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?

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Jordan Jacket – Progress Report 1

Slowly, but surely – that’s the way I’d describe my progress on the Jordan jacket. In the last couple of weeks I have concentrated mostly on sewing the pockets for the jacket.

The upper pockets were fiddly, but only because I cut the pocket flaps so that the helicopters match and then had to sew them exactly in place so that the helicopter synchronously moved in a right to left direction.

I was very pleased with how the single welt pockets came together too. When I first received this pattern in the post, I perused the instructions sheets while dreaming of my yet-to-be-made jacket. Does anyone else out there, read the sewing instructions for fun on the train, or am I just weird? Anyway, I digress. When I first saw the instructions all I noticed were the hand-drawn sketches and somehow my techie side just thought that they were quaint and old-fashioned. But now I’ve been using the instructions, I can’t praise them enough! Just nothing, and I mean nothing is left to chance. They are a complete breeze to follow. I really liked the use of freezer paper to help transfer the pocket placement marks onto the fabric. In fact, it made things so easy that I did used the method on both sides of the jacket in exactly the same way, even though the instructions suggested that it wasn’t necessary.

So here are some pictures of the beautiful pockets:


This is definitely a summer jacket, so at least I’m not trying to rush it in order to wear it. Even so, I’m desperately trying not to get impatient with my progress. It’s probably the most complex thing I’ve sewn and don’t I know it!

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Finding my feet

It’s not often I manage to make a pun out of my post title, but this title is quite apt. I’ve been hunting around recently for more feet for my sewing machine. My machine is an old Singer which uses screw-on feet and I’ve discovered more specialised feet are tricky to find. I have a standard foot, an adjustable zipper foot and the Swiss zig-zagger (can be used as a walking foot), but that is all I have.

On my recent Grainline Moss Skirt I added flat fell seams, to make it look even more like a “jeans skirt”, but I didn’t have the courage to top-stitch the seams in a contrasting colour, like I would have liked. My top-stitching was all done my eye and although it isn’t awful, I know there are tools out there that could help make this job easier and neater. So my search for an appropriate foot was started.

The Simple Seamstress, Kelsey, made a great suggestion with the edge-joining foot, but finding a foot that fitted my sewing machine proved a little difficult.

First of all, I bought a screw-on presser foot holder. This basically is an adapter so that you can use snap-on feet with my machine. I thought this was great until I ordered a snap-on foot and discovered it didn’t actually snap on. It seems not all snap-on feet have the same fitting and my adapter was compatible with only the narrow fitting.

Snap on foot

I then spent an enormous amount of time surfing the internet, using different searches for top-stitching feet, edge-joining feet, quilting feet and checking each, as far as I could tell, for its compatibility with my machine. Finally I seem to have found the foot I was looking for:

It is a screw-on foot and it is described as an “overlocking edging foot”. There are no instructions with my purchase, but it looks like all the edge-joining feet I’ve seen.

Edge Joining foot - screw on

Here’s my first attempt at using the foot for a bit of top-stitching. I lined the blade up against the seam edge and the edge of the fabric and it held my stitching straighter in each case. Of course, I think it will be a far more obvious effect when the seams or edges are longer.

Edge Joining foot - use

Are there any feet you’ve invested in recently? Did you find them such a pain to find?