How to Topstitch & Edgestitch

In this article, you will learn the rules to pretty topstitching; how to edgestitch and topstitch with a blindhem and quarter-inch presser feet, respectively; and how to make a bold statement with your topstitching.

Topstitching and edgestitching are the fraternal twins of machine stitches.

They are essentially the same with one simple distinction…

You topstitch ¼ inch from the fold or edge while you edgestitch ⅛ or less from the fold or edge.

Whichever you choose, both stitches can be simultaneously functional and decorative.

And the beauty of topstitching and edgestitching is that you can use a regular straight stitch, a zigzag stitch, or other decorative stitches. The choice is yours!

Okay, now that you’ve met the topstitch and the edgestitch, let’s talk rules…

Rules of Topstitching & Edgestitching

Rule #1: Stitch slowly. This is the only way to end up with a beautiful line of topstitching or edgestitching.

Rule #2: For a prettier, even stitching line, use a slightly longer stitch length like 3.5 to 4.0mm, depending on the weight of your fabric. The heavier or thicker your fabric, the longer the stitch length. Click HERE to learn how to change your stitch length!

Rule #3: When using the heavier topstitching thread, you may have to loosen tension slightly. But stitch a sample BEFORE you tamper with your tension. Then, if you think you need to loosen your tension, do so in half increments and retest. Repeat until you get the look you want. Click HERE to learn how to adjust tension!

Rule #4: If your fabric is slippery or very lightweight or your test sample is puckering, layer a water-soluble stabilizer or a strip of tissue paper close to the feed dog.

Rule #5: If you need to pause as you topstitch or edgestitch, do so with the needle DOWN.

Rule #6: Always press your topstitching or edgestitching line after it has been sewn; it makes your topstitching even prettier. I guarantee it!

Okay. Now that you’ve got the 411 on how to topstitch and edgestitch for beautiful results, let’s learn…

How to Edgestitch Like a Pro

I love to be precise. And one of the best ways to topstitch or edgestitch precisely is by using a blindhem presser foot and a quarter-inch foot.

And with these two presser feet, sewing pretty topstitching or edgestitching is child’s play.

Okay. This is how you edgestitch like a pro…

Step 1: Change the presser foot to the blindhem presser foot to edgestitch.

Step 2: Now, align the blade of the blindhem presser foot so it is flush with the fold of the fabric; the needle should be to the left of the blade (in the image below, it is white) on the presser foot.

How to Topstitch/Edgestitch

Step 3: Then, move your needle until it is the desired distance for the folded edge. Please know that some blindhem feet allow you to move the blade until the needle position is the desired distance from the fold.

The blindhem presser foot is an extremely versatile foot all because of the small blade divider! It is this blade that is the key to stitching a gorgeously straight line of edgestitch stitching!

Step 4: Increase your stitch to 3.0mm or 4.0mm. Because a longer stitch length makes for a prettier edgestitching!

Step 5: And as always, finish with a good press. And this is what you end up with…

How to Topstitch/Edgestitch

Sew easy tip: It is always recommended that you make a test sample with fabric from the project before you begin on your actual project.

Now, let’s topstitch like a pro too..

How to Topstitch Like a Pro

For precise topstitching, we’ll use the quarter-inch presser foot in place of the blindhem foot.

This will allow us to topstitch exactly ¼ inch from a folded edge.

Step 1: Change the presser foot to the quarter inch presser foot to topstitch.

Step 2: Now, align the blade of the quarter inch presser foot so it is flush with the fold of the fabric; the needle should be to the left of the blade on the presser foot (see the blue arrow in the image above).

How to Topstitch/Edgestitch

Step 3: Increase your stitch to 3.0mm or 4.0mm. Because a longer stitch length makes for a prettier topstitching!

Step 4: And as always, finish with a good press. And this is what you end up with…

How to Topstitch/Edgestitch

Too easy, right?!

Edgestitch + Topstitch in the Same Project

And what if you want two parallel lines of edgestitching and topstitching?!

Well, you could use both the blindhem and quarter-inch presser feet together and get this…

How to Topstitch/Edgestitch

Step 1: You edgestitch with your blindhem presser.

Step 2: Topstitch with your quarter inch presser like this…

Sew easy tip: Most modern machines come with a blindhem presser foot. But only some include the quarter-inch presser foot — it often has to be purchased separately.

UPDATE: My new Babylock Presto II  and the Brother CS6000i computerized sewing machines come with instructions for setting the stitch width so that you can use the right edge of the all-purpose/zigzag presser foot to edgestitch and topstitch precisely.

Now, how cool is that?! Way cool, methinks!

Okay. So now you know how to topstitch and edgestitch. Here’s something for those of us who like to make bold statements…

Bold Topstitching or Edgestitching

While stitching one or two parallel straight lines is a fine finish, there are options for those of us who love to make a bold statement.

For example, you could…

  • Use topstitching thread, embroidery thread, or buttonhole thread with a topstitching needle. Use regular thread for the bobbin thread. In the image above, the blue arrow points to the side with the topstitching thread. And at the very top of the image, you can see the underside or bobbin side where I used regular thread.
  • Use the triple straight stitch.
  • Use any decorative stitch that speaks to you. In the image below, on the sample, I turned the hem allowance up to the right side (RS) and did a decorative stitch on the wrong side (WS) for the purpose of this demonstration. Still a pretty sample but easier to see.

How to Undo Topstitching

Since topstitching is visible to the world or decorative, you want it to look as if you really cared.

So if it looks wonky, you might need to rip it out! Click HERE to learn how to undo your mistakes!

So let’s move on to…

The End

Well, if you’ve made it here, you can now add beautiful finishing details to your garments with precise edgestitching and topstitching.

There’s really is so much more you can do with this skill set than just sewing straight parallel lines.

I encourage you to take the time to play around with topstitching and edgestitching. And then, be bold!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking superpowers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!