Very green, blue with bugs and birds 18th century inspired pockets

An 18th century re-use pocket

You know what I have never managed to make for myself as a historical costumer, despite how quick they are? 18th century pockets!

I’ve made them as demonstration pieces as a teacher, for clients (no, I no longer sew for clients), and, in non-accurate versions, for my mother, who likes to use them as portable farm pockets. But I’ve never made them just for me!

For Costume College this year Amber of Virgil’s Fine Goods, Cait of Willoughby & Rose & I decided to go as 1780s fruit vendors, a la Strawberries Scarlet Strawberries from Wheatley’s Cries of London.

Since my basket would be full of fruit, I needed someplace to hold all my personal stuff: lip balms and room keys. Standard Georgian street vendor belongings – you know.

Time for pockets.

I went through my stash for pocket inspiration. I was hoping I had some appropriate chintz or 18th c-esque printed cotton (this pair from the MFA Boston is still my ultimate pocket love), but alas, the stash did not supply.

Someday I’ll make a lovely embroidered pockets, but these ones needed to be relatively fast.

So what could the stash supply?

How about something very eco friendly? Perfect for putting some of the values that we’re working on spreading through Costumers for Climate Action to play.

An 18th century re-use pocket

I’ve had this curtain remnant for so long I can’t remember where it came from. Nana possibly?

An 18th century re-use pocket

It’s definitely been well used and loved. There are faded sections, and small stains.

An 18th century re-use pocket

But it’s awfully cute: birds and insects and little caterpillar worms! There was enough in reasonable condition left that I could cut two pockets – and the remaining scraps could become cleaning cloths.

An 18th century re-use pocket

I based the pattern off of the diagram in Patterns of Fashion.

Because these aren’t intended to be historically accurate pockets, I machine sewed them, and bound them with bias tape. The bias tape also vintage and probably inherited from Nana. Like the fabric, it wasn’t in the best condition, and had some age marks.

An 18th century re-use pocket

Based on the pockets I’ve made for clients and as demonstrations, I’ve decided I prefer pockets that are sewn to a waist tape, rather than ones that have a channel that you thread the waist tape on to. That way they stay exactly where you want them to with wear, and have less bulk around the waist.

An 18th century re-use pocket

The cotton sewing tape I used is an op shop find. There was an entire basket of 2m lengths of tape, each individually bundled up with a rubber band (insert ‘are you kidding me’ hand-to-face emoji here) at an op shop. They were 20c apiece, so I bought the whole basket full. Apparently they made some poor volunteer cut up a whole roll and bundle it, because they didn’t think anyone would buy the whole roll. All that, for 20c apiece…

An 18th century re-use pocket

I took them home, removed all the rubber bands, and dropped the resulting 40+ bands at another op shop which sells its fabric bundled up with rubber bands. They were grateful for the donation, and I’ve been working my way through the cotton sewing tape every time I need a length under 2m.

An 18th century re-use pocket

The tape is only 1.5cm/ 5/8″ wide, so I sewed it to the back side of the top edge of the pockets, and then cut another short length just a bit longer than the top of the pocket to cover raw edges from the top side.

An 18th century re-use pocket

So, my pockets are made from recycled fabric, and old, less-than-perfect bias binding, with op-shop sewing tape.

An 18th century re-use pocket

But best of all, despite being not at all historically accurate, these pockets aren’t just a throwaway prop costume. When I replace them with ‘proper’ pockets, they will go to my mother, for use around the farm.

When I wear them they are full of business cards, lip balm, extra hairpins, keys and a cell phone. One day they will be full of bits of twine, macadamia nuts, pairs of clippers, seed packets, and any miscellaneous cherry tomatoes, green beans and small fruits my mum finds on her work around the farm.

An 18th century re-use pocket

Ironically, I still haven’t really made pockets for me, because a group of lovely friends showed up for my annual not-on-my-birthday ‘birthday’ party, where I ask people to sew for me instead of giving my gifts (best present ever!), and much of the construction of these was completed by helper friends.

They even did lovely finish-y things like folding and hemming the ends of the tape.

So, these are my very green pockets, made from recycled fabrics, having a second life with me, before they have a third life on the farm, and representing all the friendship and love in my life.

An 18th century re-use pocket

I love everything about them!

Plus, they were modelled by Felicity, so what could be better than that!

An 18th century re-use pocket


    • Haha! Nope! Felicity has been totally indifferent to catnip, but she’s always interested in what I’m sewing 😉

  1. Christina Kinsey says

    Great idea, l have thought at times about adapting some of my dresses (not hostorical in style but full skirted enough) to take waist pockets for purse, keys etc. Would save me having to use a handbag…
    Beautiful pockets, beautiful model, l can see she likes your fabric choice too

  2. River says

    After a couple trips to a Ren Faire, I gave in and started making and wearing waist pouches (fanny packs, pockets, belts, purses, bags, call it what you like ). I sew a simple purse, put it on a crocheted belt, tie it around my waist and I’m on my way, both in real life and at Ren Faires.

    Keeps my hands free, I never have to worry about forgetting my purse and thanks to the size, keeps possessions to a minimum. My wallet, phone, writing pad, personal supplies, keys, chopstick and whatever spare change I accumulate.

    I get odd looks but also positive comments. I like having my hands free and not having to wrestle with a purse.

  3. Tracy Ragland says

    All the really smart cats are wearing pockets this season.

  4. Elise says

    What a wonderful story! (Your photos from Costume College looked like way fun–looking forward to more posts as you process your last adventure!) I especially like how the elastics were then donated to another shop!

    I just realised that 18th-century pockets have their modern equivalent in construction tool belts! No wonder, because they are both very handy. I imagine that the pouches of the pockets are much better for holding small things than their leather counterparts.

    • Dear Felicity kitty,
      My name is Nutmeg and I’m a calico, too. My buddy Lilypepper and I love fabric, and think you lucky to have such a handsome pair of pockets to attack, roll on, rabbit kick, and nap under. Is your Mama going to mark them with the date and their history, so they may be passed on perhaps longer than she imagines?

      Very best,
      Nutmeg and Natalie

  5. Laurie Taylor says

    Hello. Have loved your blog, but it’s even better now, having met you in person. I was with Amy at the airport, when you arrived. The pockets are delightful, and it is so cool that they’ll be gardening tools someday. I’m inspired to make a set for a friend. Thank you!

  6. Elaine says

    The pockets are beautiful and very practical. I loved seeing lots of photos of Felicity – I’ve missed her.

  7. Pocket… or cat cape?

    I put pockets like these in my first novel. They formed a very useful plot device: the main character absent-mindedly put a container of sulphur in her pocket and found it days later – when wearing a different dress. Next step: making gunpowder to break out of prison. A very accomplished young lady. 🙂

  8. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “I needed someplace to hold all my personal stuff: lip balms and room keys. Standard Georgian street vendor belongings — you know.”

    Yes … those 18th Century cell phones were ENORMOUS..

    Your cat is amazing. Mine would have chewed the strings, shredded any paper patterns and dragged any surviving bits to the water dish for a thorough soaking.

  9. Somehow I missed this post! Saw the link briefly at a time I didn’t have time for it, specifically.
    They’re lovely. And remind me yet again that I’ve been considering 18th century pockets as around-work pockets (to put in my phone & work phone & keys & whatever else I currently need to be hauling around the factory, like pens). 🙂 I actually do have a whole roll of cotton tape, passed down to me with mom’s stash when I took over it from her – not sure how she came by it but it sure does come in handy!

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