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How to Topstitch

WHAT IS IT?

Topstitching is a row of stitching that’s intentionally visible on the right side of your garment. Topstitching can be done in a contrasting color or in a color that matches and blends in with your garment. Use decorative stitching or just plain straight stitching.

Topstitching on shirt yoke

Topstitching on shirt yoke

Topstitching on Minoru Jacket

Topstitching on Minoru Jacket

Double topstitching on Robson Coat

Double topstitching on Robson Coat

WHEN DO YOU USE IT?

Topstitching is a wonderful and easy decoration! Use topstitching to show off seam lines or to draw attention to areas of the garment such as the pocket opening, collar or neckline. Topstitching strengthens seams as well, so it’s a great feature to use on garments that will be heavily worn like jeans. Topstitching also makes your fabric stiffer. This is great if you want to add structure to an area of the garment, such as a collar or waistband. Topstitching around the edge of a waistband will stiffen it considerably; topstitching several rows through the middle will add even more stiffness. Topstitching can also close up open areas of a garment, like waistbands. For fast, visible hemming (page link) you can topstitch instead of handsewing.

Tips + Notes

  • When topstitching seams, you may prefer to topstitch first and then trim the seam allowances. That way your topstitching is going through all of the layers, and you’re only trimming off the extra.
  • Use a triple stitch as an alternative to thick thread. This is a special setting on some machines that stitches three times over each stitch, so it’s extra thick.
  • To change the width of your topstitching and still use the presser foot edge as a guide, move the needle position. Just make note of where you’ve moved it so you can keep the topstitching consistent.
  • Topstitch coats and outerwear with a slightly longer stitch length for a professional look. I prefer a slightly shorter stitch length for topstitching dress shirts and blouses.

HOW TO TOPSTITCH

Simply sew on the right side of your garment, making your stitching an equal distance from the edge all along the topstitching.

How far away should you topstitch? I like a ¼” (6mm) topstitch. It’s close enough to the seam line to look clean and not too close that it disappears. Plus I can use the edge of my presser foot as a guide. This is often the width of the sewing machine’s presser foot, so it’s easy to maintain an even row of stitching by using the edge of the foot as a guide.

Depending on where the start and end points of your topstitching fall, you may want to backstitch (page link) or you may not want to. Backstitch if the end point is going to be hidden or covered by another seam. If the end point is going to be visible, stitch in place to secure the end or pull the threads to the back and tie in a knot.

How to Topstitch

Topstitching A Seam

TOPSTITCHING A SEAM

To topstitch a seam, work from the right side of the garment. Pull the seam apart gently with your fingers, and line up your stitching with the seam line. Follow the seam line as you sew from top to bottom. Press the seam after topstitching.

Topstitching with Topstitching Thread

TOPSTITCHING WITH TOPSTITCHING THREAD

You can use special, thick topstitch thread. If you do, switch to a topstitching needle. These heavy-duty needles have an extra long eye for sewing with thicker topstitching thread or even with multiple threads. Use the thick spool on the top, and use regular thread in the bobbin. Press after topstitching.

Double Topstitching

DOUBLE TOPSTITCHING

Double topstitching adds even more definition to the lines of your garment. Always topstitch the most important side first. If the topstitching is holding the pocket in place or closing the opening on a waistband, that’s where the first row of stitching should be. Use the edge of your presser foot as a guide for sewing the second, decorative row of topstitching. Depending on the piece you’re topstitching, it may look better to turn the piece to sew the second row, rather than stopping and starting. Patch pockets are an example of when it’s better to sew the first row close to the pocket edge, then turn and sew a few stitches across the top of the pocket, then turn again to sew the second row of topstitching.

Topstitching with A Twin Needle

TOPSTITCHING WITH A TWIN NEEDLE

A twin needle sews two rows of stitching at once. It looks like two separate needles that are joined together at the top, and it fits into your sewing machine just like a regular needle. To sew with a twin needle, you will have two spools of thread on the top of your machine and one bobbin thread. Where do you put the second spool? If your machine doesn’t have a place to put it, let it sit in a mug or bowl. It will bounce around while the thread unrolls. Thread both threads together as you would normally, and when you reach the needle, thread one thread through each side of the needle.

Tips + Notes

  • Go slow. It’s not a race! No one will know how slowly you topstitched your seams, but everyone will know if it’s crooked or uneven. (OK, they might not notice, but you will!)
  • Unsure of your topstitching skills or thread color choice? Test on scrap fabric. Compare a couple of thread colors if your fabric is hard to match. Stitch a couple of rows with different colors of thread next to each other and pick your favorite.
  • Lighter thread colors can look shiny. Darker is better if you want the stitching to blend in.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine