12 September 2018

Ten Tips for Tip Top Topstitching

Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons

Have you ever struggled with topstitching? All topstitching is is stitching that shows on the right side (outside) of your clothes, which sounds simple enough... However it can be fiddly to get the stitches looking neat and, if you're using dedicated topstitch thread, you may have experienced skipped stitches, unbalanced thread tension and clumpy thread knots.

Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons
Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons

The simplest way to avoid topstitching woes is to use regular thread that matches the colour of your fabric, so it's only visible up close. No, that's not cheating! 

But if you want to make a feature of contrast topstitch thread, I'm here to share a video with my top ten tips for getting your topstitching looking top notch. I hope this will help make your topstitching a breeze. These little tricks definitely make it easier to get it looking neat :)

This video is an extract from my online workshop, Sew Your Own Shirt or Shirt Dress, in which I guide you step-by-step through making the Rosa pattern. The tips should be useful for whatever you're topstitching though - you can also use them for making the Cleo dungaree dress, Mila dungarees, or a pattern we have coming this Autumn ;)

Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons
Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons

To summarise the video:

  1. Try a topstitch or embroidery needle in your machine, and make sure it’s sharp.
  2. Use topstitch thread as your spool only (on top of your machine), with regular thread that matches your fabric in the bobbin.
  3. Lengthen the stitches to 3 or 3.5mm to create a straighter-looking line.
  4. Press well before topstitching to flatten out the seams.
  5. Sew with the garment right sides up so the topstitch thread ends up on the outside!
  6. Stabilise lightweight or drapey fabrics with spray starch or by sewing with a layer of tissue paper under the seam.
  7. Try using an edgestitch foot to sew (edgestitch) the row closest to the seam. Or shift the needle to one side if you can do that on your machine, and keep the seam lined up with the centre of the presser foot.
  8. Avoid back tacking. On seams that won’t be crossed, leave loose tails of thread. Then tug the bobbin thread to pull a loop of topstitch thread to the wrong side, and tie the threads in a double knot by hand.
  9. If you need to unpick, rip out the bobbin thread on the wrong side and pull the thicker topstitch thread out as a single thread.
  10. Finish with a good steamy press!
Ten Tips for Topstitching - Tilly and the Buttons

I hope this helps. As always, if you have your own tips to add, do share them in the comments below. There's always more to learn!



  1. Thank you for a nicely detailed video on top stitching.

  2. Great explanation! I pinned it. Phttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/257690409914421251/lease let me know if you'd like me to remove it.
    Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage,
    Do drop in and say hello!

  3. Thank you for the tips. I love top stitching and am always looking for improvements.

  4. can you recommend a sewing machine that can cope with topstitching through all those layers of denim? mine is struggling!

  5. Earlier this year I bought a Bernina 770QE. It sees through several layers of denim with ease - I tried it out in the shop before I bought the machine - and it has a foot with a guide so your top stitching is perfect. Its not a cheap machine but if you do a lot if sewing it's worth every penny and there are other models which are cheaper. My advice is try out machines in the shop and take your own fabric to try out. I sewed a crossed French seam on heavy denim and head no problem with sewing it on the Bernina.

    1. Sorry there's a few typos! First line - sews not sees, third line of not if, last line had not head.

  6. This is really helpful article and vedio. I love the fact that I’ve never seen beautiful way of sewing denim.

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