Topstitching jeans without topstitching thread


Good topstitching sets apart jeans that look professional from those that have that Becky Home-Ecky flair.  There’s lots of good tips out there about how to topstitch well, but today I’m writing about an aspect of topstitching that we often overlook–the thread.

There are a lot of good threads available to home sewists for topstitching that can give you good, professional looking results.  Coats and Clark makes Dual Duty Plus and Dual Duty XP threads,  Gutermann makes a nice topstitching thread and Wawak carries heavier Tex-60 and Tex 80 threads.  But there are times when you may not want to use topstitching thread.  Consider these scenarios:

  1. Weight: You want something with a lighter weight than topstitching thread
  2. Color Limitations: Heavy threads are not available in as many colors as regular thread
  3. Sewing Machine Difficulties:  Your sewing machine might not make a good stitch with topstitching thread, even with a bigger needle, increased top tension, and good guide feet that will make nice even rows.  If you have a vintage machine, you will not be acquainted with this problem, but a lot of modern machines have a hard time of it (my Janome’s only documented handicap is the inability to sew Gutermann topstitching thread).

Is it possible to get professional looking topstitching with regular construction thread?  Absolutely!  With all of these options, you’ll want to use regular thread in your bobbin.  Bobbins with heavy thread are no good for anyone unless you really like big nesty messes on the underside of your stitching.  Grab a couple of scraps and test out some of these ideas:


Option #1:  Use regular thread with a triple stitch.

A triple stitch is the stitch on your machine that looks like a straight stitch but has three rows.  Your machine will stitch each stitch 3 times (hence the clever name, “triple stitch”), so it will deposit 3X the thread for every stitch.  If you have a lighter weight thread in a color that you love, the triple stitch is a great choice.  topstitchtails

Pull slightly on your thread when you start a row of stitching to help keep the thread from skipping or nesting on the first few stitches.


Option #2: Use 2 different threads threaded through one needle + a straight stitch.

This will give you 2X the thread of a regular stitch, so you get a little more oomph in each stitch that will make up for the weight difference you’re missing out on by foregoing the topstitching thread.  The upside of this selection is that you can custom blend colors and end up with a unique effect you can’t get with the limited color range available in topstitching threads.

This is a nice choice when you want a lighter weight in your topstitching perhaps on a fabric less sturdy than denim like linen.


Option #3: Use 2 different threads threaded through one needle + a triple stitch

You get the benefits of both of the above options.  You can custom blend your colors and you’ll get a nice thick layer of stitching that’s comparable to some of the ultra heavy threads that you see used on jeans in RTW.  You’ll want to pull slightly on the thread as described in option 1 here too.

The downside is that the triple stitch does indeed take longer to sew, and if you don’t have a second machine you can dedicate for topstitching, it will take more time as you switch out thread and possibly needles and feet.  Do yourself a favor and keep all of your thread and feet in a little tray next to your machine so that you can keep everything organized.  This will make your thread changes as speedy as possible.

Whatever you decide on, you’ll be guaranteed to have a unique thread color that can make your project stand out and really be your own.  Have you topstitched jeans with regular thread before?


2 thoughts on “Topstitching jeans without topstitching thread

  1. The last 2 jeans-ish projects I made involved regular thread and triple stitching. I made some skinny jeans for myself and opted for grey topstitching to complement the denim, which had a metallic silver sheen to it. And I also made a denim baby romper with green topstitching to go with a dinosaur applique on it. It really does open up a lot of creative doors! I hadn’t thought of blending the colors with two different threads, though, so thank you for the tip. And I like the example you have above with the decorative border waistband.

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