How to Topstitch by Hand

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Topstitch by hand with a needle and thread.
Topstitch by hand with a needle and thread. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Topstitching is a line of stitching on the outside of a garment that either can be solely decorative or both decorative and functional in helping to reinforce a seam. Although topstitching with a sewing machine is much quicker and often results in a more even appearance, some people prefer the look of topstitching done by hand. Hand topstitching generally is done using a saddle stitch and decorative topstitching thread.

Things You'll Need

  • Needle
  • Topstitching thread

Cut a length of topstitching thread that is approximately as long as your arm and thread it through a sharp needle. Tie one end of the thread in a knot large enough so that it won’t pull through the fabric when you begin sewing.

Bring the needle through from the wrong side to the right side of the fabric about 1/4 inch from the edge, making sure that the knot in the end of the thread is not able to come through the hole made by the needle.

Make a 1/4-inch backstitch, then bring the needle back up to the right side of the fabric. Begin to sew a straight line of stitching, making each stitch approximately 1/4-inch-long with 1/4-inch spaces between stitches. It may be helpful to use a water-soluble pen to mark every 1/4-inch before you begin sewing to keep your stitches even.

Backstitch again and tie a knot in the opposite end of the thread when you’ve finished your line of topstitching. This will prevent the work from unraveling.

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