Sphincter Pocket




About: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service. Check out what we do at http://www.nealscnc.com/. I'm a founding member of Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ac...

I like pockets. They are fun and add interest to any kind of clothing. I usually put pockets on most clothes I make, and I often put pockets on clothes I don't make, if they need some!

I'm making a pair of pants now with a lot of pockets, and I wanted to do something different with some of them. I came up with the idea of a pocket with an elastic opening, and a friend, seeing it, gave it the name of Sphincter Pocket. This Instructable will show you how to draft a pattern for this pocket so you can make it whatever size you want, and then construct it either to add to clothing you're making or clothing you already have.

Step 1: Draft the Pattern

First you will need to make a pattern to cut the pocket from, as its shape, flat, is non-intuitive. We'll use a method called slash & spread. I have used pattern-specific tissue paper, from a commercial pattern that I never made, but regular tissue paper or even newspaper will also work just fine.

Pic 1: First draw a shape in the size of the finished pocket. It doesn't have to be a rectangle, but it should have no concave edges or thin points. A circle or triangle would also work. Remember to draw a circle where the sphincter hole will go.

Pic 2: Cut it out. Decide where you want the seam to be - there will have to be a seam as the pocket is going to be bigger than the flat pattern. I chose to have the seam be at the shortest point, the top of the pocket (see note on pic).

Pic 3: Cut along the seam line. Then start 'slashing'. Make cuts that start from the sphincter hole and go up to, but not through, the edge of the paper. This is ticklish - if you do cut through at some point, it will make the spreading a bit harder but it's not the end of the world.

Pic 4: Make these slices in one entire half of the pattern. Try to keep the cuts relatively evenly spread out over the edge of the pocket generally. There's a lot more pocket edge than sphincter hole edge so you may run out of sphincter hole edge before you get half way around the pocket. This is OK; cut some of the slashes starting from the edges of previous slashes. This is clearer in the pic.

Pic 5: Draw a straight line on another piece of tissue paper. This will be the center line of your finished pattern. Lay the slashed piece along the new line matching up the centers, and tape it down. Spread the slashed pieces apart (there will be some wrinkling near the edges, where the slashes end; this is OK) one by one, and tape them down.

Pic 6: Continue spreading and taping until there is no more to tape. You'll end up with a rather wing-like shape. The edges of the sphincter hole are now little more than a series of dots at the tips of the 'feathers'.

Pic 7: Trace around the edge of the wing shape to solidify the pattern piece edge. You'll need to connect the dots of the sphincter hole for the inside edge. Be more concerned about getting a nice curve than about getting exactly to the line of dots, as they are usually somewhat uneven at this point.

Pic 8: Trace around the edge again, to indicate the seam allowance (the part that will be folded under in the finished pocket). Leave 1/2 or 5/8 inch of seam allowance around the edges, and 1/4 inch at the sphincter hole edge.

Pic 9: Cut along your seam allowance lines and your pattern is complete. Whew! The hardest part is done now; the rest of the steps are much easier.

Step 2: Cut Out the Pocket Pieces

Next, cut out the pocket pieces from the pocket fabric. You'll need the main pocket piece and also a second piece that's mostly just sphincter hole edge, for facing for the elastic. This will become clearer as you go along.

Pic 1: Lay the pattern on top of the fabric, with the pattern's center line on a folded edge of the fabric. (This folded edge should be parallel with the grain of the fabric, or to put it another way, parallel with the uncut or selvage edge.)

Pic 2: Cut it out!

Pic 3: Cut the facing piece. Unpin the pattern and lay it out again, on the same fold, but as shown mark a facing cutting line about an inch and a half in from the sphincter hole edge. You'll be cutting on this line for the facing so you don't need the whole width of the pattern to be on the fabric.

Pic 4: Cut the facing piece out. Carefully cut along the facing edge under the pattern without cutting the paper. This edge doesn't have to be very accurate so don't worry if it's Off.

Step 3: Stitch the Sphincter Hole Edge

Pic 1: Open both pieces out and lay the facing piece, right side down, on the main pocket piece which should be lying right side up.

Pic 2: Pin the long edge of the sphincter hole together, pocket piece and facing.

Pic 3: Stitch this long edge together. Remember to use a 1/4 inch seam allowance like you made the pattern.

Pic 4: If you have a serger, you can finish the remaining edge of the facing. If not, you can turn the edge under a quarter of an inch and stitch, or just ignore it - it will be inside the pocket and not visible from the outside anyway.

Step 4: Stitch the Pocket Together

When you made the pattern, you decided on a point to split the pocket apart in order to spread it out. Now, sew that part together. If the pattern looks like wings, the edge to sew now is right at the tips of the wings.

Pic 1: Open out the facing and the main pocket piece at each end, and bring them together. Matching the seam, pin the edges together.

Pic 2: Stitch up to about 3/4 of an inch from the seam on each side. This will form the hole that the elastic cord will go through later. It's not easy, yet, to see how this works, but it will be clearer later on.

Pic 3: Finger press this seam you just made open, including the part that you didn't sew.

Pic 4, 5, 6: On the front, topstitch a short distance from the seam to keep the seam allowances folded back on themselves.

Pic 7: Fold the facing around the pocket piece to the inside, so all the seam allowances are tucked inside.

Step 5: Elastic Cord

Pic 1 & 2: Next up is to stitch the tube for the elastic cord to run through, along the edge of the sphincter hole. This is so it can pull the hole up into the sphincter-like gathers that gave the pocket its name. Simply stitch about 3/8 of an inch or so along the folded edge, all the way around. The gap you left when sewing the pocket ends together back in Step 4 will let the elastic cord in.

Pic 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: Using a safety pin on the end of the elastic cord, feed the cord through the tube you just created.

Pic 8 & 9: Pull the cord up as tight as you want and make a slip knot. Your sphincter pocket is nearly complete!

Step 6: Finishing the Edges

You'll want to stitch the facing down to the pocket around the edges to keep it in place. This can be done simply with a line of stitching just inside the seam allowance, which if you took my suggestion in Step 1, was 1/2 or 5/8 inches.

It will also be easier to stitch it in place if you press the seam allowance to the inside in advance. The stay stitching will help in this respect too, as you can pull one of the threads to tighten it just a little and encourage the edge to fold to the inside as you press.

Step 7: Attach the Pocket to a Garment

All that's left is to topstitch the pocket into its final location. Simply pin the pocket in place and sew close to the pressed edge. I haven't got a picture of this process, it's pretty simple, but the rest of the pictures are of the pocket in place on the pants. I put it on the left side at about knee level.

I also made a second, smaller pocket for the right side and that's down near the ankle. The 4th picture is of this one, close up. I gave this one square corners instead of rounded, just for the variety of it. These pants are all about variety - like life!



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    30 Discussions

    sinxkittenClayton H.

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    hahaha! omg! i thought the same thing as soon as i saw the word "sphincter"! awesome pocket idea/tutorial though! im making some hot topic style goth pants for my boyfriend, and this is perfect! thank you!

    Doctor What

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I imagine that with age, the elastic gets worn and it would lose control of the opening. Unwanted evacuation of the pocket!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I can only wonder what you put in it. Do you brag about it in public places?- because I would. "I have an entire pineapple stuffed in my Sphincter Pocket 'TM' as we speak!" etc, ad nauseum


    10 years ago on Introduction

    excellent tutorial! You inspired me and I made a star shaped pocket.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This has the problem of cargo pants pockets: They get used and have the same effect as wearing lead shoes, because you have to lift the contents every time you take a step. (Full credit to Colin Fletcher: "The Complete Walker".)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Testament to the maligning of the word "sphincter", I thought you were going to sew a pocket on.. ahem.. that part of the trousers rather than make a pocket with a sphincter. Yes, I know it's ridiculously impractical, that's why I was confused...


    ryzellon about ur comment " there are sevaral dozen sphincters in the human body" there are actually only 7 the anal, the esophageal, thehepatopancreatic, the ileocecal,the precapillary, the pyloric and the urethral sphincters. just thought you might like to know.

    1 reply

    There are several dozen sphincters in the human body, and yet we only really associate the term with the disgusting bit. I'm sad that this slandering happens, but I do agree that the pockets might do better with a different name. I hereby nominate "pucker pockets" as an alternative.


    lmao..Yes, there are several, but which do you think would show up the most if you did a Google Images search for "Sphincter"? I guess Pucker Pockets is better than Sphincter...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I refuse to let popularity, as determined by Google, have an excessive influence on my terminology. Consider it an educational phrase, helping to teach people that sphincter is a general term for any circular muscle, and not just another word for asshole. Perhaps next I will create an Orifice Hat, for another maligned anatomical term!