How To Topstitch By Hand

Sewing has many aspects attached to it. It’s not just about attaching two pieces of fabric together or repairing a torn fabric. There is a lot you can do to decorate your fabrics using different types of stitches and sewing techniques. Topstitch is one of the decorative stitching methods that also helps in reinforcing the edges and seams. This technique needs a lot of practice because it is done on the right of the fabric, so you won’t be able to hide your mistakes. 

Topstitching can be done both by hand and a sewing machine. It needs a lot of practice to execute a topstitch by hand or a sewing machine but it definitely takes more time to finish with hand. Any procedure when done with hand calls for more time and patience for obvious reasons but it pays back for the time and efforts with finesse and a proper control of the stitches. Let’s learn how to top stitch by hand and become a pro by taking care of some nuances.

How to Topstitch by Hand?

Topstitch by Hand

Let’s understand a simple method of topstitching by hand.

  • Cut the thread as long as your arm, and thread it into a sharp needle. Tie a knot at one end and get ready to start sewing.
  • Push the needle from the wrong side of the back to the top. Pierce the needle about ¼ inch from the fabric edge. Pull out the thread completely. 
  • Make a backstitch of ¼ inch and then come back to the top. 
  • Sew in a straight line to cover the whole distance on the fabric. Keep a distance of ¼ inch between the stitches. 
  • It will help you if you mark where you want to stitch with a pencil or a water-soluble pen. Even if you are sewing in a straight line, draw it beforehand so that your lines remain straight throughout the project. 
  • When you reach the end of line, make a backstitch and tie a knot to prevent your project from unraveling. Your simple top stitch is done.

What is a Topstitch By Hand?

Topstitch by Hand

Top Stitch is a decorative stitch that offers a well-tailored look to a fabric. There are also a number of functional uses of top stitch, like it reinforces the seam stitching, it provides structure to thin fabrics, it also holds layers of fabric together and it can attach decorations to the main fabric. 

The point is, this is a stitch that multitasks while looking beautiful on the surface. There are a number of stylish and beautiful top stitches that are chosen to further glam up your fabric. 

Where is the Topstitch used on a Cloth?

Topstitch by Hand

There are multiple places where the topstitch comes in handy. They are:

  • Pant inseam
  • Either side of seam line on the waist
  • Collar edges
  • Pocket edges
  • Skirt waistband
  • Neckline
  • Hems
  • Elastic waistbands 

Which Thread is Good for Topstitching?

Topstitch by Hand

A topstitch is made on the top, so that it is visible to everyone and adds up the beauty and neatness of a fabric. So, what you need for a topstitch is a thread that will pop out of its background. Can you imagine a beautiful flower shaped topstitch completely blended in its background? No, right. It is very common and justified to choose a contrasting shade like white or orange to create a topstitch on say a blue denim pants.

You can buy the special topstitch thread to do the job for you. This thread is heavier than the normal sewing thread and sits nicely on the cloth. A topstitch thread needs a bigger needle with a wider eye because it is quite difficult to thread in a regular needle. 

For dramatic effects, you can use two spools of sewing thread on your machine. You will have to thread your needle with two threads which will result in a heavier two thread stitch. It is important to use a normal bobbin thread at all times. 

How to Make a Perfect Topstitch?

Topstitch by Hand

Topstitch feels like the simplest stitch because it is made on top of the fabric and you can see how you’re sewing but this very point is what makes topstitching equal parts tricky. You cannot have a wonky top stitch, no imbalance in stitching and no back stitch to help you anchor the thread at the beginning and the end of the stitching. Here are a few tips that will help you enjoy a professional looking, classy, perfect top stitch. 


  • Always Topstitch at the End


Do not rush to topstitch your garment. Wait patiently to complete the whole garment and also check for fitting. This is because topstitch is generally done at the end of the fabric and if there is a change in fitting, you may lose your design in the seams or may have to cut it if it’s extra. So, topstitch on a finished garment or fabric.


  • Prepare your Fabric


A thin/flimsy fabric is difficult to topstitch. Prepare it for the process by adding an interface or apply start to it to stiffen the fabric. Similarly, if you have to topstitch on a curved seam, ensure that the seam is clipped or trimmed. Iron the area around the seam to flatten out wrinkles. 


  • Be Mindful of your Stitch Length


A top stitch is longer than the usual seam stitch. This makes it clearly visible and adds up the looks. So, increase the length of your topstitch and enjoy the finish.


  • Invest in a Clear Straight Stitch Foot


Since a topstitch is for all to see, you should consider investing in a clean straight stitch foot. This functions like a usual sewing foot. The only difference is you can see where you are going and will help you do the topstitch right from the very first attempt.


  • Avoid Back Stitching with Machine


If you are using a machine to topstitch, do not do back stitch for the anchor stitch. Instead, decrease the stitch length to zero and stitch in place to anchor the thread. One or two stitches will be enough. You can do the same at the end of your top stitch. With this step, you will avoid the ugly back stitches that will be otherwise visible on your fabric.


  • Make your Stitches Perfect


No matter which stitch you use for topstitch, you have to make it perfectly. To perfect your stitches, adjust your sewing machine tension. This will ensure that your bobbin thread does not show up on the top, a bobbin thread of a different color that shows up on the right side of the fabric spells disaster in terms of top stitching.


  • Perfect your Straight Stitch


You should not attempt a topstitch without a good practice of straight stitch. If you can’t get your stitches straight, you won’t have a good topstitch. So, make sure to practice on a waste cloth before attempting on an important piece of fabric. 

Are Topstitching and Edge Stitching the Same?

No, they are not the same, there is a slight difference between the two. Edge stitching is done at the absolute edge of the fabric while topstitching is done a small distance away from the edge. Topstitching is mostly done for aesthetic purposes while the edge stitching is done for practical purposes. It is very common though to address top stitching as edge stitching and a vice-a-verse.

How to Do a Double Needle Topstitch?

A double needle topstitch gives you a neat topstitch, with two parallel lines. In order to achieve that, you will have to replace the needle foot of your sewing machine with a double needle foot. You will also need two different threads. 

A twin needle makes two parallel straight stitches while reinforcing the seams. This method is best for knit fabrics where double stitches reinforce the edge and help in avoiding the wavy look.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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