How to Topstitch Like a Pro

All that precise topstitching can be the scariest part of jeansmaking. We share our best tips so you too can topstitch like a pro!

If you’re participating in #sewmystyle this month, then you are about to embark on jeansmaking — a landmark project in any apparel sewist’s sewing career.  While jeans are not difficult to construct, they do require precision, particularly with topstitching.  The possibility of wonky topstitching keeps some sewists from making jeans altogether!

Mac and I both have tackled jeans successfully many times, and know the satisfaction that comes from wearing a lovely pair of handmade jeans.  You don’t need to fear topstitching either!  We’re sharing our best tips so you can have beautiful topstitching too.

5 Tips to Topstitch Like a Pro

    Tip #1 — Take Your Time

    You can’t rush your way to nice jeans topstitching!  There are times during a sewing project when you can cut corners, but topstitching isn’t one of them.  Go slowly, take your time, and don’t be afraid to rip out and redo if your topstitching doesn’t look at nice as you want.  People won’t notice minor errors in most sewing projects, but even an untrained eye will see that something is off if your zip fly topstitching is wonky.  So take your time to do it right.

      Tip #2 — Invest in an Edgestitching Foot

      An edgestitching foot was an absolute game-changer for me when it came to jeans making!  If you’re not familiar with an edgestitching foot, it’s a foot for your sewing machine that has a metal guide against which you butt up your fabric to sew your seam.  On my Bernina, the metal guide runs down the middle, and then I shift my needle position to sew a line of edgestitching/topstitching 1/8″ away from the edge of the fabric.  The foot helps keep the line of stitching straight and even and looking beautiful.

        Tip #3 — Consider Using a Stretch Stitch

        It is incredibly frustrating and discouraging to put in the hours of work to make a beautiful pair of jeans with precise topstitching, only to have that topstitching pop when you sit down.  Trust me, I speak from experience.

        If you are using stretch denim and making a tigher pair of jeans like the Megan Nielsen Ash Jeans, you have to consider the stretch of the fabric when topstitching.  For that reason, I encourage you to consider using a stretch stitch for your topstitching — that way your stitching will stretch with you fabric and not pop when you sit down or put extra stress on that seam.

        My preferred topstitching method is to use regular thread and use a triple straight stitch for my topstitching.  This takes more time and thread since you are sewing each topstitched seam three times, but it’s incredibly strong, won’t break when you put stress on the seam, and you don’t have to change thread all the time since you can use the same thread for construction and topstitching.

        A lot of people like to use a chainstitch on a coverstitch machine as well.  Obviously, if you don’t have a coverstitch, the triple straight stitch is a better choice.  Whatever you choose, make sure your topstitching stretches with your fabric!

          Tip # 4 — Check your Thread Weight

          Not all topstitching thread is the same!  If you’re like me, you may choose to skip topstitching thread altogether and opt for standard weight thread with a triple straight stitch (see above).  

          But if you do choose to use topstitching thread, make sure you get the right stuff.  My machine hates thick topstitching thread, and I get all kinds of thread nests and broken seams because the tension is hard to get right.

          For jeansmaking, you may prefer to use jeans topstitching thread.  This thread is a little lighter weight than standard topstitching thread, but heavy enough to get you that nice contrasting stitch on your jeans.  Because it’s made specifically for jeansmaking, the color options are limited, but if you want a standard topstitching color, this may be a good option.

            Tip #5 — Do a Practice Run

            If you’re new to jeansmaking and jeans topstitching, do a practice run before tackling the topstitching on your jeans.  Take a few scraps of your fabric, and practice the various techniques you’re considering to see what works best for you.

            Make sure to practice on multiple layers of denim as well since you’ll likely be topstitching through at least 3 and possibly more layers of fabric.  Practice as much as you need to get the look you want and to get comfortable with the technique.  As with most things, practice makes perfect!

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