Adding Simple Cargo-style Pockets to Shorts

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I have mastered elastic waist shorts for my son.  I can whip them out in 15 or 20 minutes after cutting the fabric.  (I have reduced my fabric cutting time as well – but will address that another time…)

Next on my to do list is to figure out how to add different types of pockets.

I just finished a pair of simple elastic waist shorts using McCall’s pattern 5419, view H.  (Same one I used here.)  I considered doing a simple flat pocket on the rear of the shorts, but since he wears his shirts long, the pocket wouldn’t be seen.  After studying a cargo pocket on one of my husbands shorts, I decided to add a cargo-style pocket, without the top flap to the side of the shorts.

Here is how I did it:
Decide how big you want your pocket.  The shorts I made are about a 5t and I wanted the pocket to be about 3.75 inches wide by about 4 inches tall.  So I cut the fabric for the pocket, 6 inches wide by 5.75 inches tall.  (It took me 2 tries to cut the correct size, I recommend cutting the first pocket w/ scrap material)
Once you have cut your pockets, finish the 2 side edges and the bottom edge with a serger, zigzag stitch or pinking shears, whatever works for you.  I used my serger.  (I should have cut my strings before taking the picture…)
Fold the pocket in half vertically, bringing right sides together.  Marking the center, at the top and bottom.  Like this:
Make two folds/pleats like this on the top and bottom:
The little folds are a little more than 1/4 inch each.  Make sure the two folds are even and meet on the center mark you made:
Finger press the crease created by the folds, pin down if you need to.  Sew a basting stitch on both ends to hold the pleat in place.  Sew about a 1/4 inch in from the edge. (My thread is hard to see, so I added a black line where the basting stitch should go…)
Fold the top edge of the pocket over 1/4 inch, press with iron.
Fold over again 3/4 inch and press.
Next, secure the top edge of the pocket in place by sewing along the bottom fold, about 1/4 inch in.
Then topstitch along the top edge of the pocket, about 1/4 inch in, so it looks like this:
Fold the side and bottom edges in about 3/8 of an inch and press with the iron.  You may need to pin some of the edges down to keep them in place.
Next, Wake your model from his after-school nap:
After the crying stops, make him try on the shorts so you can determine where the pockets should go…:
Using a water soluble marker, mark the 4 corners of the pocket on the shorts
Remove shorts from model and pin pocket securely in place.
Sew around the edge of the pocket.  At the top edge you will want to back-tack and go outside of the pocket edge for extra security, like this:
Be very careful to not catch another part of the shorts in your stitching.  I did it twice…  Not the end of the world, just annoying, and creates extra work…
Ta da!  A Cargo Pocket!
Hope this little tutorial helps someone…  Let me know if you have any questions.
I’ll try to answer them as best as I can!

I will be linking up to many of the parties found here::

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  1. Great tutorial. I love your bits of real life humor too.

  2. Great little tutorial! Thanks!

  3. Crystal Lyman says:

    I made some cargo pants from a pattern once, but they had you put on the pockets before sewing the inseam, much easier to work with than a fully assembled short. Hope that helps.

    1. Pamela Richards says:

      Please do you know what pattern you used and was it for an adult

      1. Hello, it was a child’s shorts pattern from McCalls.

  4. missmandie says:

    I have been looking for a good cargo pocket process and here it is!!! 🙂 have seen a few others, but they look more homemade this one is more professional looking and soooo simple!

  5. Rachael @ The Little Birdie says:

    Wow! Nicely done… those boys need extra pockets. At least mine does. My husband I mean!! haha! Thanks for linking up at The Little Birdie! 🙂

  6. very cool. I can see doing this to some of my own shorts.