Topstitching the yellow summer jacket (Vogue 7133)

Once my Vogue 7133 jacket was lined and had bias strips attached at the hems, and the hemming was complete, I thought about topstitching.

It’s been fairly long project and there is a sense of “oh no, another stage to complete”. Karen tells me she loves topstitching, and Mary Funt has given me some good advice (take off the pockets and put them the other way up), but I still approached this stage with trepidation. I have top stitched a few tailored garments and I have quite a nice technique, but it has the potential to lift or ruin a garment.

A dressmaking tutor I had years ago who had worked in the 1960s as a designer in RTW, told me that although she frequently designed with top stitching (her own day-to-day suits invariably featured it) it was always lost during the production process. Mainly because as essentially a hand-sew technique it was too expensive and time-consuming to include. There are, now, of course, machines which give a reasonable impression of being hand stitched, but the best men’s suits and coats are those that are tailored to include this “exclusive” feature.

So perhaps nothing says “couture” or hand finished as much as topstitching.

However, if your stitching is uneven, too tight or too loose, the garment can look terribly home-made.

Here is my jacket before I started doing the top stitching.The bulky (but beautifully light) wool is calling out for a little definition, so even if the pattern didn’t demand it I would say this was a good candidate for a bit of the old topstitching. The point of it, practically, is not just decorative. It keeps all the edges of your jacket or coat from turning out, and by doing the sewing by hand, you gently manipulate and mould every edge to lie exactly as you want it. And the actual jacket edge looks defined and a bit like piping.

The weather is lovely in London this week, so I wore my jacket out even though it is not finished. A (male) work colleague and a blog reader (Patricia Brown) both complimented me on it. I think it is a great colour for me and it makes me feel really happy.

Here are the instructions. I had a long car journey this weekend, going to see my Mother in Lancashire, so apart from replacing the pockets I did the top stitching in the car.

Top stitching instructions
Top stitching instructions

Once I arrived in Lancashire my Mum (with whom we celebrated her 87th birthday) asked to try it on.

Elderly lady in vintage jacket
Mother in Vogue 7133

You will see having let my Mum try it on I had a hard time getting it back.

Great grandma, Ted, strawberries
Great grandma, Ted, strawberries

And here it is on me. I love it. Warm, light, a great colour and just the thing I needed to add to my wardrobe. I wore it again yesterday with a pink skirt and shell top.

25 Responses

  1. Joyce Latham

    Wow! It looks fabulous on both of you! Ha!
    It’s so nice to see and hear you so very happy with your completed jacket. I love the top stitching!
    Bravo Kate! Excellent, as always !
    Joyce ??

  2. AnnIe

    Such an uplifting colour on you, don’t you think yellow is underrated? I had never thought of hand topstitching but I do like the idea and will definitely use it. Lovely jacket and a neat kimono sleeve. I also like how you’ve styled it, looks great with the green and blue.

  3. Liz Cooney

    Very, very elegant. It looks wonderful on you! This style really suits you. Also, I am a bit biased because I prefer solids. – I remember reading, once, that Jackie O avoided prints…and I thought about it. It’s true….she’s almost always in solids in photos. And she was, of course, always so chic. (Kind of like you in your soft-yellow jacket!) ~

  4. Stephanie

    K, This is gorgeous on both you and your mum. Wow! The colour is even prettier and more lemon-y than I had thought and the shape and fit perfect on you.

    The idea of hand top-stitching piques my interest. I love hand sewing and I am always nervous top-stitching with the machine because I agree that top-stitching can either make or ruin a garment. I sometimes skip it in places I am supposed to use it. I’m going to have to look for a garment that can benefit from this treatment.

      • fabrickated

        I used Gutterman top stitching thread – I think it is the same as the button hole thread. 30m/337ds, 100% polyester. It has CA 02776 on the reel. I think you would enjoy doing it S – measure from the finished edge (5/8th) and try to keep it straight! It is just a tiny running stitch/stab stitch.

        • Stephanie

          Thanks, K. This is exactly what I was wondering. A jacket with top-stitching is definitely in my future. Yours is perfect!

  5. Anne

    Great jacket – classy. Will you make one for your Mum? She’s the same age as my mother – but I’m a summer and Mum’s an autumn so we don’t have too much in common with garment colours. I like your top stitching (I can’t do anything in a car like reading lest I get travel sick). I prefer plain colours, too, but have decided to experiment with prints. We’ll see.

  6. Chris

    this is a revelation – for some reason, I never thought of top stitching by hand, yet it’s so much more controllable! your jacket looks great, by the way…

  7. Alli

    Your jacket looks beautifully made! The topstitching is so impressive — at first, I thought you meant that you were going to do it by machine, and I’m nervous enough doing it that way, let alone by hand. Great job! 🙂

  8. Mem

    the jacket looks lovely on you and your mum ! I love top stitching and get a pretty good result by using a machine stitching to get a nice straight line and then use the stitch interval to get even hand sewn stitches . I use a basting thread or a silk thread to make it easy to pull it out or sometimes just leave it there buried in the fabric.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Mem. I did wonder about marking the line first, so this is a good tip. I just kept my little measure close by and kept checking the distance from the edge.

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