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Pretty Pockets (TM) – Another Wonderful Cause

by Rob
Our requests for Pretty Pocket info for stitchers has reached:

NEW 500




pretty pockets

Those of you who happen to be friends with me on Facebook or are members of the SiCKDesigns Yahoo Group know my sister has been hospitalized since her “minor” surgery in July. I won’t go into great detail, but suffice it to say – if it could go wrong, it did. We were afraid she would not survive at one time. But, she continues to fight her way back in a rehab facility at this time, learning how to walk and perform the day to day tasks we all take for granted.

One of her “issues” is an abdominal drain. My younger sister (a 35 year veteran nurse at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore – who did spend nearly 2 weeks with my sister – tending to her nearly 24/7) saw an article in her local paper in Maryland. She forwarded it to me on Facebook and asked me to make “Pretty Pockets” for our sister, Dona.

After reading the article, I decided to call the Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in Maryland – the host of the “sew in” for Pretty Pockets last weekend. Their educational coordinator, in turn, had the creator of Pretty Pockets, Maryanne Arthur, get in touch with me.

Maryanne is definitely a woman on a mission. Her own life experience was the impetus for this wonderful project.

Here is her story:

Perhaps you know someone who had surgery and was left to recover with unsightly dangling drains?

Thats what happened to me.

In March 2011, I awoke from an anesthesia-induced sleep to find myself flanked by four drains, two on each side of my upper body, following a bilateral mastectomy. Pinned inside my hospital gown, the drains were heavy and uncomfortable against raw skin. So,
my partner ingeniously ripped apart a pair of our youngest daughters flannel pajama bottoms to wrap around each bulb. And, I wore soft, fuzzy drain-bulb covers for the duration of my recovery.

A few days after surgery, I met another mastectomy patient at the hospital. She carried her bulbs in a brown paper bag pinned to her waistband, admitting it was nerve wracking and
embarrassing to corral those dangling drains.

The need and concept for Pretty Pockets fully materialized at that moment as — a discreet and spirited way to secure post-surgical drains. Our family began production at home.

Born from a pair of childrens flannel pajama legs, satin ribbon, safety pins and handmade gift tags, Pretty Pockets has received rave reviews from clinic staff, nurses, doctors and-most importantlybreast cancer patients whove described the pockets as practical and meaningful gifts.

Perhaps you dont know that the need for pockets is staggering.

My doctor treats more than 500 breast cancer patients a year with surgeries that result in temporary drain bulb placement.

Thats just one medical facility and one type of surgery!

If you have the time and talent, and want to make a BIG difference in the comfort and peace-of-mind of cancer patients, then join our giving movement. Volunteer to sew post-surgical drain pockets today!

What are Surgical Drains?

Drains are vinyl tubes and bulbs, stitched at one end under the skin by a surgeon, that hang freely down about two feet from under each arm pit. Each drain bulb fills with excess fluid after major trauma, which is the body’s natural way of healing its deepest wounds and the doctor’s way of preventing lymphedema (swelling of the lymph system).
Nurses affix these drains, with safety pins, high inside hospital gowns to prevent the bulbs from hanging too freely and thereby ripping out side stitches.
Problem: The bulbs fill with fluid and pull down on garments, making clothes heavy, necks strained, and stress levels high.
—Maryanne Arthur
Pretty Pockets Co-originator

Attach a LARGE safety pin (and the Pretty Pockets info card with a hand drawn flower and small piece of ribbon onto each Pretty Pocket

Quick How-To Guide

Here is a quick how-to for Pretty Pocket project

1. Purchase baby flannel in fun prints. Wash in unscented detergent.

2. Cut pockets, using enclosed pattern as a guide. Fold right sides together.

3. Sew a double seam, 5/8 and 1/8 from edge, around the sides and bottom.
(This step is very important, as the large safety pin goes through this large seam and then attaches to the patient’s clothing.)

4. Turn material right side out. Turn top edge down 1 and top stitch from fold.

5. Turn under on the bottom of the top fold and top stitch. Finger press.

6. Pin tags with ribbon through the seam one pin per pocket.

7. Deliver/send to Creative Blossoms or local Cancer Center.

8. Repeat steps 1-5.

Alternate: Use a serger around the sides and top. At the top of the pocket, turn under 1.

Top stitch from the fold and scant from bottom, serged edge.
Any questions?

—Maryanne Arthur
Pretty Pockets
Thank YOU!
Special thanks to Annemarie Merow for envisioning a creative solution; and to Judy Merow for refining our pocket sewing technique!


Maryanne wants this wonderful creation to always be FREE. Under no circumstances are they to be sold – not even to cover the cost of materials. She is sharing her idea with everyone in hopes that you, too, can help people in your area of the world.

I am always being asked “What is a good project for our group – we are small, with limited resources”? This seems like the PERFECT project for all groups, large and small. The original pattern calls for 2 pieces of flannel – 8.25 ” x 6.75′. (20.955 cm x 17.145 cm) This means 1/4 yd of fabric could yield 3 full Pretty Pockets! And those of you who enjoy making items out of flannel – probably have enough in your stash of scraps to fill buckets!

Here is the link to the original article: Pretty Pockets in the Perry Hall Patch

If you would like the pattern for the Pretty Pockets, please contact me (Rob)
Just send to: rob@designsbysick.com (pretty easy to remember~!!!)
Please include:

  • Your name
  • Geographic location (City/State/Country)
  • Do you belong to a sewing group?

I will send the information to Maryanne and then she will be in touch with you – to send a pattern, etc.

And, yes, while I was away at a Quilting Retreat this past weekend (the one which my sister was supposed to attend with me) – I stitched out 4 Pretty Pockets and sent them to my sister – and sent them by Priority Mail. She received them Monday. She loved them!

**Note from Rob – if you and your group (or just you) do begin creating these wonderful projects (which, by the way, can be used for many more reasons than what is listed above), please let me know. Please take pictures. I would love to see pics of you or your group stitching them, the finished projects, etc. I will put them here with the article. 🙂
Thank you in advance! I know there are so many wonderful members of our Forums/Website and Newsletter subscribers who will use this idea to provide another wonderful way to help others.

**We are rapidly approaching 500 people who have requested the Pretty Pockets (TM) pattern!!! If you think of how many people are stitching (sewing groups, friends, sisters)….the number is staggering!!! Please send pictures!

I told MaryAnne she had no idea how awesome the Designs By SiCK customers were! You all are proving me to be correct!

A suggestion from Billie – one who is also participating from Maine – she is going to add a Diaper Pin to each one she sends out! Great idea, Billie!!!!




Ginny from NY!

Ginny from NY!


Donna from Alberta CA

Donna from Alberta CA

More from Donna in CA!!!

More from Donna in CA!!!


Judy in Nashville

Judy in Nashville


Linda in NC was snowed in, so she tried out the Pockets on some fabric she had at the house.  Now, seeing how easy they are to create, she is eager to get out to pick up some flannel!

Linda in NC was snowed in, so she tried out the Pockets on some fabric she had at the house. Now, seeing how easy they are to create, she is eager to get out to pick up some flannel!


Linda's Next batch!

Linda’s Next batch!

More from Linda in NC!

More from Linda in NC!




Download or Print This Article as a PDF


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42 Responses to Pretty Pockets (TM) – Another Wonderful Cause

  1. Grace Phillips says:

    I clicked on “email Rob” to request a copy of the Pretty Pockets pattern but I am not set up in that email format, therefore, I could not request a copy.
    My name is Grace Phillips and I live in Conway, SC and I do not belong to a sewing group.

    Thank you,.
    [editor’s note: Grace, check your email in the next 24 hours – I have put you on the list and will notify MaryAnne – I was able to take care of yours because you had all of the necessary information.
    Thank you!

  2. Nanette says:

    I belong to three sewing groups and we meet once a month. I am sure that our ladies would love to add these pockets to our cancer articles. We already do bags for radiology films, and small blankets for the children to keep. My groups are Monday Matters, Gweneth’s Girls and Bairnsdale Machine Embroidery Group (BMeg)
    Well done.
    Nanette, Briagolong, Australia
    [editor’s note: Nanette – please email me – rob@designsbysick.com]

  3. Ann shubert says:

    I am project person for our ASG group and would be interested in pattern so make some and take to hospitals in the Houston area.

    (editor’s note: Ann, send an email to me rob@designsbysick.com so I can add you to the list… Thank you!)

  4. Helen says:

    This is a great project. Just one note of caution though – if you are not in the USA or are making covers for drains that are not bulb drains then please check the size of the drain bag. When I had an abdominal drain the bag was around 8 inches by 10 inches!!! I attached mine to a strap hanging from a belt so it did not pull down my clothes and that worked really well. It did have to be checked on a regular basis so easy opening for content inspection would also be useful.

  5. Gwendilia Murrah says:

    I would love to help! I, myself was sent home with a tube and a bag attached, after my hysterectomy, 15 years ago. I wouldn’t leave the house, it was so embarrassing and very stressful for me. I understand, and would love to help. I have been sewing for over 35 years, both for the public and my family.

  6. Granny Elen says:

    This is great! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Regina Cooper says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. My niece just passed the first anniversary of being told she had breast cancer. It has been almost a year since her mastectomy. I didn’t think about anything like this but wish I had. You can bet I will be making some and donating to my local hospital. My best wishes to you and your sister, and thank you for passing along the wonderful idea.

  8. joansatx says:

    This is great! I written and asked for the pattern and will enjoy making and giving these. Thank you.

  9. Jill says:

    Love this. I’ve been through this surgery and dealing with the drains are a pain. Will show this to my sewing group.

  10. tammy soety says:

    rob please send me the pocket pattern would be intered in making some my mother is a breast cancer survior, 20 years. I live in jupiter florida was unable to email from link on my pc

    [editor’s note: Tammy, you should receive an email from me within 24 hrs – thank you for providing the information…

  11. Rita says:

    Thanks for this article. I will be making some providing a project for my mom and husband. As we are in South Africa will first contact the cancer association for the sizes. Thanks for that tip too, Helen. We are looking forward to getting started.

    [editor’s note: Rita, please check your email – we are trying to keep track of everyone making these Pretty Pockets- for MaryAnne – the creator of this wonderful project. Thanks, rob]

  12. Regina Cooper says:

    Quick question, and I hope this isn’t a dumb one. I am asking it here instead of an e-mail in case others are wondering the same thing. Is this something I could/should embroider on, or is it best not to? All I currently have is solid color fabrics since I usually embroider something on them. I will be happy to pick up some new fabric, but I do have scraps I can use. Thanks in advance.

    [editor’s note: Whereas we ARE an embroidery design company, I am thinking no embroidery for would be best, as this will be pinned under clothing, and the soft flannel against the skin would not be rough, whereas a design might be uncomfortable.]

  13. Regina Cooper says:

    If someone comes across a great sale on flannel, please let us know. Joann’s had a great sale going last week but I was too slow.

  14. Lori says:

    Great idea! I’m sure many people will be helped. Just wondering if there was any way to digitize the pockets? It would make it so much faster.

    [editor’s note: Lori, I think the stitches might prove to be a bit scratchy and irritate the skin, as these are attached INSIDE the clothing….but, I will contact MaryAnne and see what she thinks… Thank you! ~ hugz, rob]

  15. Hi. I, too, had to become creative when my husband had cancer surgery to remove his bladder. He now has a bag that attaches to his abdomen. I sew pockets into the inside of all of his shirts and he can now slip the bag into the pocket so there is no danger of it being seen. He is tickled with my creation and all the doctors and nurses think they’re neat.

  16. Brenda Bush says:

    I made some for my sister-in-law and she said they worked great. All her doctors & nurses thought they were great. They’re a quick sew. I made a dozen from cutting out to finish in about an hour. I took someone else’s advice & usesd diaper pins instead of safety pins thinking there would be less chance for it to pop open & stick her.

  17. Faye Flood says:

    I am a diabetic (for the last 39 years) I am now using an insulin pump and have made pockets to sew in most articles of clothing that do not have pockets. I wish I had thought of sharing it five years ago. I thought that it was my idea out of necessity.

  18. Dori says:

    My mother died of breast cancer many years. I will be more than happy to make these bags in her memory. Is there a photo of where exactly these bags are pinned in the clothing?

    [editor’s note: Dori, they are pinned just at the seam at the top…and under the clothing where it is the most comfortable for the patient. This is why flannel is used – so it will be soft against the skin. I will be sending your name and email to MaryAnne and she will explain more. Thank you so very much!

  19. SewQueen says:

    I’m looking forward to making these for a local hospital. Ladies in my sewing group have expressed an interest and will be joining me in making them. It would be very nice if Maryanne had a website to let people know of the need and how they can help. Rob, I sent you an email earlier today requesting the pattern. I have fabric and am ready to start.

  20. Heather Cleghorn says:

    Hi ,I had a masectomy 9 years ago & came home with two drains & had two bags that were far too big & the bottles used to rattled around in the one bag. Being a sewer I decided to make some smaller ones to fit one bottle & a larger one with a divider in the middle for two bottles. The first one I made the nurses were wrapped, They had strap handles that I could put over my shoulder to carry the bottles & for those on a walker they could put it on the handles. these were made of Calico & I embroidered some but although everyone liked them the nurses said not to as they were given out to patients on loan & they found they weren’t getting them back so I started to put the hospital name on them & they were returned so other patients could use them. I did this for two years untill my husband got sick & died but I will get back into it again.

  21. Heather Cleghorn says:

    I don’t mind it not being published.I just wanted to let you know my experience.The pretty-pockets is a fantastic idea as it is badly needed for patients coming home after operations.
    Thank You
    Heather Cleghorn

  22. Barbara Dingman says:

    I read your article, onthe pretty pockets. Great idea.

    Our daughter just had radiation and chemo, and lost all her hair.
    I built her a satin pillow case. She said it was a God send. She said her hair hurt from the inside out.

    So another project people can build (make) is a satin pillow case. God knows we have so many cancer patients, in our own family.

    We can help. I am giving you the idea, and you can send the word.
    A satin pillow case is such a little thing, and it made her life comfortable.

    Please share

  23. Do you have an outlet for these or do we contact local hospitals for their use?

  24. Ellen Lucas says:

    We live fulltime in an RV. We travel the country doing volunteer work. I am always looking for small sewing projects to do in our down time. This is a perfect one. Thank you for the information and pattern.

  25. Grace says:

    “1. Purchase baby flannel in fun prints. ” The directions say baby flannel, can other flannel be used?

  26. Judy Zedalis says:

    lol, I just printed out the instructions yesterday so I can include a bunch of these with the scarves I have ready to mail off. Wish it were more, but even a few will do. I have been thinking of donating my hair for a wig. It is finally long enough to donate (past the ladies) Hubby I think would have a fit, maybe.

  27. rob says:

    Hi Grace,
    I did not use baby flannel for mine. I am sure any flannel would be fine. The main idea behind flannel is to have the softest fabric against the skin.
    Thank you so much!

  28. I am wondering if anyone has the size needed for the different type of bags mentioned above, or perhaps other types of surgery that might use bags such as these. Perhaps there are readers who work in the various fields that could supply these different sizes. I would like to make some . Also, should I contact local hospitals and ask about the types and size needed? Sandy F. Al

  29. Rita Gronberg says:

    I belong to the American Sewing Guild and would like the pattern for the Pretty Pocket. My neighborhood group would make these for the hospital in our area. Thanks Rita G. from Wheaton, Il USA

    [editor’s note.. Sent, Rita – thank you!]

  30. tana keith says:

    just got my pattern and took to the Shannon hospital in san angelo, tx loved it thanks again

  31. Pat Woosley says:

    Awesome! My mom had breast cancer and a friend of my daughter-in-law was recently diagnosed, so I would be delighted to help out. Thanks for sharing. (It’s just me, no group, although I will try to share with my local quilt shop in NE Iowa and see if they will put up a sign. Quilters always have scraps!)

  32. Dee says:

    This is a wonderful idea! I make receiving blankets for our local hospital for new mothers to take home. Also small quilts and blankets for the children’s ward. I have oodles of flannel “bits & pieces” boxed up & would love to participate in this. I have a sister who has also had a mastectomy & I remember how terrible the drains were & how embarrassing for her. Count me in!

  33. Barbara says:

    I live in South Africa, and when I had my mastectomy, Reach for Recovery arrived with a bag of goodies, including a “pocket”. I cannot tell you how handy and welcome it was. Apart from the practicality of it, the drain is so unsightly, so it was great to have it hidden in the pocket

  34. Fonda says:

    I know this is a dumb question.. When you hem the top of the bag are you making a tunnel for the ribbon to go through or do you just pin a piece of ribbon on the side seam??

    [editor’s note: No, the ribbon is just to hold the tag… The big safety pin is how the PP is attached to clothing. Hope this helps!

  35. Ellen says:

    Where do I find a copy of the card to attach. Thank you

  36. rob says:

    Ellen, the cards are in the download file of instructions and pattern. Have you signed up yet?

  37. Susan says:

    Can fleece be used instead of flannel? If so, would doubling it for the pin be ok or should it be tripled?

  38. Kathryn says:

    The only pattern I have is the one above with dimensions. Is there more? I want to take it to a new Bee forming here to make projects for charity.

  39. Carol Barbaro says:

    I’m fine with directions until step 6. How long is the ribbon? What sort of tag is used? Is anything used for gathering around the top?

  40. Madeline says:

    Our quilt club added a “ribbon necklace” to our pretty pockets. No pins!

  41. Kathy says:

    Just saw your info on Nancy Zeimans program. I am unable to find the pattern. How do I receive it? I sew a lot of charity quilts, hats, sweaters scarves for various causes. Thank you

  42. Sharon Dakin says:

    My address is 8925 Old Stage Rd. Waynesville, Ohio 45068 please send me the pattern as I do not have email Thank You
    [Editor’s note: Sharon.. I am confused. Do you want to purchase the design set? To have a design mailed through the normal postal service will be the price of the design or set and $6.95 go have it put onto a CD and shipped.
    Please advise….

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