I finally tried topstitching!

This is amateur hour over here… look the other way if my repetitive sewing or messy top-stitching offends you!

I made another pair of Ginger jeans!

Ginger Jeans

There is very little to say about these, except that I tried topstitching with proper top-stitching thread for the first time. I set up my old sewing machine (a present from my mom when I moved out at 18) and used it for construction, and set my regular machine for topstitching. It sure made life a lot easier to have both!

Ginger Jeans

Like my first 3 pairs, the goal on these was not to get a perfect fit. Some of these pics are making me cringe a bit, but what really matters to me is that they are light years better than the RTW pants I cleaned out of my closet recently. (Oh, and also, I belatedly realised that wearing knee-high wool socks under skinny jeans makes for extra wrinkles!)
Ginger Jeans

As you can see in the righthand picture, the biggest problem I had was starting and ending the topstitching on the pockets. Every time I tried to backstitch it created a huge knot on the wrong side and jammed my machine, so I ended up just doing a couple of super-tiny stitches at the start of each row to try to anchor it. On IG, Suzy suggested pulling the topstitching thread through to the back and tying it off, so I’ll try that next time. Any other tips or hints for me?

Ginger Jeans

 

Of course, these are pull-on, but you guessed that, right?  Also – trying to find interesting pictures of pants, inside in the winter, makes me feel really silly! Cue awkwardness!)

Now a paragraph for my fellow Canadians: This fabric is the basic stretchy denim from Fabricland. (It’s the one that is always in stock, not one of the seasonal ones.) It costs $25/m, which is crazy – thank goodness for 50% off sales! It’s got a nice cottony feel and maybe 20-25% stretch. I wore these around today and of course they loosened up a little, but not too badly. If you are looking for basic stretch denim without exorbitant shipping costs from the US, I’d recommend this stuff.

Ginger Jeans

As it happens, the clothing I’m wearing in these pics is a bit of a nostalgic look back through my 3 years of sewing! I sold pompom cowls like this one at a little local store my first year of sewing… then I made this Plantain last year. It’s unhemmed and now too long for my tastes – it belongs in my pile of “things to coverstitch now that I can”! I always think it’s fun to see how personal preferences change a little bit each year, but what stays the same! The fabric hanging behind me (crookedly, and not covering the plug) is something I bought 10 years ago in Japan. Essentially my colour palette hasn’t changed since then.

Ginger Jeans

One thing about topstitching that really fascinated me is how the width and proportion affects so much of the look. I finally understand why people obsess over looking at RTW details! There are plenty of places I can do better next time… but I’m pleased to have started learning.

And now a question about my knock knees: I’ve played around with a few solutions (cut and slide the calf outward, rotate the calf outward) but I always seem to end up with longer outer seams that get wrinkly. How can I accommodate for my chunky inner knee, then the sudden bowed calf? If it’s possible, I’ll keep trying. If it’s never going to be great, then I’ll leave it as is! Help! 


53 thoughts on “I finally tried topstitching!

  1. Super cute outfit!! I really like adding details like topstitching, but it can be a bit finicky. I think yours looks great! Good tip about the Fabricland denim. I may try it, but that price is crazy for what it is.

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    1. All Fabricland prices are crazy when they are full priced! I kinda with everything would be more reasonable, with less frequent sales. When knits are on 40% off for months, it’s just confusing when suddenly they go back to full price!🙂

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  2. You did a great job! I love these on you and I second that FabricLand denim. I can’t easily access a FabricLand – well, till next week when the one in Honest Ed’s opens. I should see shipping for FabricLand – it never occurred to me that I could ship from there. At 12.50 that denim is well priced (though steep at 25 – esp. when you go through it at the pace at which I do.)

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  3. Great job on these! Love that you went all out with the top stitching, it really makes a difference. And I’m right with you on hating the “mark up to mark down” in chain fabric stores. Joanns here is just as bad. They’ve made it so you just can’t buy anything at full price. So annoying!

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    1. Joann’s is even more insane with all the coupon business… always makes me wonder if some poor soul doesn’t know about the coupons and is always paying full price!🙂

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    1. Oh man, there’s a section of the front pocket where my topstitching when right off the edge for a cm. I thought about unpicking, and decided, “Screw it! Who’s looking at my pocket?” Hopefully I’ll do better next time!😉

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  4. I do exactly what Suzy said. I keep a needle by my sewing machine & take the thread through to the back to finish it off. It gives a nice neat result. I also find my machine prefers gutermanns upholstery thread to their topstitch thread.

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  5. Great looking pants Gillian! I’m a big fan of topstitching, I find it quite relaxing to do. Never used real topstitching thread though, when using contrast thread I use the triple stitch on my machine because I’m just too lazy to go out and buy proper topstitching thread😉

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    1. I tink making trousers is only scary is you want them to be perfect. I made 8 muslins for my first pair, and looking back, my wearable 2nd muslin was just as good as my 8th! Now I”m happy accepting wearable but imperfect, which makes them much more fun to sew!🙂

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  6. Wow, another pair of jeans! I think your topstitching looks good, but maybe it’s the level difference at the beginning of the pocket. Have you tried placing a cardboard just behind it?

    About knock knees, I think Cindy has mentioned something here: http://cationdesigns.blogspot.com.es/2013/09/pants-pattern-alterations.html

    I also have knock knees and it’s the part I hate most of my body, so I never wear skinny pants or leggins (boot cut works for me).

    One of my goals this year is sewing jeans. Wish me luck!

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    1. I’m definitely wishing you good luck! Maybe you’d like starting with a more jeggings-y style like my first pair? no contrast stitching to worry about, and choose a forgiving stretchy fabric… hard to go wrong!
      I’ve tried CIndy’s suggestions – her explanations are so awesome and clear! I think I didn’t go far enough with the alterations though, because it didn’t change much.

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  7. Your topstitching looks great! Like a few others have mentioned above, I also pull my topstitching thread to the back and tie it off, since backstitching with it on my machine isn’t an option. And like you, I learned that the hard way. 🙂

    I remember this Plantain and really love how you combined the two different stripes. What a cute and comfortable outfit!

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  8. Looks good to me! And having 2 machines to work on for that sounds amazing.

    One of the best tips I picked up from a Craftsy class ever is that if you can’t find topstitching thread in a color you like, you can use regular thread and the triple stitch setting to simulate the look. It takes a little patience around curved areas like pockets, but works great!

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  9. I think these look great! I don’t think anyone would ever say, “Hmm, those jeans don’t fit”… even people who sew!

    It’s funny and awesome that your color palette is so similar now to what you loved ten years ago! Mine is much more subdued now… ten years ago I was living in California and surrounded myself in tons of color! I dialed back the crazy color when I moved to NYC- I stuck out like a sore thumb!

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    1. Oh lordy, one thing I’ll never underestimate about people is their ability to criticize! (I’ve been a topic on GOMI this week…) but thank you anyway!
      I didn’t know you’d lived in California! What brought you out there?

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        1. Funny how I think of you as so well suited to NYC… but then once you mention California, I can picture you there perfectly too!😉
          GOMI, man… how is wanting to sew pjs worth trash talking me online? If they want to be bitchy, say it in an email or politely to someone’s face (aka. “Wow, are you really going to sew pjs for a year?” Answer: No, I didn’t mean to imply that. “Why don’t you sew for someone else or learn new skills instead of sewing pjs no one else will see?” Answer: I’ll enjoy them, and I do sew for others and learn new skills, thank you!) Don’t say it in an online forum you KNOW the person you are talking about will find through their stats! That’s mean girl shit.

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          1. That’s what it was about? Wow. I feel like “you do you, I’ll do me” is a pretty good operating policy. I will never understand why anyone feels the need to tell others how to live! Sew your jammies and wear them with pride! You know, if you want to.🙂

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    1. So funny that you mention that – because last weekend I was in that store, and bought denim! I was really impressed by the quality and price. Yay Hamilton!

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  10. I’m not sure if you’re topstitching the pockets before you press the raw edges in, but that helps with getting the lines stopped in the right spot, and you can always bartack over the ends of topstitching too. It takes care of the problem and it’s on RTW pants too.

    Can you enlighten me–I’ve recently realized this whole Canada/US postage issue–why is it that we both charge each other such absurd postal rates though I’m literally closer to some parts of Canada than other parts of the US? Would that I could afford postage from our friendly neighbors to the north!

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    1. How can I sew topstitching before folding the raw edges? That sounds brilliant, but I can’t quite picture it!
      Isn’t shipping stupid? In Japan I could have a 1’x1′ refrigerated box of groceries *mailed* to my house for $5. Our shipping is such a mess. If I order from america I pay about as much for shipping as I do on fabric, and yet americans get free shipping from tons of fabric stores… Grrrrr! (Though i think we are better off that Australia and NZ, so there’s some comfort!😉

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      1. My bad…I was thinking about the top hemmed edge of the pocket …which you do topstitch before you topstitch the pocket on. For the ends of the topstitching, I bartack over the top corners of the pockets. The bartacking always holds the topstitching in place. When I’ve used smaller stitches or backstitched in the corners on my sons’ pants, they’ve always come undone at the corners.

        $5 from Japan! So weird. I feel your pain.

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  11. I don’t have any tips for you, but I would like to say that I enjoy watching all your jean progress. It’s making it seem less scary to me!

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      1. Nope, I’ve never made jeans! It just seems so overwhelming and thinking about fit terrifies me! I’m going to do it this year though, I have to.

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  12. So cute! I really miss Fabricland’s 10-oz stretch denim… I got some my first year of sewing and made my first capris with it, but they don’t carry it any more (at least out west here). Boo. The 8-oz is ok but just not as beefy. (Although maybe better for pull-ons.😉 ) I find most of Fabricland’s “basics” pretty nice, but WAY overpriced—and they rarely go on sale compared to the seasonal stock. Anyway, that’s a whole other rant I could go off on…

    For the knock knees, would taking a wedge out of the outside knee work? Seems to me it would angle the bottom of the jeans out to match your legs (and shorten the outer seam), but it would also throw off the grain which might produce other issues?😦

    Also, I don’t know what GOMI is but it sounds poopy! You go on having fun in your jeans (with your perfect colour scheme!)😉

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    1. It’s funny what Fabricland stops carrying! My store used to carry bamboo knit a few years ago, and now there is nothing but ITY and ponte…. and the staple cotton spandex and french terry in the black, white, grey, red, and odd lavender and warm green! Every once in a while they’ll have the “italian” rayon knit prints. I wish there were more natural fibre choices!! I can imagine the 10oz denim would have been even better!

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  13. I pull the top thread to the bottom and tie off. All you have to do is tug on the bobbin thread and it will pop the topstitch to the wrong side of the fabric,then with a pin I insert it in the little loop of topstitch that is now on the wrong side of fabric and pull it thru. Another option is to bar tack.

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  14. I don’t think you should be cringing at the fit of these at all! They look great! I think all my RTW jeans give me wrinkles in similar places, but I still wear them because they fit me. Does that make sense? What I’m saying is, they look very on par with RTW, and as seamstresses we’ll always see room for improvement, but they certainly don’t look cringe worthy! Also: great top stitching and color palette!

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  15. Bring your threads to the wrong side. Tie off securely, then use a hand needle to work the ends back into the fabric (in a seam allowance, or hem, or in this case in the stitched-down edges of your pockets. Work them in for an inch or so, then cut thread. This way, you won’t have loose thread ends on the inside of your jeans, and the extra inch of thread after the knot will prevent your knot from untying in the years to come.

    To get extra strength on the top edges of your pockets, then, make a tiny bartack along the upper topstitching line, between the two vertical topstitching lines, as shown here: http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Bartack.jpg (if link doesn’t work, search for “bartack” on the levistrauss.com web site.

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  16. Congrats on the jeans – I’ve made a few pairs of ‘Gingers’ and am thrilled with them! I use the heavy top stitching thread for one pair, and the others I just used regular thread – but in a gold colour. I thought that this made the finish look more subtle, and of course they were much easier to sew.

    I do have some stitching advice as well. First of all I must tell you that the reverse button on my Pfaff stopped working years ago – despite maintenance and repairs! So, when I start and finish a seam, I use a three step straight stitch that my machine has – a bit like the three step zigzag (both are stretch stitches) and it works a treat. I also hold both the upper and lower tail ends of the threads quite tightly when I start a new seam – only for a few stitches, then I let them go. This means that the threads don’t get pulled down through the throat plate. My only other top tip is to chain sew (I think that is the phrase) so I sew as many seams as possible in one sitting without breaking the threads in between seams.

    I also get a lot of my fabric from Fabricland, and depending on the different stores, I can get different types of denim. My latest pair of Gingers’ was with a striped denim type fabric (97% cotton, 3% lycra), the darker stripes almost like corduroy and tufted. I’ve also picked up some other denim @$14/m – so only $7/m with the recent sales. Great for practicing with!

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  17. Hey Gillian! I think your jeans look awesome! And your top stitching looks really good! I’ve got an old Bernina, that I love, but it doesn’t really like the heavy sewing on my Gingers. Belt loops are the worst! I ditto Two Toasts advice on holding the threads tightly when beginning to sew. Helps prevent the snaggles. But, I do still have some challenges with back stitching in general when I’m using top stitching thread and heavier fabrics. What I’ve been doing, is sewing forward four stitches, lifting the presser foot, turning the fabric around, sewing forward 4 stitches over the 4 I’ve just sewn, lifting the presser foot, turning the fabric around, and then sewing. Whew! Way more effort to type this than to do on the sewing machine, LOL. Anyways, I’m finding that it does work, and looks pretty tidy too!

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