Like many curious children, my daughter Maia, five years old, picks up everything on our walks – leaves, twigs, robin’s egg shells, insects, rocks (Oh yes! Rocks!), flowers, and interesting bits of what I might call litter and she would more likely refer to as treasure. Her excitement and praise for each new find is fun to witness. “Oh Mama! Look at this leaf! Isn’t it beautiful!” Whether we are taking a neighborhood stroll before bed or hiking through the woods, she almost inevitably hands the newfound treasure over to me. “Mama, will you carry this for me?” Or, “I’m just going to put these in your pocket,” as she slips in a handful of pebbles. If I hesitate as I glance down at my hands already full of twigs, leaves, and a broken plastic necklace, she adds, “Pretty please? With a cherry on top?” It is hard to say no.
During one of these walks, I start thinking about pockets. This girl needs pockets. Lots of them. Pockets to hold acorns and bottle caps and, I cringe as I write this, not because I’m squeamish, but because of their lifespan in the hands of my daughter, caterpillars. She also needs pockets for the tools of an explorer – a little notebook, a pencil, a magnifying glass.
So I decided to sew her a special dress, a collecting dress. A dress that any five year old needs – one with enough pockets to carry all her treasures and finds. Pretty pockets to appeal to her girly-girl self. Colorful pockets. Heart-shaped pockets.
A dress reminiscent of Chrysanthemum’s pocket outfit in the book we love by that name. A dress that might, just possibly, leave my hands free to hold hers on our next walk.
A Dress Full of Pockets
You can sew pockets on an existing dress, sew a new dress using a pattern (I used the pattern from the book Absolutely A-Line by Wendi Gratz) or even use an existing dress to create your own simple pattern.
Assorted fabric scraps for pockets (fat quarters work well if you don’t already have a stash)
Thread to match
Paper, scissors, pins, chalk, pen
Select fabrics for your pockets. Decide on the number and style of pockets you want (you can change your mind as you progress.)
Cut out paper in shape and size of the pockets and arrange them on the dress. Rearrange and add or subtract pockets until you are happy with the pocket arrangement.
Trace around the paper pockets with chalk or washable fabric pen to mark placement. Match fabrics to pockets.
Use your paper pockets as guides to cut out fabric, cutting fabric an extra 5/8 inch wider to allow for seam allowance. Alternatively use paper pockets to create paper patterns adding a seam allowance as you trace onto copy paper.
Note: If you are not an experienced pocket seamstress, you may want to consult the excellent pocket tutorial series on the blog ikatbag, where you will find tutorials for 25 different pockets! Being a wing-it type of person myself, I made up my own simple pockets as I went, using the knowledge gained from previous sewing I’d done combined with guesswork.
After cutting out fabric pockets, place on dress and reaffirm that you like the arrangement and fabric selection. You may decide to shift a pocket, add one, or try a different fabric. I went through a few different combinations before I was satisfied.
Prep pockets as necessary (hem edges, etc.) For my heart patch pockets, I sewed two fabric hearts with right sides facing, leaving a two-inch opening. I then turned them right side out and pressed them before pinning the heart patch pocket to the dress.
Pin pockets to dress and sew in place.
If desired, add a stuffed heart or other softie on a ribbon sewn into one of the pockets. I added a heart stuffed with wool to one of the big side pockets, inspired by these skirt pocket softies from Filth Wizardry.
Add notes, trinkets, or explorer tools to various pockets if desired then present the dress to the recipient!
Jean Van’t Hul lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her husband and two young daughters. She blogs about children’s art and creativity at The Artful Parent.