Liana Jeans and Topstitching Tips & Tricks

Topstitching can make or break your handmade jeans! Katie shares her top three tips for beautiful topstitching. Don't miss it!

It’s basics month over here at Sew Altered Style as we prep for Me-Made May, and for me there is nothing more “basic” than a great pair of blue jeans.

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    Can you believe that I didn’t have handmade blue jeans in my wardrobe?? It was time to fix that.

    It’s been a few years since I went all-in for Me-Made May.  As in, committing to wear 100% handmade for the entire month.  Last year I purged most of my handmade wardrobe, and didn’t have anywhere near enough for a 100% commitment.  But since then I’ve focused on intentionally building my handmade wardrobe with pieces I love and will wear a lot.

      I wear jeans most days, so these are an essential in my closet.

      But I was still missing a pair of basic handmade skinny blue jeans.  It was nice to fill that hole with these Itch to Stitch Liana Jeans (aff) (read to the end for my review!).

      My love of jeansmaking is well-documented.  They may be my favorite thing to make — the fly, the pockets, the topstitching.  Ah yes, the topstitching!

        Topstitching really makes the jeans!

        I know jeans can be intimidating, particularly since the topstitching is so very visible.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share my favorite tips to get beautiful top stitching!

        Top 3 Tips for Beautiful Top stitching

          Tip 1: Skip the top stitching thread

          My first tip for great top stitching may be counter-intuitive — don’t use top stitching thread.  I have had handmade jeans literally fall apart while I was wearing them because my top stitching thread, or rather the bobbin thread, started breaking.

          Instead of top stitching thread, I use regular thread in my color of choice and use my machine’s triple stitch to get the thick line of stitching characteristic of jeans.  Most modern machines, even the most basic ones, have a triple stitch setting, sometimes called a straight stretch stitch.  On my Bernina 380, it’s the #6 stitch.

          An added benefit of using the triple stitch over a straight stitch is that it makes my seams so much stronger.  Not only do I have 3 lines of stitching on each seam rather than 1, but my seam stretches along with my stretch denim.  When jeans are drafted with some negative ease, like the Lianas or popular Ginger Jeans, it should come as no surprise that a basic straight stitch will eventually break.

          Tip 2: Invest in an Edgestitching Foot

          Bernina feet are notoriously expensive, but I have never regretted the $50 I spent on my #10 edgestitching foot.  Aside from my #1 all-purpose foot, this is far and away the most-used foot in my possession.

          An edgestitching foot has a metal guide that runs down the middle of the foot against which you line up your fabric to keep your lines of topstitching perfectly straight.  Move the needle position to the left or the right depending on what side you’re sewing on.  In addition to top stitching, an edgestitching foot is very handy for edgestitching of course, and it makes stitching in the ditch an absolute breeze.

          Tip 3: Take Your Time

          Getting beautiful top stitching is a marathon, not a sprint.  I always expect to spend 7-8 hours of sewing time making a pair of jeans, and then I’m pleasantly surprised if it’s less than that.

          Rushing through top stitching is the quickest way I know of to wonky seam.  Seam ripping is quite possibly my least favorite sewing task ever, so I happily spend an extra few minutes taking my time with the triple stitch rather than rushing through my top stitching.

          Pattern Review

          Liana Jeans

          I’ve made a lot of jeans in my day, and had tried most of the popular indie jeans patterns, but had never made the Itch to Stitch Liana jeans (aff).  Since I like to be able to give honest, informed opinions about popular patterns, I decided to remedy that.

            My Liana Jeans

            Pattern Description

            The Liana Jeans are an all-you-can-eat basic stretch jeans pattern.  It is drafted with a mid rise and options for skinny, straight and boot legs.

              My Body Measurements

              For a jeans pattern like the Lianas, the most relevant measurements are waist, hip and inseam.  My current waist measurement is 29″, hip is 39″, and my inseam for skinny jeans is about 28″ and 33″ for flares.

              Pattern Sizing

              The pattern runs pretty true to size.  My measurements put me squarely in a size 6, which is the size I made.  The fit is spot on all over, though I gave myself a little more room in the seat, a very common alteration for me.

              Pattern Alterations or Design Changes

              I didn’t have to make a lot of alterations to this pattern.  I have a slight swayback, so even though the Lianas have a curved waistband, it wasn’t curved enough.  I think I ended up taking an additional 3/4″ out of the top edge of the waistband (leaving the bottom as is), making it even more curved.  I also gave myself an additional 1/2″ or so of seat depth by adding that much at the crotch point of the back pattern piece.


              The instructions are great.  They use illustrations over photos, which I vastly prefer.  I’ve used a couple different zip fly methods, and the method included in the Liana is definitely my favorite.  Everyone is going to have their own opinion on this, but I get the best results with this method.

              Pattern Highlights:

              The options are definitely the highlight of this pattern. It comes with 3 different leg styles for any type of jeans you want.

              But the way the pattern is drafted is what I really love.  The pattern is drafted with the hip and crotch down to a couple of inches below the crotch point as one piece.  Then the legs are separate pieces that you tape to the top part as desired.  The nice thing about this set up is that you only have to fit the crotch curve once!

              Constructive Criticism

              This is a really nicely drafted pattern but I wish it had the knee marked on the leg piece. If you’ve ever delved into jeans fitting you know that if the thigh is even a little too long, it can cause major wrinkling all the way down the leg. A line showing where the knee is intended to hit would really help fix some of those issues before you even cut your fabric.

              It would also be nice to have another rise option included, particularly a high rise. But that’s getting really nit picky 😊


              This stretch denim is from Imagine Gnats (aff) and sadly it sold out long ago.  As soon as Rachael listed this mid-blue denim in her shop, I snapped up a couple of yards.  I’ve been looking for this shade of blue for some basic jeans for what feels like forever.  It can be really hard to find lighter wash denim, and I don’t like to bleach my fabrics as it tends to damage the integrity of the fabric.

              I’ve also purchased amazing denim from both Threadbare Fabrics and Fancy Tiger Crafts.

              Final Thoughts

              I would not hesitate to recommend this pattern.  It fits really well, the drafting and instructions are impeccable, and it has tons of options build in.

              – Katie

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