Put a Pocket on It: An Introduction to Pockets

How many times have you  thought, “This sweater would be even better if it had pockets?” Whether they’re holding your treasures (or your ball of yarn) or simply keeping your hands warm, pockets are a fun way to customize a garment.


Horizontal Slit Pocket

This pocket requires some preplanning but is straightforward to create. It consists of a horizontal slit opening with a lining behind the body of the garment. Here’s how to work it in a bottom-up garment.

Using your gauge numbers, decide on the number of stitches needed for the width of your pocket. Cast on that number of stitches for the pocket lining and work the required number of rows to achieve desired pocket depth. For example, if your gauge is twenty stitches and thirty-two rows to four inches, and you want a four-inch-wide and -deep pocket, cast on twenty stitches and knit thirty-two rows. Set the lining aside.

Work the garment to the location of the pocket opening. Place onto a holder the same number of stitches as you used for the lining. With the working yarn from the garment, work across the lining stitches. This incorporates the pocket lining into the garment. Continue with the rest of the garment.

TIP: Stockinette stitch makes for a smooth pocket lining.

To finish the pocket, use the held stitches to create an edging at the top of the pocket. This is often worked in ribbing, garter, or seed stitch, but any stitch pattern could be used. Work the edging to the desired height, then bind off. Sew the sides of the edging to the right side of the garment. Sew the sides and bottom of the lining to the wrong side of the garment.

Moon Eldridge’s Prismatic Pullover is worked from the bottom up, but the pocket lining is worked by picking up stitches, rather than sewing them to the wrong side of the garment during finishing.

Inserting a pocket in a top-down garment is a similar but slightly different process. Work to the location of the pocket opening, place the number of stitches needed for the width of your pocket onto a holder, then cast on the same number of stitches and continue with the garment. For the lining, work the held stitches in stockinette stitch to the desired pocket depth and bind off. Sew the lining to the wrong side of the garment. For the edging, pick up and knit one stitch for each cast-on stitch at the top of the pocket and work as for the bottom-up pocket edging.

Meiju K-P’s Focus Dress has horizontal slit pockets worked from the top down. She shaped the pocket fronts using short-rows to add some extra dimension.

Whichever direction you are knitting, you could add interest by working the edging or the lining in a contrasting color. Working the lining with an especially warm yarn could make the pocket extra cozy!


Kangaroo Pocket

These pockets are more involved, but creates a nice casual feature, often seen on sweatshirts. Work it from the bottom up as follows.

Work the garment to the base of the pocket. Place the stitches to the left and right of the pocket onto holders, so that only the pocket front stitches are on the needle.

TIP: Insert a lifeline through the pocket front stitches at this point to easily find them when you begin the lining.

Work these stitches in pattern for about an inch to give the pocket some depth—this helps to keep things from falling out of your pocket. Decrease at the beginning and end of the row to shape the pocket; one stitch at each end every right-side row or every fourth row gives a nice angle. You might want a little garter stitch or other trim (maybe applied I-cord) at the pocket edges, outside of the shaping. Once the front of the pocket is shaped and it reaches the desired depth, place the stitches onto a holder.

Work the pocket lining as follows: Place the held garment stitches at each side of the pocket onto your needle. Pick up and knit one stitch for each pocket stitch along the wrong side of the base of the pocket. Work even on all stitches to the top of the pocket. To join the front of the pocket to the lining, place the held pocket front stitches in front of the lining stitches (note: in this example, there are fewer pocket front stitches than lining stitches because the edges of the pocket front were shaped, so make sure they are centered). Knit a pocket front stitch together with a pocket lining stitch until all of the pocket front stitches have been joined.

Sew the one-inch vertical sections at the base of the pocket to the garment front.

Hope Vickman’s Vergence Sweater uses a variation on the kangaroo pocket technique. The pocket opening is not shaped, and the stitch pattern gives depth to the pocket without any extra effort.


Patch Pocket

This is the most straightforward of pockets—no preplanning needed! Knit a square (or rectangle or semicircle or heart—let your imagination run wild!) in the size you’d like for your pocket, pin it to your garment to check for placement, then sew it in place. Easy peasy! You can use any technique for your pocket (textured stitches, intarsia, stranded knitting, etc.) and work it in any color. You could even make the sewing a decorative element (buttonhole stitch, herringbone stitch, etc.). Allison Jane’s Chiroscope Clutch hides a cute little half-octagon patch pocket behind the purse’s flap.

Use these techniques to add pockets to any garment you knit!

(Originally posted on April 18, 2017; updated on May 16, 2019.)

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One Comment

  1. Myriam G at 8:15 pm April 23, 2017

    Thank you for those tips. As someone who has a passion for adding pockets to finished garments, I like to call myself “The pocket-adder” – not to be confused with the snake that lives in people’s pocket, which can be nasty, at times.
    I have added pockets to many finished sweaters and cardigans that I thought needed somewhere to put a kleenex in. But, lately, I started adding pockets ‘before the fact’, using some technique similar to the first two you describe. You article gave me lots of new tips, Karen. Thank you!

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