Tweed pocket

I think it’s time for another tie-on pocket, don’t you? This time I let a men’s jacket in Harris tweed share his abundance of pockets for my tweed pocket visions.

I use the term tie-on pocket in this post to refer to the pocket I’m sewing, not to confuse it with the jacket pockets I’m using for it. Usually I just call the tie-on pocket a pocket, but that would be a bit challenging in this case.

My tweed pocket, made from a tweed pocket.

Diving deeper into the history and traditions of tie-on pockets I’m increasingly fascinated by how much we can learn from them. They can tell us a lot about gender inequality of history and present, but also about women’s empowerment in how they have used tie-on pockets.

Men’s pockets

I read The Pocket – a hidden history of women’s lives by Birgit Burman and Ariane Fennetaux that during the period on which the book focuses (1660–1900) men’s clothing was always equipped with several pockets for items that were considered important and significant to men – pockets for bottles, sandwiches, watches, coins and bank notes. Women’s clothing had no pockets at all, instead they had tie-on pockets. These could contain various objects – needles, herbs, handkerchiefs, coins, bread etc, and could be tied off, unloaded and changed several times a day should the bearer wish to.

A 1940’s army jacket with ten pockets. For men.

I came to think about the brilliant HBO series Gentleman Jack and the series adaptation of the life of Anne Lister, a 19th century lesbian woman who kept a journal in code. The diaries were eventually found but kept hidden to save them from destruction. Anne Lister was also an estate owner and colliery owner. She dressed entirely in black, which was normal for gentlemen at the time. In the series, all the dresses, jackets and waistcoats the character Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones) wears have visible pockets, and lots of them.

While women’s garments do have pockets these days, it still doesn’t seem to be obvious. I usually mutter about skirts and pants with too small, too flimsy or too few pockets or no pockets at all. Count to that the increasing size and weight of smart phones, that can easily tilt trousers or tear ladies’ trouser pockets. I own a men’s wadmal jacket from the Swedish army, made in the 1940’s. It has ten very sturdy pockets.

A vision in tweed

Ever since I started making my first pocket I have been playing with the idea of a pocket in tweed, perfect for the autumn. I decided I wanted my pocket in Harris tweed. For a while I tried to find online stores in Sweden that would sell Harris tweed, but I couldn’t find any. I started looking at web shops in the U.K, but with shipping and import tax it would be quite pricy.

Some shops had fabric samples. Since I had abandoned the import idea I decided to go to the Scottish House in Stockholm, a shop specializing in Scottish clothes and fabrics. I asked for samples, but they didn’t have any. The shop keeper suggested I look for a tweed garment in thrift shops, which was a brilliant idea. That would give me the opportunity to use both the tweed fabric and details in the garment while at the same time upcycling a used item.

Meet Bernie

For a few months I monitored Swedish eBay for tweed vests and jackets, and in August I found what I was looking for – a large brown vintage herringbone men’s jacket in Harris tweed, with side, chest and inner pockets, for $21. I call him Bernie.

Looking at Bernie I count to five pockets, while my own women’s Harris Tweed jacket (also a find from Swedish eBay) has three. Two side pockets and one tiny and ridiculous pocket, way too small for a hand to put something in it, let alone fetch something out of it.

Meet Bernie, a generous jacket with pockets to spare and share.

The pattern seems to repeat itself – while Bernie has been equipped with generous pockets in large amounts, my own tweed jacket pockets are small and fragile. But Bernie is a generous jacket. He knows he has pockets to spare. He also knows that sharing some of his many pockets doesn’t make him less of a jacket. Quite the contrary – by sharing his pocket wealth he will contribute to making the world a better place since more people get access to pockets, people who are just as deserving of pockets as he is.*

And don’t worry, I will use every last piece of fabric from Bernie, so he still has the chance to contribute to lots of other projects.

* I didn’t come up with this myself. I borrowed it from Heather McGhee’s brilliant book The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together. Read it.

Swedish or British?

So, back to my tie-on pocket project. I needed to make a decision about the model. I wanted to use one of Bernie’s pockets as an opening to my tie-on pocket. Most Swedish tie-on pockets have a horizontal opening (see my embroidered linen pocket and my påsöm pocket). I like them because it is easy to find my way into them. British tie-on pockets, on the other hand, usually have a vertical opening (see my upcycled linen pocket), keeping the shape neat and sturdy. I like that too.

A biased opning for my tweed pocket.

So what would I go for – a swift access to the pocket belly or a sturdy opening? Bernie’s side pockets were horizontal, but made for a large man’s hand. Therefore I feared a horizontal opening might be a little too wide. I could of course flip the jacket sideways and make the opening vertical. But with the tweed fabric being quite bulky in several layers with the welt pocket and the flap, a vertical opening might work against me. So I decided on a compromise – a biased opening. That would limit the wearability to one hip, but I always wear my tie-on pocket on my right hip anyway. Should I need one for my left I still have one of Bernie’s side pocket left.


I cut the pocket from Bernie with the template in Hamblemouse’s pocket pattern. Since Bernie’s pocket opening led to a pocket pouch sandwiched between the tweed and the jacket lining I cut an opening in the lining and sew the edges of the cut onto the edges of the welts so the opening of my tie-on pocket would actually go inside its lined belly.

I took advantage of Bernie’s inner pocket and used it for the lining for the back of my tie-on pocket to give it a secret inner pocket. It also harboured the Harris Tweed label, which I kept there as a sweet detail.

Sewing the tie-on pocket together was a little bulky, but I still like the rusticity of it. This pocket will not fold in the autumn storms!

The band

I wove a band for my new tie-on pocket with stashed suspended spindle spun yarn from rya outercoat fibers. I tried to stay as close to the two colours in the herringbone tweed as I could – one brown and one light beige, from the rya flock friends Bertil and Beppelina.

After having warped and made the heddles for the band I realized that I had made errors in the warping. There was nothing else I could do than unravel the whole warp and start anew.

A backstrap woven band for my tweed pocket. Stashed suspendle spindle spun yarn from outercoat of rya wool.

After the rewarping the weaving was such a joy. I really love weaving little bands. They are so portable and sweet and a perfect opportunity to learn something new on a small surface.

Dan and I treated ourself to a weekend away a couple of weeks ago, to Varberg on the Swedish west coat. I wove on the train there, connecting the far end of the band onto the coat hanger on the back of the seat in front of me. I also wove in the medieval Varberg fortress. It felt very special to weave in atmosphere where women most certainly would have both woven bands and worn tie-on pockets.

If you are a patron (or want to become one), I treat you to a bit of our journey to Varberg in my October video postcard.

Flaunting my tweed pocket

I wore the pocket at the office this week. I hadn’t finished the tassel lanyards yet, but wearing the tie-on pocket at work gave me the perfect little crafting project for the coffee breaks.

The pocket fits very well. I equipped it with my mobile phone and a banana and they got along just fine in the belly of the pocket. The pocket works well with most fabrics and styles, like tweed tends to do.

I have the feeling this tie-on pocket can become an everyday favourite. The biased opening is very comfortable and I like that I can wear the flap in or out. The inner pocket isn’t ideal for my mobile phone, though. Even if the phone fits fits in the inner pocket, it’s placed too high for the phone to get into the inner pocket from the main opening. But there are other things I can hide in my secret inner pocket.

Oh, I recently bought a bikini. The bottom piece has pockets.

Happy spinning!

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