229 Sailor Pants Sew Along: Day Ten

Topstitching

You did it! You put together the 229 Sailor Pants and all its great features. I so hope your are pleased with your project results and that you found this sew along helpful. The only thing left to add are the final details.

Check out Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven, Day Eight, and Day 9 of the sew along for each step in making the 229 Sailor Pants!

The topstitching is next and it is optional. Topstitching is a great way to add interest to your work and it is not difficult. It does help to practice and know some simple techniques before working on your final project. Here are a few things to know to help you create beautiful topstitching results.

Tips for Topstitching 

First, for best results topstitching your pants, it helps to topstitch in the order outlined in these instructions. With that said be sure to press any areas you are about to top stitch.

We are finally going to utilize those top stitching lines we transferred from the pattern to our fabric. If you remember this was one of the first things we did when cutting out the fabric. In general, you will topstitch 1/16" (1.5mm) from the edge of the seam, and if you wish, add another 1/8" (3mm) or more in from the first row of topstitching.

Have a look at the presser feet in your collection. I find the blind hem presser foot, or an edge stitch foot, and the regular straight stitch foot handy when topstitching. A blind hem, or edge stitch, foot will allow you to use the ditch created by seams; by aligning the plastic foot guide with the seam "ditch", and moving the needle to one side, when stitching. These feet provide a guide for stitching that can help keep you evenly distanced from the seam.

I am using a combination of the regular straight stitch foot and a blind hem foot for my topstitching. The idea is to utilize as many guide options available to you as possible to get the most even topstitching lines.   

Experiment and practice topstitching with scraps of the same fabric you are using to make your pants. Simulate the layers of fabric you will be stitching through. Experiment with stitch length and the tension too. For best results use a longer stitch (3-4 stitch length) and adjust the tension to make a stitch that lays smoothly and evenly on each side of the fabric. You may need to adjust the tension depending on the thickness of the fabric.

Note: The look of your top stitching will, in part, depend on the performance and the power of your sewing machine. A machine that is in good working order matters. All sewing machines are not created equally and they do perform differently.

To help keep your top stitching neat and uniform, do not feel you must top stitch in one continuous line, especially at corners or turns in the topstitching. You can topstitch in segments instead of pivoting at corners and intersecting points.  Begin and end each segment of your topstitching leaving a long thread tail (top thread) on the right side of the pant and an equally long (bobbin thread) tail on the underneath side of the pants. Thread the top thread tail to a needle and pull through to the underneath side. Use the ending stitch length to determine where to pull the thread to the underneath side. To secure the stitch, tie the two threads together a few times and trim. The idea is to avoid back stitching where you can for aesthetic reasons.

The benefit of working in this method, is it will allow you to redo or adjust your topstitching in segments instead of having to redo an entire portion. Plus, corners tend to be sharper when using the long thread tail technique.

Now all that is left, is to decide what thread and what color of thread to use for your top stitching. Top stitching thread adds a detail that can be played up or down. Use a thread that blends with your garment fabric or use a contrasting thread to stand out.  The benefits of a topstitching thread that blends with your fabric is that small mistakes are less noticeable.  But, a contrasting thread is a fun detail.  I decided to use a thread that blends with my fabric and it is the same thread weight I used in constructing my 229 Sailor Pants.

You can use thread specially made for topstitching as well, and it comes in a variety of colors (though you may need to search online for all the colors). Thread made specifically for topstitching is thicker or heavier than regular weight thread. If you chose to use this type of thread, you should use regular weight thread in the bobbin. Thicker thread does not perform well in the bobbin. You will need to adjust the tension to get the two differing weights of thread to behave properly together. This is not difficult, just take the time to experiment.  You could also use buttonhole thread, or even double up your regular thread to create a thicker thread (two threads through the needle).  You can also use the triple stitch (if you machine has it) to get a thicker looking topstitching line with regular thread.  This technique can work well, but sometimes can get out of sync and look a little messy.  

 

Begin Topstitching

Just as a note, any and all topstitching is optional - you can choose which pieces to topstitch.  But, if doing topstitching, it helps to follow the order below.

Front Dart Gusset Facings

First, we topstitch the inner Front Dart Gusset Facings starting at the top seam edge ditch, stitching downward to the bottom of the gusset, ending where the gusset is hidden behind the Front Buttonhole Facing. Before you start stitching, be sure you have a long thread tail and start your stitching in the seam where the Front Dart Gusset and the top of the pants connect. Do not back stitch. Once you have completed the topstitching, thread the top thread tail to a needle and pull the other side and tie it off, knotting a few times. Trim the excess thread tail.  It is ok to finish with a backstitch here, because the edge is hidden.

Illustration showing the topstitching on the inner Front Dart Gusset

In the photos below I am using a straight stitch presser foot, aligning the edge of the fabric and the edge of the foot as a guide. In order to create smooth and even stitching around the curved edges of Front Dart Gusset, slow your stitching way down and use the hand wheel, if needed, guiding your fabric as you go.

Topstitching started in the seam and stitching slowly around the curved corner.
Topstitching using the edges as a guide.

Topstitching using the edges as a guide.

View of the edge of the presser foot aligning with the edge of the fabric.
View of the edge of the presser foot aligning with the edge of the fabric.
The inside edges of the Front Dart Gusset Facing topstitched .
The inside edges of the Front Dart Gusset Facing topstitched.

 

Front and Back Crotch

Topstitch on each side of the center front and center back crotch seam. When working on the front, start at the top of the front flap. I am using a blind hem foot using the ditch created by the seam as a guide. My needle is positioned to the right of the center needle position and the center seam. Start at the top edge with the needle positioned on one side of the center seam. Remember to leave a long thread tail. See the Illustration below showing the topstitching on either side of front and back crotch center seam.

Illustration showing the topstitching the crotch

It is up to you to either catch the pressed-open seam allowance on the inside of the pant in your topstitching or not. This will in part depend on how you want to finish your seams. I prefer to catch the seam allowance in the topstitching, because it adds strength to the crotch seams.

If you find your topstitching stitch length to be uneven or varying in length, just slow down. Try to keep the fabric moving smoothly through the feed dogs without pushing or pulling the fabric. When the fabric drags going through the feed dogs, the stitching can become tighter and the stitches smaller. Sometimes it is hard to maintain a regular stitch length, especially through thick layers. The power of your machine really does factor in.  Don't get discouraged if your topstitching is not perfect. I topstitch in segments for this very reason. It is helpful knowing you do not have to remove all of your work if you are unhappy with a segment.

  Stitching to the right of the center of the front crotch.

Stitching to the right of the center of the front crotch.

Topstitching on each side of the center seam.

 

Stop at the crotch intersection and end your stitching the same way you began -- with a long thread tail. Trying to stitch over the thick crotch seam intersection layers and will most likely not result in a smooth topstitch.  Stitch the front and back crotches one at a time, meeting where the seams intersect. Repeat on the back crotch seam using the same process.

Topstitching on either side of the front crotch seam.

Topstitching on either side of the front crotch seam.

Topstiching the back crotch using the bind hem foot, using the ditch as a guide.

Topstiching the back crotch using the bind hem foot, using the ditch as a guide.

Pulling the top thread at the crotch seam to the inside of the pants.

Pulling the top thread at the crotch seam to the inside of the pants.

The front and back crotch topstitched.

The front and back crotch topstitched.


Front Darts and Flap

Stitch the inner topstitching lines around the darts first. Start at the waist on the outside edge of a dart, stitching down the side of the dart, and back stitch at the point. You will catch the Front Dart Gusset assembly in these stitches, which will add to a more organized and secure front assembly. Repeat on the other dart.

The idea is to stitch close to the edge, to secure the edge of the darts. I chose to use a blind hem foot for this topstiching task to demonstrate how the blind hem foot could be used. Feel free to use what ever method works best for you. See the illustration below for beginning the topstitching on the outside edges of the inner darts.

Illustration below for beginning the topstitching around the inner darts.

I started the stitching at the waist on the outside edge of a dart, using a blind hem foot, using the ditch of the seam, as a guide. When you get to the dart point, make a back stitch. This is a stress point and it needs reinforcement.

Stitching in the ditch to get started.

 

Now, open the flap and stitch from the bottom of the dart point, up the front buttonhole facing (front flap), across the top of the front flap, and down the inner side of the other dart. Make sure to keep the Front Dart Gusset free of these stitches. See the illustration below for stitching the inside edges of the darts and flap.

Illustration below for stitching starting at the bottom of the dart.
Stitching up the edge of the flap, while avoiding catching the Front Dart Gusset in the stitches.

Stitching up the edge of the flap, while avoiding catching the Front Dart Gusset in the stitches. 

 

When stitching up the up this front flap, across the top of the front flap, and down the inner side of the other dart, I am using the front flap edge as a guide. Like I mentioned before, I used this foot to demonstrate how it could be use on this portion of the topstitching. I could have used the blind hem foot solely for stitching in the ditch and then switched to a regular straight stitch foot. Deciding which foot use simply takes knowing how a particular pressor foot works and deciding what then works best for you.


Stitching across the front of the front flap/buttonhole facing.

Stitching across the front of the front flap/buttonhole facing.

 Stitching down to the other dart.

 Stitching down to the other dart.

 

Reinforce the dart points with a bartack.  A bartack is made by stitching several wide and tight (3-5 wide and almost 0 stitch length) stitches. You can also add some decorative bartacks here if you wish - make a triangle, square, or make the stitching narrow and tight to "draw" these shapes on this stress point to reinforce the dart point.

 

Stitch a second row of topstitching here if you like.  I like the look of a second row of topstitching and I am using a regular straight stitch foot, aligning the edge of the pressor foot with the first line of topstitching as my guide. I am making my topstitch 1/4" (6.4mm) from the first stitch line. Simply stitch a parallel line next to the first row of stitching you created.

Starting the second row of topstitching.

Starting the second row of topstitching.

Topstitching the top flap edge, aigning the edge of the presser foot and the first stitching line to use as a guide.

Topstitching the top flap edge, aligning the edge of the presser foot and the first stitching line to use as a guide.

Leaving a long thread tails before starting the next perpendicular row of topstitching on the front flap.

Leaving a long thread tails at the corner, before starting the next perpendicular row of topstitching on the front flap.

Continuing to topstitching the front flap after restarting at the corner.

Continuing to topstitching the front flap.

 

Slow down as you prepare to reach the turn at the dart. Stop, put your needle down into your fabric and take a minute to read the helpful hint below.

Stitching to the dart and keeping the Front Dart Gusset Facing out of the stitches.

Stitching to the dart and keeping the Front Dart Gusset Facing out of the stitches.

 

Helpful Hint for Sewing the Second Row of Topstitching Around the Dart Point.

Tight curves are often a challenge to maneuver and I knew I would need some extra help. First, I stitched the second topstitching row down each side of the dart and stopped just shy of where the stitching line begins to turn. I left long top threads and bobbin threads as we have discussed.

To make life easier, I cut a circle out of not too sticky masking tape, precisely the size of the half circle to be sewn at the bottom of the dart. I positioned the tape circle at the end of the dart. I began my stitching around the circle by inserting the needle directly into the last stitch where I left off. I stitched around the tape circle slowly, hand turning the stitching wheel, using the circle edge as a guide. I left long thread tails at the beginning and end of my half circle stitching. Leaving the long thread tails gives you enough thread to work with if you need to adjust your stitching where the straight line of stitching ends and the curve stitching begins.

Gently remove the tape circle and use it again for the other side. Once you have your stitching adjusted and it is looking good, pull the long tails using a needle to the inside of the pants and tie off.

Repeat on the other side using the same technique. Use the same tape circle for the stitching the other side... no need to cut another one.

Starting to stitch around the tape circle guide.

Starting to stitch around the tape circle guide.

You can see the long threads waiting to be pulled to the inside pf the pants.

You can see where I started and stopped stitching around the circle edge.

Gently pulling the tape circle away to be used again on the other dart point.

Gently pulling the tape circle away to be used again on the other dart point.

The tape circle guide really did help me keep my topstitching clean and uniform.

The tape circle guide really did help me keep my topstitching clean and uniform.

 

Outer Topstitching on Front Flap

Now that we have topstitched around the darts and the flap, it is time to use the stitching guides we transferred to the front of the pants from the pattern. When I first cut out my pants, I marked the corners and points of the top stitching design onto the front of the pants, according to the guide on the pattern, using tailors tacks. I only made tailors tacks for the outer-most stitching line. Below is an illustration of the main topstitching design to be added to the front of the pants.

Illustration of the main topstitching design to added to the front of the pants

By now most non-permanent markings like chalk or pencil would have long disappeared or smeared. However, permanent markings like ink are are not recommended. So, tailors tacks are a good solution. Tailors tacks are simply two threads, knotted on the right and wrong sides of the fabric. This often proves helpful, because you can see the tailor's tacks on both sides of the fabric. The tailors tacks I made are still there, ready for me to use, and can easily removed once I have finished my topstitching.  Water soluble marker may also be helpful for marking the topstitching lines.

You can measure out your lines and draw out them with chalk or you can use my cheat sheet method. Personally, I feel better with a physical guide. So, I am using masking tape that is not too sticky, to connect the tailors tacks to create a template to guide my stitching. Whichever technique you choose to use, it is only necessary to create a guide for one of the two rows of stitching. The first row of stitching you create can serve as the guide for the second row... if you choose to stitch it.

I have chosen to copy the top stitching just as it is seen on the pattern. Using the masking tape I simply connect the tailors tacks, being sure that the tape corners and edges align cleanly and sharply. I am making a tape guide for the outer/bottom edge only.

The idea is to topstitch right up to the edge of the tape, without catching or stitching into the tape. If you stitch into the tape it can be tedious to remove. It is worth the effort to create a clean edge tape template before you start stitching.

Align the tape using the tailor's tacks as a guide.

Align the tape using the tailor's tacks as a guide.

 

Stitch the outer topstitching lines around the darts, working in segments. With your work facing up, start at the waistband on outer edge of one dart; stitch toward and around the dart. Continue up the front flap, and down around the dart point and back up to the waistband on the other side of the dart. Use the outer tape edge as a guide all the way to the opposite side of the pants.

Keep the Front Dart Gusset free of the stitching when topstitching the front flap area. Make sure to catch the Front Dart Gusset on the outsides of the dart. You may need to stop stitching, leaving the needle in the fabric, adjusting to keep the pieces flat. It may be helpful to baste this line of topstitching first to outline exactly where to stitch.

Stitching along the edge of the tape.

Stitching along the edge of the tape.

Catch the Front Dart Gusset on the outside of the topstitching area.

Catch the Front Dart Gusset on the outside of the topstitching area.

The first row of topstitching finished on the front of the pants.

The first row of topstitching finished on the front of the pants.

Gently remove the tape guide template if you used it. Now, that the first top stitching line is done, use this stitching line as a the guide to create the next top stitching line. This is simple to do, the lines simply run parallel to each other. I simply aligned the edge of the foot with the first row of topstiching I made as a guide for the second row of topstitching. The pattern instructions recommend making the second line of topstitching 1/8" (3mm) from the first line, but I have chosen to make my second line 1/4" (6mm) instead.  You can the distance you like best when topstitching your own pants.

  

Two rows of Topstitching around the darts and flap.
Two rows of topstitching around the darts and flap.
 
Close up view of the two rows of topstitching

 

 

Topstitching the Waistband

Make sure the waistband curtain is folded down over the inside of the waistband and the front gusset. The Back Gusset will cover the raw edge of the waistband curtain at the back of the pants.

First, we will stitch the top of the waistband.  Stitch from one center front, where the waistband meets the front Dart Gusset, up to the top of the waistband and around to the back gusset. At the back gusset, pivot your stitching to stitch down the side of the back gusset. Backstitch at the bottom of the gusset. Be sure to catch the Back Gusset seam in the stitching - it will cover the raw edge of the curtain. Add a second line of topstitching 1/8" (3mm) (or 1/4"/6mm) from the first, if you like. Repeat exactly as you have done here on the other side of the waistband. Add a bartack to the bottom of the Back Gusset. Illustration for the direction for topstitching the edges of the waistband.

Topstitching the waistband.

Topstitching the waistband aligning a straight stitch foot edge and the edge of the waistband.

 

See the illustration below showing the direction to sew the topstitching on the back waistband edge, down the back gusset edge and where to place the bar tack.

Illustration to help with the bar tack placement
Topstitching down the back gusset.

Topstitching down the back gusset using a regular straight stitch foot.

Note: If you want to topstitch a row above the waistband seam, do the same technique as below before topstitching below the waistband seam (i.e. follow the instructions to topstitch above the waistband seam, then follow the same instructions to topstitch below the waistband seam).

Mark the area where the welt pocket extends on the waistband.

1. Topstitch below the left waistband in the area the welt pocket extends over the waistband, keeping the pocket and waistband curtain out of the stitching. If you do not want to backstitch to secure, you can bring the threads to the back side of your work with a sewing needle and tie them off. This will give a "cleaner" look.

2. Fold the waistband curtain and pocket bag back down and topstitch under the waistband seam, starting at the center front and stitching to the welt pocket, meeting the topstitching line already there.

3. Then start again at the other end of the welt pocket (and topstitching line) and stitch to the center back gusset. Catch the seam allowance of the back gusset in the stitching with the edge of the curtain under the gusset seam allowance.

Your topstitching lines will meet at each side of the welt pocket, and will not catch the welt pocket in the stitching.

See the illustration below and follow the order of the numbers to help topstitch under the waistband where the welt pocket is positioned.

Illistration to help were totopstitch under the waistband where the welt pocket is positioned.
Using a blind hem foot to topstitch at the welt pocket.

Using a blind hem foot to topstitch at the welt pocket. 

Repeat for the other side of the waistband, stopping at the coin pocket and starting again on the other side of the coin pocket.  Again, be sure to catch the seam allowance of the back gusset in the stitching with the waistband curtain under the gusset seam allowance. The illustration below showing stitching just on either side of the coin pocket.

Illustration showing stitching just on either side of th coin pocket.

 

Topstitching using a blind hem foot up to the edge of the coin pocket. Notice the pocket bag is pulled out of the way of the stitching.

 

 And, topstiching is all finished!  Yay!

 

On Day Eleven (final day) of the sew along we will add all the remaining finishing details -- the buttons and buttonholes, and the hand stitched the eyelets. Plus, hemming the legs to the 229 Sailor Pants.