The Details: Grafted patch pockets

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

So about these pockets on my just finished Vanilla Cardigan! I’m on record as being a huge fan of an inset pocket — one of the most magical of all the knitting tricks — and yet I didn’t do them on this sweater. That’s because my original plan for the pockets was something else entirely (now saved for another time) and I didn’t want to commit one way or the other during the knitting. The happy upside being that I wound up making patch pockets for the first time, and you know how much I like to do something new — especially in an otherwise extremely straightforward project like this one. While grafting on a patch pocket lacks some of the TA DA!! of an inset pocket, it was every bit as satisfying to do, and looks amazing.

I’d read up on patch pockets versus inset ones ages ago and looked it up again. As with anything in knitting, there are lots of ways to do it — from picking up stitches and joining the ends of the rows as you knit (so there’s no seaming), to picking up for the bottom edge and sewing down the sides afterwards, to knitting them entirely separately and sewing them on … with all manner of variations in the details of all three. I wanted to knit my pockets during our pop-up shop, which meant knitting them separately, but when it came to sewing them on I was torn. Most of the sources I’ve ever looked at suggest sort of whipstitching the selvage stitch to the adjacent stitch from the body of the sweater (same or similar to sewing down the backside of an inset), but I wondered why I couldn’t use mattress stitch so that the selvage stitch would be turned under on the inside of the pocket. It occurred to me to pull my copy of “The Principles of Knitting” off the shelf and see what the esteemed June Hemmons Hiatt has to say on the subject, and that was exactly her recommendation — although she calls mattress stitch “running thread stitch.” So that’s what I did!

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

My pockets are about 6″ tall and 30 stitches wide, 2 of which would be my selvage stitches — the stitch at each edge that disappears into the seam. So (after blocking the pockets nice and flat, of course) I counted off the 28 stitches of the body that I wanted the pocket to lie on top of — I chose to start it 8 stitches away from the button band — and stuck a DPN in the gutter so you/I could see it. That’s the stack of bars I would use for my mattress stitch up the sides. I also pinned a marker in the two stitches that would correspond to the lower corner stitches of my pocket.

I like the shadow line of the bottom pocket edge to be the same as the top row of the ribbing — that’s always my aim in pocket placement — and I would be using duplicate stitch to graft the bottom edge. So the row of stitches I’m duplicating is the first row of stockinette above the ribbing.* I chose to work the bottom edge first — leaving a tail long enough to sew up the right side — and then go back and do the two sides.

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

Here’s how to graft the lower pocket edge—

Step 1: Thread the needle and bring it up through the right bottom corner stitch on the body.

Step 2: Run the needle behind both legs of the first stitch (skipping the selvage st) on the pocket.

Step 3: Run the needle back down into the center of first body stitch (go back in where you came out, in other words) and up through the center of the stitch to the left of it.

Repeat all the way across for designated number of stitches, pulling the tail (the duplicate stitches) into position after every few. You need to be careful to pull the tail just enough that the running thread mimics the tension of the stitches — you don’t want to actually cinch up your fabric.

Once the bottom was grafted, I went back and worked mattress stitch up both sides, picking up the bars in the gutter identified above by the DPNs and the bars next to the selvage stitch on the pocket. Weave in the ends, using them to secure the upper pocket corners firmly and neatly, and voilà.

The Details: How to knit patch pockets

For a pocket in textured fabric where the grafting would be more challenging, I think I would stick with an inset pocket. But for simple stockinette like this, I might actually prefer this method. I’m extremely happy with the results.

For the rest of the yarn and pattern details (complete recipe) for this sweater, see 2017 FO 17 : Vanilla cardigan.

And see also:
How to knit inset pockets
How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

*Note that this sweater was knitted top-down but here I’m working with it and the pocket from the bottom up, so that’s how I’m picking out and aligning the stitches. It doesn’t matter which direction they were originally worked — you’re just identifying and aligning columns of Vs.


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: How to join a folded neckband

25 thoughts on “The Details: Grafted patch pockets

  1. Love this take on pockets. So clean looking! As usual, your tutorial is so helpful. I’m tempted to try it in the top-down I’m working on at the moment. One reason I’ve tended toward inset pockets is the possibility of making the pocket linings in a contrasting colour or stitch. As you can see from here ( I tend to like the top-down type begun with a bit of waste yarn knitted in, and I have my own trick for neatening things up at the end. I’ve also explored double-knitted pockets (in Petrova), which I learned from a class with Lucy Neatby, but they need to be worked from the bottom up–not my most favourite direction for knitting.

  2. Pockets are kind of my Achille’s heel, so I really appreciate the tips and clear pictures. Your pockets are superb, as is the cardigan. Bravo!

  3. Wow, it looks so seamless! Great job and thank you for sharing your method so clearly. I think your choice of patch pockets was exactly right for this sweater.

  4. I’ve done lots of sweaters with pockets but never exactly this method. I LOVE learning new stuff after 40+ years of knitting! This method is a great option if you can’t decide right away if you want pockets or not, or maybe you’re not sure about your yardage, etc. Thanks so much for this post, and all your posts. I read you every day🤗

  5. Seeing that duplicate stitch on the bottom edge was an AH-HA moment for me. It makes the pocket look absolutely perfect. Love that and am totally gonna use your tricks on my next pockets. Thank you!

  6. Everything important that I know about knitting came from Elizabeth Zimmermann, so I have an unnatural fear of seams. I need to get over it–these pockets look so nice!

  7. Loved the way that you marked the stitch column for grafting with dps. This technique would also be useful for picking up edge stitches for front and neckline of a cardi.

  8. So your first line names the inset pocket as one of the most magical knitting tricks – hear! hear! Your patch pockets look equally magical to me. I never imagined patch pockets could look so seamless! Kinda reminds me of the mystery of sewing bluff pockets – patch pockets often seen on wool blazers with no visible stitching. Thanks for the details.

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