April 7, 2013

DIY: Pocket Square

Sometimes you have to take style into your own hands, literally, and do it yourself. This is something I have wanted to write about for a while because it is an easy way to put a personal twist on your style for very little money. Every time I visit a fabric store, I always think about how this cotton or that wool would make an awesome pocket square. With the right tools and a little bit of practice, you can turn almost any fabric you find into a unique pocket square (or handkerchief).

Handmade pocket square; Jacket by Lanvin

Here's what you need:
  • Fabric
  • Thread
  • Fabric shears
  • Tailor's rule (or measuring tape)
  • Rolled hem foot
  • Sewing machine
  • Straight pins (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

The first thing you will want to do is decide what size pocket square you want. Many silk squares are 17” x 17” but if you are working with anything other than a thin silk, I would recommend 14” x 14”. Not only will it be less bulky in your pocket, but I find that it is easier to get a clean straight fold with.

I went with a 14” square since this is a mediumweight cotton. Whatever size you choose, you will want to leave a ¼” border on each side of the square to allow for the rolled edge. If your fabric has a selvedge you will likely want to trim it off before starting to keep a consistent edge all the way around. This is purely cosmetic, so if you like the look that the selvedge will give, feel free to leave it.

Next, you will want to lay your fabric on a flat surface, measure out 14 ½” from the corner, and snip to mark the spot. Do the same down the other side so that you have a 14 ½” square marked out. Start with the side of the fabric that runs lengthwise (with the weft) and you can just rip the fabric to length. This is an easy trick to make sure you get a straight line, but it only works on natural fibers. Hopefully you won't be using synthetics to make a pocket square though, so this shouldn't be an issue.

Snip a mark at 14 1/2" on each side.

Next, fold your long 14 ½” wide strip over to the second mark that you made. Use the folded edge as your guide to cut out the rest of the square. This will make sure that you end up with a square when you finish. 

With one side cut, fold over to the mark you made. Cut to make a square.

The reason I listed fabric shears specifically is to ensure that they are sharp and long enough to get a nice clean edge in as few cuts as possible. Once you finish, you will have a 14 ½” square of fabric.

Now that you have a square, you will want to fold over your edge. Fold 1/8” of the edge and then another 1/8” over on itself. Depending on the type of fabric you are working with and your experience level with a rolled hem foot, I would suggest pinning the folded edge down just to help you start things off. You can either pin just the corner or the whole thing, but the sewing machine foot will do most of the work for you.

Fold 1/8" of your edge over itself twice and pin in place.

After that you will want to start the corner under your machine and just put a few stitches in to lock the fold in place.

Start with a couple straight stitches.

Then lift the foot and feed the folded edge into the opening of the rolled hem foot.

Insert the folded edge into the groove on the hem foot.

Proceed with a straight stitch down the edge making sure that the fold continues to catch in the foot. If you pinned the entire edge, make sure you don’t forget to pull the pins before they get to the foot or the edge won’t roll properly.

Halfway through a side without pins (top)
and with pins (bottom

Continue with the other three sides and your edges will be nicely rolled and stitched in place. Personally I prefer to stop about 1/8” before the corners and finish these by hand to make sure I get a nice clean corner, but depending on your fabric weight you could finish it on the machine (it might just take some trial and error).

Finished edges of the pocket square.

Now, you will have a finished 14” pocket square with a rolled edge. Press out any lines or wrinkles, fold, and enjoy.

Handmade pocket square; Jacket by Bamford & Sons

Stay stylish,
- JJ


  1. Like the style of this. I'm thinking I could salvage enough fabric from a couple of sport and dress shirts my husband is no longer wearing. (Ink stained pocket or worn collar. Thanks :)

    1. That's a great idea! If you can't get a large enough single square, you could always patchwork one together from different patterns madras-style.

      Thanks for reading!
      - JJ

  2. This is a lost art and needs to be kept alive. Thank you for doing so! Now, could you post how to fold them in unique ways - besides the usual poufs, points etc?

    1. I'll definitely consider a post on unique folds, though I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to both pocket square folds and tie knots.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I am making pocket squares for a friend's wedding. The fabric is imported wool plaid from Scotland. I wonder if the wool is too heavy to do a rolled hem. All the tutorials I have seen so far have used cotton or cotton blends. Nothing as heavy as wool. Have you had any experience with this?

    1. Wool pocket squares get tricky because they can add a lot of bulk to the pocket if they are too heavy. When it comes to your question about whether your fabric is too heavy for a rolled hem, it's a bit subjective. Just about any fabric that you would reasonably use for a pocket square can take a rolled hem. So while it is likely possible, it may not be the right choice.

      Rolled hem foots come in a few different sizes, so if the standard foot is too small to accept the fabric you can pick up a larger one. Alternately, you can execute a rolled hem by hand (with a little time and patience). That being said, if the fabric is really heavy it may not look very attractive with all the layers that a rolled hem entails.

      If you decide that a rolled hem just won't work, an alternative would be to use a seam binding on the edges. Use a serger to keep it from fraying and then add your edging. Because it's a wool plaid fabric, I would suggest using a solid color seam binding or sawtooth grosgrain. Your last option would be to marrow or purl stitch the edges using a coordinating thread.

      Hopefully this helps and good luck with the pocket squares!!

  4. Thanks for your reply. The wool is not that heavy and I made one by folding over the edges twice and stitching. Looks like I can get by without purchasing a rolled hem foot for now. But I have saved this site for the next time. Thanks again

  5. I know you wrote this post years ago but it's exactly what I was looking for. I'm making 7 ties and pocket squares for a friend's wedding and needed some tips for the pocket square!