How to make a top stitch? Easy tutorial

Top stitch is one of the most used stitches in sewing, especially in making clothes and purses or bags, where its use is a dazzling detail.

Basically, any visible stitching done a short distance from the edge of a fabric fold or seam line made from the top of the fabric is topstitching.

However, there are those who fear this stitch, and not because it is not easy to do, but because if the topstitching is irregular, it will make the garment look bad.

In this article, we will talk about what topstitch is, how to do it and I will give you some tips and tricks that I have been acquiring in my practice.

Read on to learn about topstitch!

Top stitch: what is it and how to do it?

If you are a beginner in the sewing world, you have surely heard about top stitch and I assure you that you have come to the right place to learn what is a top stitch.

The top stitch is a decorative stitch on the outside of a garment or article, but it also has some functions:

  • Holds facings
  • Closes gaps from turning the right way out
  • Strengthens seams
  • Holds seams in place so they sit flatter
How to make a top stitch

If you’re wondering what stitching looks like on a garment, you can take a look at any denim items you have in your closet.

There you can see that the key feature of the jeans is the stitching and they are used throughout their construction. Topstitch is the thread that runs through seams, pockets, and edges.

A top stitch is made so that it is visible from the face of a garment – so you want a thread that will stand out, not blend in.

For example, jeans use a different color of thread (white, brown, orange) to contrast with the denim. But if you are a beginner I advise you to use a thread of the color of the fabric so that the imperfections are not visible.

What do I need to make a top stitch?

  • Sewing machine
  • Thread (you can use regular thread or buy topstitch thread)
  • Needle (if you use topstitch thread you will need a topstitch needle, if you use regular thread with the normal needle you will be fine)
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pencil or chalk
  • Ruler

How to top stitch?

Topstitch is done with a straight stitch and can be done with your regular (all-purpose) sewing machine foot.

If you need to practice this stitch, I recommend that you make a straight line on a fabric with the help of a ruler to follow the pattern with the sewing machine seam.

How to make a top stitch with a sewing machine_


  • Step 1

    Choose the fabric you have to top stitch.

    If possible, choose a sturdy fabric, such as denim, cotton, wool, canvas, or linen, so it doesn’t slip or stretch.

    If necessary, iron the fabric before sewing to obtain flat seams and neat stitches.

  • Step 2

    Choose the thread, needle and presser foot that you will use for sewing. For this step you can take into account some of the tips that are below the instructions.

  • Step 3

    Set up your sewing machine. Select the straight stitch setting for simple lines and increase the stitch length by 3.0 or 4.0.

  • Step 4

    Place the fabric under the presser foot right side up (print or outside).

  • Step 5

    Press the pedal evenly and smoothly. Sewing a top stitch too quickly can cause messy seams, wrinkles, or knots on the back of the fabric.

  • Step 6

    After finishing the top stitch, use scissors to cut off the excess thread.

How to top stitch by hand?

If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can do the topstitching by hand without any problem. I recommend that you mark a straight line on the fabric with a pencil or chalk to serve as a guide.

It is done from right to left. Insert the needle from the bottom up to hide the thread knot on the inside of the fabric, leave a gap of 2-3mm, and insert the needle again from the bottom up. Continue like this until you reach the desired seam length.

You can learn another easy top stitch technique by clicking here: How to do running stitch‘.

Some tips and tricks to keep in mind

  • A top stitch is always made slightly longer than the seam, so you will need to increase the stitch length for the top stitch. For example, if you are sewing with a stitch length of 2.5, increase to 3.0 or 4.0 for the top stitch.
  • There is a special topstitch thread, you can easily get it at any store. This thread is a bit thicker than regular thread, which gives the sewing a professional look.
  • If you are a beginner, use a thread that is the color of the fabric to avoid showing some mistakes, or you can draw guidelines on the fabric with chalk and a ruler to help you create straight lines.
  • The presser foot can be an all-purpose one. However, there are those who prefer to use a specific, straight or even transparent presser foot.
  • If you’re using regular sewing thread, a regular needle will work fine. But if you are using a topstitching thread, you will need to use a special topstitching needle as it has a larger eye so that the thread does not snag.
  • Always keep an eye on the edge while sewing so as not to deviate from the straight stitch.
  • Don’t be in a hurry when stitching: sew slowly and patiently keeping an even rhythm, neither too slow nor too fast.

Top stitch is basic and easy!

There are no excuses for not learning how to sew! With just a few basic stitches you can fix or create any project you have in mind. Remember to practice in order to improve day by day.