Topstitching Fail

Hmm. Not the most flattering photos of my backside ever.

So, back in September, I made a pair of jeans. This is practically old hat around here. And they’re pretty decent, if I do say so myself, although I did gibble up the studs a bit. They do look better when the ass isn’t stretched out from being worn all day, but anyway.


As I mentioned in the making-of post, I ran into a hitch with the topstitching—I was out of jeans thread—and instead of making  a trip to Fabricland just for thread (always a dangerous proposition) I popped by the little sewing-machine store on my way home from work. Being directed more at the quilting and embroidery crowd, they don’t carry my usual Gutermann topstitching thread, but they did have a wide selection of a slightly-heavier cotton topstitching thread, and I really liked this slightly orangey colour (above, left). Which I thoughtfully photographed with the writing upside down… oops. Now, it’s not as heavy as regular Gutermann topstitching thread, but about the same weight as their jeans thread (above, right). The main problem was that it is 100% cotton.

Cotton thread is lovely in many ways. It takes dye like the fabric. It’s soft. It might be better for the planet, although I’ll leave weighing pesticides and irrigation vs. plastic products up to you. But one thing it isn’t, is as strong as polyester thread.

And these are stretch jeans, ladies and gents. That thread is under stress. If you didn’t notice the issue in the top photo, here’s a closeup:

Topstitching thread fail

I should’ve done a triple-stitch topstitch. This would’ve given me the stretch I needed plus a somewhat heavier look. Gotta love hindsight. If (when) I do another pair with this thread—it’s a 500m spool, there’s loads left—I’ll remember that.

On the other hand, the jeans are weathering (distressing) nicely. I scrubbed some Vim (a cleaning product including bleach and a mild abrasive, with about the consistency of shampoo) across the front of the thighs and it’s given a very slight, but nicely distressed look now that a couple of washes have gone by. I didn’t leave it on very long before washing, and I didn’t want it anywhere near the topstitching so I avoided distressing any seams, but I think it’s a technique I can play with more. And the cream-weight is easier to manipulate around the fabric than liquid bleach would be.

Hmm, all that jeans-talk has me wanting to make jeans now. I’m in a serious can’t-settle-on-a-project funk. Which is kinda fine because I don’t have any time to be sewing anyway, but still sucks. What little time I could have is being frittered away in indecision. Blerg. I want to make a jacket, or a blazer, or a coat, or a pretty dress, or a skirt, or a warm nightie, or a… or a… or, or, or…



Filed under Sewing

23 responses to “Topstitching Fail

  1. HINDsight…hilarious! Or was the pun intentional?!
    Great thoughts on top stitching threads. What do you mean by triple stitch?

    • … uh.

      Yeah. Totally. Totally intentional. I’m witty that way. And stuff. Yeah.

      Triple stitch is my machine’s straight stretch stitch—it basically takes two stitches forward, then one back, then two forward… so every stitch is taken three times. It makes for a heavier-looking stitch, visually, and gives a bit of stretch.

  2. I was in Fabricland today, walked past the denim display and thought of you and your jeans. Too bad about the thread fail, just call it distressing and say it’s intentional. Like mismatched shoes. 😉

    • Yeah, it’s certainly not going to stop me wearing them. (And aww, thanks for thinking of me… mmm, denim.)

      We still haven’t found the other boot. I’m actually getting kinda worried. How do you hide a knee-high boot?

  3. Shams

    Good to know about the Sulky thread, though it’s a shame. Can’t-settle-on-a-project-mode… wow, I seem to live in that land lately.

  4. I’ve tried the triple-stitch topstitch, but it doesn’t work well for me going around curves. The needle goes in and out of the fabric at different angles, so curved lines end up looking all weird. Maybe that’s just my machine?

    I don’t think we have Vim here, but I’ve been considering weathering my denim as well. Something like Soft Scrub or Ajax or a combination of the two? Hmm….this sounds like an experiment that will result in more confusion on the Hub’s part. The last time he walked in on me hammering a seam, he watched for a minute and finally said, “Honey, I think you’re taking this sewing failure thing a little far.”

    • The triple-stitch does have its drawbacks—especially you have to take care where in the three-stitch cycle you’re turning corners—although I haven’t had too much trouble on curves (possibly because I stink at tight sewing-machine curves anyway). I might just be less sensitive to the weirdness than you, though ;).

      I don’t know Soft Scrub and I’ve only met Ajax in a powder form, which would probably work if you dampened it just enough to make a paste, or perhaps sprinkled on and then spritzed with water…

      Your husband is hilarious.

  5. I keep wishing jean-making was “old hat” for me. Especially when I see your new pairs.

  6. This is great information that I’ll tuck away. I’ve never made a pair of pants, let alone a pair of jeans, but it’s on my “to do” list.

    • I don’t think it would be as bad for men’s jeans, which are usually non-stretch and never quite this fitted. On the other hand, durability is a generally desirable quality in jeans, and this thread really isn’t it.

      And if you can make a finely-tailored jacket like your frock coat, making jeans should be a cinch. 😉

  7. I’ll choose for you – make my skirt! 😀

  8. Re: broken topstitching on the pockets – maybe you could fill in the broken bits by hand – without having to remove the pockets first? Use a single strand of thread and sew back-stitches to get the stretch factor back into it? 🙂

  9. Do ALL the projects? I have two going right now, and wrapped up a third last night. It lets me be happily ADD and fritter away my time. I’ve yet to attempt weathering anything, looking forward to seeing how this all works out 🙂

  10. Aww, that’s too bad about the topstitching. I’ve been in a similar post-big-project funk. I hope you can shake yourself out of it!

  11. Someone gave me a bag of thread when I started sewing. About half of it is cotton thread. I’ve only used it a few times because it breaks constantly in my machine and from a slight tug on a seam. I’m not too impressed with cotton thread.

  12. To bad about the thread. But it looks very intentional. I’ll second the skirt choosing 😉

  13. Great distressing tip! It’s always scary to distress something after you’ve made them…what if they totally fall apart from over zealous distressing!

  14. Sulky always seems like it should work, and it often comes in more colors than Gutermann, but you’re right, it just doesn’t hold up.

    When I don’t know what project to start, I’ll start five. I can’t do one thing at a time, it makes me crazy (-er).

  15. I’m so impressed by your jeans, and I think the topstitching is rad! I’ve been thinking about making a pair of jeans, but haven’t had the courage. You know, I visited a shop in Soho that makes custom jeans, and guess how much they charge? Starting price is $1,200. No joke!

    • Zounds! Seriously? Those had better be some awesome jeans (well, I’m sure they are, but still…)

      The biggest problem I have with making jeans is sourcing quality fabrics… none of the stretch-denims I’m able to find locally are very heavy-duty.

      Why not make a mini pair for one of the babies you sew for? That was what I did first—a great way to practice the techniques without having to be too worried about your final product and especially fit.

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