’ve identified the mods you have to make as for any other pattern, identify where you want your pocket to be placed, and where the front and back seams would be.
    3/ Draw that pocket on your pants, using the stripes as guidelines and report them to you pattern paper pieces
    4/ Draft and sew you new pants !
    The main problem I don’t know how to solve for now, is that the side seam is often used to reduce the pants width between hips and waist. If removing that seam, I would not really what to do with that curve. Either you suppress it, and get more fabric to gather, or you put it evenly on your front and back seams.
    I hope this help.
    I’m planning to try this someday during the summer holidays, I can tell you if this works (or not) !

    • Elastic waist pants are generally cut straight up from the hip, they don’t curve in at the waist. Otherwise you would never be able to pull them on over your hips. The waist needs to measure at least your hip measurement plus ease or you can’t get them on.

      • Yes, I agree with you, elastic waist pant have usually straight side seams. But both the patterns I have sewn so far (one from Burda and the other I can’t remember) have a slight curve. I think the extra width is at the front and back seams.

  3. Since you have never made pants before, I would suggest that you make a sloper first. Even elastic waisted pants have fit issues (maybe especially elastic waisted pants) in terms of hip curve, rise in the front vs rise in the back, that are worth working out first. Once you get the sloper right, you can think about how the pockets would work. Melton, because it is a firmer fabric, will have some fit issues all its own…one more thing to think about.

  4. I think you could use the Sewaholic Tofino pattern for these – it already has the side panel as part of the pattern. You’d probably want to muslin to make sure it all worked out, but you could make it work with the side pockets and no obvious bottom seam for the pocket.

  5. go for it! (i am thinking of them as a kind of elegant, fashionista version of the raver pants I used to love in college). Gen X, ftw!

  6. Take a look at Vogue #8499, a Marcy Tilton design that may be appealing. This pattern has been around quite awhile and is still in print. Thinking View C may be exactly what you desire! This pattern (View C) has been in my queue for my “Year of Basics” but haven’t hauled the sewing machine out yet….knitting seems to be at the forefront for now ;)!

  7. I also like this idea and I found that the Jamie jeans by Named patterns has a similar feature. Of course I know you are not looking for jeans, but maybe those can give you an idea for the modification of some other pattern?
    Can’t wait to see what you decide.

  8. Such a coincidence that you should be thinking about pants, and picturing Sonya Philips’ Pants #1 pattern this morning. A friend and I spent a couple of hours ogling and carressing fabric for garment sewing yesterday at Intown Quilters in Atlanta……..and I came away with a LOT of fabric including some for Pants #1 and the pattern. I know you don’t want the traditional pockets in the side seam, but I was happy to see that Sonya does have a tutorial for adding those on her website. I’ll also be making a couple of Scout tees and a Dottie Angel dress.
    I for one am genuinely delighted to see that more local brick and mortar stores are now carrying fabrics for garments. I’ve been purchasing a lot online over the past couple of years, but I really do love to be able to fondle the fabric prior to purchase.
    I’m eager to see your pants design………and again, thanks for so much inspiration!

  9. Since you have a pair you like, check out the Cal Patch book about copying clothes you own. She shows you how to develope patterns.

    • I should check out that book, for sure, but I want a little bit different fit with these — not so wide or high-waisted (although I love that about the ES pants).

    • Hm, those are cute, although the pockets are on the front and not a side panel like the Purl skirt. But these would require no work from me! I’ll have to think about that.

  10. Side-pocket pants like that are the best, you should absolutely do this. I don’t know about melton though, it’s usually used in outerwear and pretty stiff. I would skip the part about making the pants legs into wrap-around pieces, and just use swedish tracing paper to draw a line on the front leg where you think you want the seam to run, then do the same for the back leg piece. Cut down those lines, then tape those two pattern pieces together (overlap them to remove the seam allowance) and voila, leg panel. You’ll have to add seam allowance to the new seam lines when you cut the fabric. Devising the pocket pieces should be easier to figure out from the purl soho skirt than it would be to explain in text :)

  11. What a great idea! You’ve got me thinking! And I think the side panel should be made up of two pieces, upper- and lower-panels. The upper panel would maintain the original shape except it would end where the pocket will end. The lower panel would over-lap the upper panel forming the pocket and finish the leg. I think to have a pocket that stands away from the rest of the pant, the over-lap section of the lower panel needs to get gradually wider and probably would benefit from a facing depending on fabric choice.

    • The nice thing about the folded strip pocket in the Purl skirt is it gives the pocket a nice double wall. I have top-stitched it both times I’ve made it, not liking the simple folded edge and wanting to give it a little more structure at the edge.

  12. If I were going to attempt to make these I would use a pajama bottom pant that fits the way I like as a template and split the side seams to insert the panel part/widen the leg. I think your idea is wonderful and could be made in all kinds of fabrics for different drape and feel.

  13. Fantastic idea! I just finished (10 minutes ago, actually) Sonya’s Pants #1 in Essex navy, as part of my own SoB plan. The pocket idea is nifty.

    • Looks like that one is just a regular patch pocket, but I love everything about that pattern — the shape of the pants looks great. Thanks for linking it!

  14. Tofino looks like a great starting point! Pants are not hard to make at all, but fitting is tricky, even with a looser style. It may be more info than you need just now, but Cindy at Cation Designs did a few very helpful posts on pants fitting: and

    Finally, for what it’s worth, the best fitting pants I’ve made are all from Burda patterns, and they must have a design close to what you want in their archive. However, their site is not the easiest to navigate and instructions are pretty non-existent. Pros and cons… Anyway, you can do it! :)

  15. A quick question, please…I have a pair of loose fitting beige linen pants with an elastic waist and great pockets – my favorite pair in my closet. Unfortunately, olive oil spilled down the front of them (a lot – an accident by a fellow diner!) in a restaurant recently. I’ve tried everything to remove the oil but to no avail. If I cut them apart and use them for a pattern, how do I know where the grain line is? I’m not an experienced sewer so please forgive my “stupid” question! Any suggestions??? Thanks so much for listening!

    • The best way I can think to explain this is your pants hem is probably a straight line that is parallel to the ground – your grainline would be perpendicular to the hem (forms a 90 degree angle to the hem). now, for the pockets… The best way I can think of to describe your pocket grainline would be to trace off your pants, trace the pocket pieces, determine the grainline for the pants and then lay the pocket pieces on top of the pants pieces where they will be and make sure that the pocket grainline is parallel to the pants grainline (because pockets tend to lie at an angle, the grainline will look weird if you aren’t comparing it to the corresponding pieces).

      If none of this makes sense, email me – jessica dot diettrich at gmail. It’s easier for me to draw out. :-). Did you try Dawn dish soap on your pants?

    • Maureen, try Dawn dish detergent. Barely dampen the spot, put the Dawn on, work it in… and let it sit. If you have already ‘washed and dried’ the garment, you may have to do the Dawn treatment another time, leaving it on the fabric for a good long while. Keep checking it that it does not begin to dry out.

      I have had great success with this Dawn treatment. I hope it works as well for you.

  16. Hello Karen,

    Hopefully I’ll be able to explain well enough that you CAN have pants with the ‘skirt pocket inset’ that you like so much. Here goes…

    Since the skirt has fullness to give ‘ease’ for getting your hand in the pocket, you will want to mimic that ‘some’ in your pants. If your pants pattern has an easy fit, there should be no problem. If the pants pattern is closely fit, you will want to make the pocket panel a bit wider.

    It is easier to make pattern paper copies of the pants pattern pieces. Draw the front and back on separate pieces of pattern paper, with enough extra width to add new seam allowances. That way you are able to save the original without marking and cutting it up.

    Place the ‘NEW’ pants front and back pattern pieces together matching the widest part (usually the hips).
    1) AT THE SIDE SEAMS, NOT AT THE SELVEDGE EDGES’. (The idea here is that you are turning the pants pattern (a front and a back) from two pieces to three (a partial front and a partial back, AND a pocket panel), and need to move the selvedges for the ONE side seam and turn it into TWO seams on either side of the pocket panel.
    2) AND with the grain lines ‘square’ (measure between the top and bottom to make certain they are the same distance apart).

    Next, place the ‘skirt pocket inset pattern’ (with selvedges turned under) centered over the ‘NEW’ pants seamline, matching it top and bottom. Mark where the skirt pocket inset ‘finished edge’ falls on the pants pattern on both front and back. Draw a future pocket panel seam line on the pants front and back, add the new seam allowance to the new seam line and cut along the selvedge edges of the new pattern.

    Lengthen the ‘skirt pocket inset’ pattern to the same length as the pants front and back pattern pieces.

    Once you are ready to sew, join a front and back pants piece to each side of a pocket panels. Next, sew the inseams on both halves of your pants. Then sew the crotch seam in one fell swoop. You will find that all your future pants you will want to sew in this manner as it gives the crotch seam more strength against the stress of the four corner join.

    Hope you enjoy the process of pattern hacking, and your new side pocket pants!

    If I have lost you, please feel free to contact me.

  17. Pants No. 1 have a perfectly straight side seam and would be a great jumping off for this side pocket mod.

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