Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Tips for Accurate Top-stitching


I am a great fan of top-stitching, there’s no denying it! It is just one of those techniques that just adds a certain pizazz to the garment I’m sewing and elevates a boring make into something more interesting.

For my top-stitching I usually use “top-stitch” thread like this Gutermanns thread. The thread is extra thick and is available in many different colours; great for selecting a contrasting or matching thread for your garment.


The only drawback is that it is harder to thread the machine needle with this thicker thread. I usually use a jeans needle or another heavy-duty needle when top-stitching. Apparently, there are specialist top-stitching needles that have bigger eyes. Has anyone else tried these?

I increase my stitch length usually to “6” or “7”, which is the maximum stitch length on my machine . Sometimes I wish my machine could do longer stitches – lots of RTW jeans have quite long stitches.

The biggest problem with top-stitching is that it is very visible. Every single wobble you make is there for all the world to see. I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve found useful on keeping the top-stitching looking good.

Unfortunately, my sewing machine, an old Singer 348 didn’t reach me with any feet other than its standard foot. I have spent a long time trying to locate new feet for it, but with limited success. I now have an adjustable zipper foot and also this “overlocking edging foot” foot. I find this foot very handy for doing my top-stitching on straight lines. I can line up the guide with the edge of the seam and it is so much easier to sew a straight line when you have an edge guide.


For my denim Viale skirt, I topstitched semi-circles on the front and back of the skirt. To get this effect I used freezer paper as a guide line.

1. Create a freezer paper template from the semi-circle on the front pattern piece


2. Place the freezer paper onto the Skirt Front. Press the freezer paper onto the skirt with a hot setting. The freezer paper adheres to the fabric.


3. Thread your machine with top-stitch thread and use the standard foot.

4. Stitch around the freezer paper template using the paper as a guide.


Many of the horror stories I’ve read online about top-stitching detail problems with skipped stitches and machines that can’t cope with bulky seams. I will thoroughly admit that I’m no expert in this respect, my old Singer makes light work of sewing through multiple layers and doesn’t tend get stuck on bulky seams. I feel rather blessed with my machine – are old machines are more adept at this sort of work?

Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

3 thoughts on “Tips for Accurate Top-stitching

  1. I have used jeans needles and top stitching needles. I found little difference between the two, but then I was sewing on denim with both and got tired of changing needles and just used the jeans needle only. I also use sewing machine feet to help me – my 1/4″ foot and my edge foot. It makes it so easy! You have a good description of the process here!

  2. The full metal bodies are built different I think, having used a full metal Singer Stylist for years to sew, and when it eventually died after a long life (40 years!) I bought a new brother machine that is all plastic and has all the fancy stitches. It’s crap for thick seams, and makes me want to get an industrial machine or something old that can sew top stitching on denim jeans pockets. I have learned tricks to make it work, but I don’t like tricks. I like clean, easy topstitching and do it often!

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