Get Threads magazine!

Give a Gift

Tips for Better Topstitching

Topstitching is as simple as sewing a straight stitch. However, since every stitch shows, fabric preparation, thread and needle choice, presser foot selection, and the proper technique are all critical to achieve a professional look.

Topstitching is defined as one or more rows of stitching visible from the garment's right side. Decorative and practical, this simple stitch has many uses. It holds fabric layers in place, such as seam allowances (this is often done with straight-stitched rows sewn on each side of the seam), facings (such as at the neckline), hems, collars, lapels, cuffs, pocket attachment, and so on. Topstitching adds texture and definition-similar to quilting, and gives decorative effects based on thread, stitch, and placement choices. Edgestitching is also topstitching that is sewn usually 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch from the edge.

With a little practice and the right tools, I'll show you how you can achieve stunning topstitching results.

The Tools You Use Make All the Difference
Use these supplies and stitching hints to create truly fine topstitching.

Fabrics with body work best
Select your fabric with topstitching in mind. Fabrics with body are easier to stitch accurately. However, other fabrics can be used with the appropriate stabilization and a stitch that is not elaborate.

  • Use starch or stabilizer to add body. Where appropriate (most wovens), use spray starch to make otherwise difficult-to-sew fabrics a breeze. You can also use interfacing or a removable stabilizer under tricky-to-sew areas. I often use one or more layers of lightweight, tear-away stabilizer.

  • Take the time to carefully press before starting. First, press the seam while it is still closed. This is called setting the seam. Then, press the seam allowances open, and end by pressing them in the final desired direction.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 > View all

Comments (9)

Ciyaa Ciyaa writes: Thank you for that informative post! such a great tips & super helpful…
Posted: 3:59 am on June 21st

Garlandy Garlandy writes: I am just learning to sew and I really appreciate this article! Thanks so much.
Posted: 11:30 am on July 12th

pbeesley pbeesley writes: Thank you for the tips!

Posted: 4:29 pm on July 16th

user-1112581 user-1112581 writes: This was very helpful, especially the note about the triple stitch.
Posted: 6:33 pm on June 3rd

user-3385447 user-3385447 writes: I too just learned about the twin needle. I like to use it for top stitching certain projects, especially when you wish to top stitch both sides of a flat seam. Sew once and both sides are done evenly.
Posted: 9:05 pm on May 9th

Nannysc Nannysc writes: An excellent group of tips! Thank you so much!
Posted: 7:38 am on July 12th

user-1127959 user-1127959 writes: I've never done any topstitching before but can't wait to try it now. As usual your information is invaluable.
Posted: 2:06 pm on July 11th

Sewista Sewista writes: Fabulous information. Ms. Ahles is the queen of "fine machine sewing".
Posted: 5:43 am on July 11th

Mamato8 Mamato8 writes: Once I discovered how well a twin needle works with hemming knits, my hems looks so much better! I wish I had known that earlier!

Yes, twin-needle hems can look very nice!
Posted: 1:19 am on July 11th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.