Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the joy of top stitching

What says home sewn to you? To my sister Miriam, it means collars with too heavy interfacing and wonky top-stitching. I was reminded of that as I was working on my coat.

I love top stitching, I really do. I love it so much I have set up my ole faithful Janome as a permanent top stitcher with 6 mm presser guide foot, a top stitching needle and thread.

So imagine my thrill to come across a 2 page spread on top stitching in "High Fashion Sewing Secrets," by Claire Shaeffer, on kind loan from Jenni from across the road.

Now let me share her wisdom in brief:

Use small stitches, it looks less wonky.
Sew right side up.
Fill your bobbin before you start so you can sew the whole thing without breaking anywhere.
Always stitch slowly.

Thanks Claire! Now go on, tell me, what says "home sewn, but not in a good way," to you?

post editing note:

I forgot to add that Claire also endeared herself to me by saying that even the best couture houses have trouble keep their top stitching straight and she shows a darling picture of a Chanel collar with wonky top stitching.

In her page of advice, she didn't say, "don't drink and top stitch," but I think she should have.


  1. Looks good. I have trouble with the thicker thread jamming up. I use a cordonnet needle. I'm interested in finding out more about the 6mm presser foot. Exactly what is this and what is it aiming to do?

  2. That's some pretty darn neat looking top stitching, Mary Nanna :-) Does this mean we'll be seeing the finished item very soon?


  3. Home sewn in a bad way? Let me think over many of the things I've made and make you a list of misdemeanors:
    Thread that doesn't match because it was good enough and I was too cheap to go get the right colour.
    Almost every button hole I've ever done. I now studiously avoid garments with buttonholes. Yes it does exclude rather a lot.
    Wonky hems. Shirt fronts that aren't the same length. Elastic waists.
    I think I'll stop there before I have no sewing dignity left.

  4. Well Gail, it's a special foot that has a little guiding metal plate on the side that helps you feed your fabric in exactly 6 mm from your needle. It's mainly used by quilters but comes in handy for topstitchers like myself. Strongly recommend purchasing of specific top stitching needles which have a larger eye for the thicker thread.

    Jenni across the road. No, still some time away, but every time I think, will I make my blog readers suffer through more minutae of my trench journey and suddenly I get fascinated by something and before you know it we have another post! Maybe by the end of the weekend?

    Miss Smith - you know your sewing journey has been filled with as many misdemeanors as my own but the stuff you've made of late has been beautifully sewn.

  5. Uuhhmmm... I dedicated a blog entirely on why my clothes look home sewn and why I'm not ashamed of it.

    My recently-finished Kwik Sew tunic still has most of the gathering stitches showing right above the sleeves' bands. I've already worn it in public several times.

    My backstitch stitches are often noticeable.

    I use the lightning bolt stitch to finish the hems on my knits. I don't use my coverstitch. I'd rather have a stash of fabric than thread.

    And I happen to like making clothes from quilters' cottons.

    I do have one or two exceptions.

    1. Interfacing's orange peel effect on fabric is not a misdemeanor, it's a felony, punishable by serious upper lip curling even by those who have no idea what interfacing is.

    2. Pointy darts. Like, "Is that a third nipple?"

    3. The lavish use of bargain trims.

    4. Dull collar points from the result of improper or clueless use of a point turner, and similarly, irregular looking curved edges due to neglecting to trim the seam allowances properly.

    5. Invisible zips that ride the center back like a county fair roller coaster.

    Oh, I didn't realize I was already at five.

  6. Looking pretty perfecto. I have some topstitching threads but nothing to use them on yet... Ah the blankie jacket, yes, it's cut out and waiting patiently for me to get my A into G.

  7. Guilty your honour, I plead guilty to misdemeanors 2 and 4 on a regular basis. In fact so guilty I am going to have to ask what a point turner is.

  8. You know, home sewn works for me. Lots of RTW is not done well, so much of the handmade stuff I see is better than what one can find in stores.

    I have a hard time with "DIY", which is a whole different animal to me, when DIY takes on a sinister cast:

    * inexpensive does not have to equal cheap or bad quality
    * quick/ fast does not have to be sloppy
    * deconstructed does not have to look like someone went at the fabric with garden shears
    * DIY style does not have to imply that only a 20-year-old would wear it

  9. I need definite practice with my topstitching. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Your topstitching is PERFECT. It's my favourite thing t do too and I always notice it on garments.
    I'm actually surprised to hear that Clare Schaeffer recommends short stitches... cos I'd read that you should use LONGER than average stitch length.

    BTW, I didn't notice your third nipple till you pointed it out ;o)

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