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How to Perfectly Match a Pocket Motif to a Background Panel

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A perfect match might be difficult to find in the world of relationships, but in sewing: we have you covered! When you want a pocket's motif to precisely align with the panel on which it sits, all you need is a little extra fabric, some tissue paper, and those tracing skills you learned back in kindergarten. 

Project tutorials shown at the top. Row 1 (left to right): Rocky Mountain Satchel, Beginner-Friendly Back-To-School Totes, Heart & Ruffle Apron; Row 2: Day at the Beach Bag with Rope Handles, French Country Apron; Row 3: Relaxed Shoulder Brief with Handles & Tech Accents. Below: The Perfect Damask Duffle.

The first thing to remember when you want a perfect match is that you must get extra fabric. You have to be able to find the same spot within the motif to make your cuts. The larger the repeat (how much area is covered, height and width, before a design repeats itself on the fabric), the more extra fabric you’ll need. The more pockets there are to match, again, the more fabric you need. We usually get at least an extra half yard when we know they’ll be precise matching. 

  1. Start by cutting your base panel to your project’s specifications. This panel should be cut to best center the overall motif as you want it to appear on the finished piece.
  2. From tissue or tracing paper, cut a template at the exact cut size of the pocket (this pocket size should be listed in your project’s specifications).
  3. Draw in guidelines at the seam allowance so you can see where the actual finished edge of the pocket will fall. 
  4. Our sample pocket is a vertical panel that will be folded in half to create a self-lining. In this case, along with the seam allowance guidelines, we also drew in a horizontal guideline through the center to indicate where the top folded edge will be.
  5. Position the paper template on the base panel, following the placement instructions for your project. These instructions are likely to be something like, “center the pocket side to side on the panel with the raw bottom edge of the pocket 1” up from the raw bottom edge of the fabric panel.”  When everything is correctly positioned, pin the paper template in place.
  6. Using a standard pencil with a dark lead, trace several motifs that bridge the marked seam allowance on the template. Tracing in a corner is an excellent place to start.
  7. Then trace a motif in the opposite corner to get a good match corner to corner. 
  8. We also like to trace a few motifs through the center of the pocket panel for additional alignment help.
  9. There’s no rule about how much or how little tracing to do. The more intricate the design, the more elements you may want to trace. A very simple design might need just a few small lines to to follow.
  10. When you feel you have your tracing complete, un-pin the paper template from the base panel and set aside the base panel.
  11. Lay out the remaining un-cut fabric on your work surface. Place the paper template on this remaining fabric. Slide the template around on the fabric until you find an exact match with your traced elements. When everything lines up perfectly, pin the template in place. To conserve yardage, if you can find a perfect match toward one edge of the remaining fabric, it’s a more efficient cut. 
  12. Cut around the template.
  13. And, here’s your matching pocket-to-be. 
  14. Complete the pocket as described in your project’s instructions. For our sample, we folded right sides together and pinned along all three sides, leaving a small opening for turning. 
  15. We stitched, clipped the corners, and pressed open the seam allowance.
  16. Then, we turned the pocket right side out through the opening and pressed it flat. 
  17. Now… the test. Find the base panel again and place the finished pocket into position. The motifs should align on all four sides of the pocket. And they do! Pin the pocket in place.
  18. Check carefully at the corners, adjusting the pocket position slightly if need be to get a perfect match. 
  19. Then check that opposite corner to make sure everything is still aligned and the pocket is sitting squarely on the base panel. 
  20. Once you’re set, edgestitch the pocket in place.
  21. And you have a perfect match that will allow the pocket to blend seamlessly into the panel. 

    NOTE: This easy technique is a sub-set of fussy-cutting in general. Check out our full fussy cutting tutorial. 

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