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TOPSTITCHING: Types, Purposes, and Uses

Teacher, what is the difference between Stitch and Topstitch?
This question is more common than what we think, either for students or professionals in the textile industry. And it is not surprising that it is confusing due to a topstitch is a type of stitch. To be more specific, a topstitch is an exposed stitch, which means the stitch is visible from the right side of the fabric…

A topstitch is a line of stitches which the main characteristic is that it’s visible on the surface of the fabric.


In Spanish, the origin of the word “topstitch” (pespunte) refers to its handmade technique: a stitch made by turning it backward. It catches the previous hole, and then moving forward: the word pespunte comes from the verb pespuntar: from the Latin post (back) + punctus or punctum (point or puncture).

But in English, the term topstitch describes the main characteristic of the technique: a stitch line on the top of the fabric.


Types of Topstitching

There are different types of topstitches. They vary depending on two factors:

  • the number of stitch lines: usually one, two, or three lines
  • the distance to the seam line: or the edge of the fabric for finishing seams.

#0 - Seams Without Topstitch

They are ideal for garments with a clean look.
These seams are the most flexible, but they are also the least resistant.

#1 - Single Topstitch

#2 - Double Topstitch

#3 - Triple Topstitch

Topstitch with Flap: the flap gives a decorative touch to the garment. We mainly find them on plackets and patch pockets.

Off-Seam Topstitch: they are either wide seams or topstitches out of the seam line, such as padded jackets.
This type of topstitching is common on hems and finishes, for example, wide or faced hems.


Purposes and Uses

From products such as curtains, footwear, and upholstery, to details like plackets, cuffs, and pockets, topstitching has a wide variety of uses and 5 functions:

  1. Make the seam stronger and maintain the shape
    It secures the seam on areas that prone to tension and stress, such as crotches and necklines.
  2. Avoid fraying
    For those parts where the seam allowance is not neat or polished, the basic or double topstitch will prevent the fabric from fraying, for example, lined coats or knitted fabrics.
  3. Reduce bulk and stabilize the seam allowance
    It helps the seam lie flat and secure.
    It is ideal for heavyweight fabrics, helping to reduce the thickness of the seam allowance underneath.
  4. Decorative
    It adds a decorative touch or highlighting the structure of the garment. It makes the seam lines more visible, especially if the thread is in contrast color.
  5. Keep two or more layers of fabric together
    They are usually the stitch-in-the-ditch and topstitches off the edge. For instance, padded coats: even though the topstitch is a decorative element, its principal purpose is to stabilize the padding and hold it together to the fabric.
    This purpose is also relevant to upholstery and accessories such as bags and shoes.

Standard Measures

When we use the Off-Seam Topstitch, we need to specify the required width in the tech pack.

If this article was helpful or you have any comments, please share your thoughts below or send it to a colleague.

Belu Chi

Belu Chi

Technical Designer at ABC Seams®
Expert in apparel development and technical communication. Former Product Developer at Burberry.

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Belu Chi

Technical Designer at ABC Seams®