Top-stitching is a really handy technique, especially for sewing projects like a tote or any other sort of bag. But you might be wondering why it’s called “top-stitching” if you happen to be doing it on the bottom of the bag! I like to think of top-stitching as anything that is on the “top” or exterior of the bag that other people can see. General sewing or “stitching” happens inside the bag, usually on the wrong sides of the fabric, and no one ever sees those stitches.
Top-Stitching Tips for Sewing
Whew. Now we have that cleared up!
Now that you know everyone in the world is going to see your top-stitching, I bet you are really feeling the pressure! Don’t worry—here are several methods for how to top stitch, and some hints to help it go well.
Use a long stitch length. When you top-stitch, change your stitch length from the general sewing length (usually 2.5) to 3 or 3.5. It is a bit easier to make a straight line if you have longer stitches. This is very similar to, let’s say, running! Let’s say we have painted the bottom of your shoes in paint, and had you walk 100 feet. As you are walking, you slowly drift from left to right just a bit as you walk. This makes a slightly wobbly line (if we connected the prints of your left shoe, let’s say). But, if we had you complete the same exercise while running, because you had a longer stride, the line would be straighter! Plus, a longer stitch length looks much more professional.
Use a little speed. Let’s take you out of your running shoes and into your car. When you are stuck in traffic on the highway, rolling along at 1 mile an hour (groan), you find yourself correcting right and left quite a bit. It’s hard to go straight at such a slow speed! If we had paint on your wheels, it would be all over the road! But, put paint on your tires and send you down the highway at 70 mph—your tire tracks would be much straighter. The same is true with sewing. Now, I don’t mean for you to floor it and go as fast as possible (you will learn that too much speed can affect your stitch length!), but definitely move past the snail pace.
Use a zipper foot. If you put a zipper foot on your machine, then you can very easily see the edge of the fabric. The thing I like most about top-stitching with the zipper foot is, unlike the regular foot, you can see the entire edge of what you are sewing next to. The downside is that you don’t really have a good spot to line up the edge of your fabric with—you need to eyeball it a bit as you are going along to make sure that the distance between your needle and the edge of the fabric remains the same.
Move your needle. If you are using a regular foot, move your needle all the way to the right and line up the edge of your foot with the edge you are sewing along for a perfect distance the entire way.
If you cannot move your needle to the right (which some machines, such as the ones I sew on, do not offer), then move it to the left and send your fabric right down the middle of your foot.
Any way you do it, the top-stitching on a project is what gives it the detail that takes it from homemade to handmade. Happy sewing!