What Is Topstitching

Top Stitching is a popular sewing technique that is commonly used to stitch garment edges like necklines and hems. This is a visible sewing stitch that is meant to be noticeable and is preferred for the decorative touch that it adds to a fabric. There are various designs that are used to create a topstitch and you can do it both by hand and a sewing machine. Do you need to be a pro at sewing to topstitch a fabric? Well, you will atleast need some basic understanding of sewing and how to use a sewing machine. 

What Is Topstitching?

Top stitching is also known as edge stitching and can be used on all fabrics, from wearables to soft toys and everything else in between. You can easily find top stitching on denims where it is used to create decorative edges. Pick up your denim pants and notice a different colored thread used on it. This is a top stitch that has been used to beautify the edges and comes with a number of benefits. Let’s learn all about it in the following content. 

What Is Topstitching Used For?

Topstitching is the stitch that is visible on the garment’s right side. This is why every topstitch has to be perfect in terms of thread selection, the needle choice, type of base fabric and the presser foot selection. You will have to do it right to achieve a neat look. 

Topstitch is a decorative and practical stitch that holds fabric layers in place like seam allowances, cuffs, hems, collars, lapels and even the pocket attachment. It is very common to do more than one row of topstitching to get the right texture and effect. When done right, topstitching can be stunning but you need a lot of practice to keep your stitches in line and learn the nuances like picking the thread color for your fabric and a design that will do justice to the garment. 

How to Topstitch by Hand?

Topstitching by hand is a great option for times when you want to create designs that cannot be created with a machine. Hand stitching is a tedious process and will require extra patience from you but the result is equally gratifying. Read on to find out how you can do a simple top-stitch with your hand. 

  • Place a hoop around the place where you would like to topstitch. A hoop ensures that your fabric doesn’t crumple at unwanted places. 
  • Draw your design even if you are stitching a straight line, draw it using a pencil or a tailor’s chalk.
  • Thread your needle with your chosen thread and tie a knot at the end.
  • Start sewing from the back of the fabric (wrong side of the fabric), so that the knot stays hidden. 
  • On the right side of the fabric, push down the needle and the thread at a distance from where you came out. Pull the whole thread. 
  • Now come back up, from right next to the point where you went down. Come back up at the same distance as the last stitch. 
  • Once you reach the end of line, tie a knot on the wrong side of the fabric and cut it. 
  • Before you tie the knot check to ensure that your stitches do not look too loose or too tight. 

What is Topstitching Thread?

Topstitching thread is the thread used to execute a topstitch on a fabric. There is a lot that goes into the selection of the right type and color of the stitch. You have to pick your thread based on the base fabric type and the finished look that you want. For subtle topstitching, go for a regular thread in the same color as the fabric. For more visibility, you will have to choose a heavier thread along with a contrasting shade so that your stitches stand out from the fabric. 

For fabrics like knits, you can go with a polyester thread which provides both strength and stretch. Polyester thread can survive tough wear and washing. You can use any thread for woven fabrics based on how the fabric is going to be used. 

Always remember that your thread cannot be heavier than the fabric. You can also experiment by threading two different colored threads in the needle but this will require a needle with a large eye or a topstitching needle. Two different colored threads can create a beautiful topstitch pattern by alternating the color of the stitches. Topstitching can also be done on embroidery projects, appliqueing as well as quilting with the right selection of threads. 

Which Needle is Used for Topstitching?

Topstitching needle is chosen based on the type of fabric as well as the thread. Experts suggest that you should always use a new needle for topstitching to avoid skipped or pulled stitches that do not look nice. Here is a list of needles that can be used for topstitching.


  • Universal Needles 


Universal needles are the most commonly used needles that are generally used for various purposes. You can go with a universal needle if your fabric is simple and does not call for a special aid. 


  • Sharp Pointed Needles


Sharp pointed needles are perfect to be used on woven fabrics. These needles make precise stitches but they may leave holes or snag the material when used with knits. 


  • Topstitching Needles 


Topstitching needles are manufactured for the sole purpose of topstitching. They have a long eye that accommodates thicker thread and the needle is sharp enough to easily glide through most fabrics. 


  • Embroidery Needles


Embroidery needles are apt for topstitching with their wider eye and a sharp tip. These needles easily accommodate decorative threads and can be with both woven fabrics and knit fabrics.


  • Denim Needles


These are sturdy needles that are designed to penetrate thick woven materials like denim. They have a wider eye, so you have a choice to go with thicker threads. 


  • Twin Needles


Twin needles create two parallel lines of topstitching. They create a zigzag pattern on the wrong side of the fabric. With twin needles, your parallel lines stay parallel throughout and make for a neat look.  Twin needles are good for hemming knit fabrics. 

Which Stitches are Best for Topstitching?

Topstitching is all about looking fancy while holding the seams and other important parts of a cloth together. Therefore, you have to consider both the looks as well as the strength of the stitch you choose. Some of the popular topstitch designs are running stitch, zigzag stitch, serpentine stitch, cable stitch, rosette stitch, chevron stitch and fern stitch. 

You can choose any of the stitches you want but do remember that you will need some amount of expertise to execute complicated stitches both by hand and by machine. If you are using a sewing machine for your design, you will also have to check its availability in your machine. Following are some of the stitching patterns that will dramatically change the appearance of your topstitch. 


  • Straight Stitch


A straight stitch is nothing but a seaming stitch but a little longer in size. Use a contrast colored embroidery thread to straight stitch on your fabric for a delightful design and neat finish. You can use this topstitch on necklines, cuffs and the hems of a dress.


  • Triple Stitch


A triple stitch can help you create a straight stitch with a simple thread. This stitch is created by making three rows of stitches very close to each other. It looks like a straight stitch created with an embroidery thread. 


  • Decorative Stitches


You can make a number of decorative stitches using an embroidery machine. These stitches make for beautiful topstitching with light weight threads. You can use decorative stitches to design necklines, pockets and more. Use a contrasting thread color to make your design clearly visible on the fabric. 

Topstitch takes you one step ahead in your sewing journey. With this stitch you arrive at the decorative aspect of stitching, that lets you decorate your handiwork using different colors and beautiful designs. Topstitching is simpler than other decorative processes like appliqueing which need excellent sewing capabilities and a deeper understanding of fabrics, threads and needles.



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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