Sewing & Pattern making Terms


In the world of sewing and garment construction, topstitching is a valuable technique that adds both aesthetic appeal and functional strength to a finished piece. Seamstresses and pattern makers utilize topstitching to create visible, decorative stitches on the outside of a garment or to reinforce seams, edges, or details. Let’s dive into the art of topstitching and explore its significance in the world of sewing.

What is a Topstitch?

Topstitching refers to the visible stitching done on the top layer of fabric, typically using a straight stitch. It is distinct from regular stitching or seaming that connects two or more layers of fabric together. Topstitching can be found on a variety of garments, including jeans, jackets, shirts, dresses, and bags.

Purpose and Benefits

Topstitching serves both functional and decorative purposes in garment construction. From a functional standpoint, it strengthens seams and reinforces edges, preventing them from fraying or unraveling over time. Decoratively, it adds a professional touch, highlighting design elements, contours, or details, and can also be used to create interesting visual effects or contrast with the fabric.

Selecting the Right Thread and Needle

To achieve successful topstitching, it’s essential to choose appropriate thread and needle combinations. A slightly heavier thread than the one used for regular stitching is often preferred for added durability and visibility. Common options include all-purpose polyester or cotton threads, as well as topstitching-specific threads. Similarly, a needle with a larger eye and a sharp point, such as a topstitching needle or jeans needle, works well for smooth and even stitching.

Sewing Machine Settings and Techniques

Setting up your sewing machine correctly is crucial for achieving impeccable topstitching results. Consider the following factors:

  • Stitch Length: Opt for a longer stitch length, typically between 3.0 and 4.0 mm, to ensure that the stitches stand out.
  • Tension: Adjust the tension settings to maintain a balanced stitch formation. Test on a fabric scrap before starting your topstitching.
  • Presser Foot: Employ a regular presser foot or a specialized topstitching foot, often equipped with a center guide or a groove to facilitate straight and even stitching.
  • Marking Guidelines: Create guidelines on the fabric using chalk, tailor’s tape, or removable markers to maintain straight lines and uniformity.

Practical Applications of Topstitching

Topstitching can be employed in various ways to enhance different garment features. Some common applications include:

  • Seams: Reinforce straight and curved seams on garments, pockets, or collars for added strength and a polished finish.
  • Hems: Secure folded hems, giving them a clean, finished look while providing extra stability.
  • Edges and Facings: Enclose and stabilize raw edges or facings with a neat row of topstitching.
  • Decorative Elements: Embellish designs by using contrasting thread colors or decorative stitches to highlight specific details, such as pleats, darts, or decorative seams.


Topstitching is a versatile technique that adds functional strength and visual appeal to garments. By mastering this art, seamstresses can elevate the quality and aesthetics of their creations. Understanding the purpose, selecting suitable materials and employing proper sewing machine settings are all vital steps towards achieving impeccable topstitching results. So, embrace the art of topstitching and enjoy the satisfaction of creating beautifully finished garments.

Got Questions?

Melissa Villegas
Pattern Maker &


Melissa Portrait

Villegas Patterns

Recent Patterns

Need A Tutorial?

For detailed and in-depth instructions, watch my pattern tutorials on YouTube