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Topstitching Tips for the Stafford Jacket

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Our new Stafford Jacket was inspired by that most classic of garments, the jean jacket. Who doesn't have a jean jacket (even I have one and I don't own any actual jeans!). There is just something so right about the slouchy denim jacket. It is comfortable, functional and always looks good. Thinking about the Stafford, we combined the archetypal jean jacket with a cropped swing shape. The most unique feature of a jean jacket is the wonderful topstitching featured on the front, a detail we incorporated into the Stafford. Good topstitching is the hallmark of a professional looking garment, but can be tricky to perfect. Read on for some suggestions on making your topstitching clean and professional.

​In this sample of the Stafford Jacket, we used a the Coats Dual Duty XP Heavy polyester thread in Spice to create the contrasting topstitching. It really pops off the Dark Indigo Denim fabric, and the color mimics that classic orange thread found in jeans. If you like this look, we are now offering a Stafford Denim Jacket Kit that includes the denim fabric, topstitching thread, 4 snaps (specifically sourced for this jacket) and the two coordinating buttons for the front flaps.  

​Of course, if you are going to use a contrasting topstitching, then you need to get the stitching as clean and straight as you can. In our 2015 Sew Confident! tutorial on creating the Denim Chicago Jacket, we talked about the importance of testing your topstitching before you start your project. With any fabric, but especially a heavy denim, it behooves you to take a little time to test the thread and needle type to make sure that your final stitching is balanced and clean. For instance, you might want to adjust your stitch length with a heavy topstitching thread, or maybe your machine prefers a heavy thread on top, but an all-purpose weight in the bobbin. There is also the option of buying a bobbin that is designed specifically for heavy thread. Or, it could be that your machine stitches with topstitching thread without any problems at all! 

We suggest recording your tests in a notebook, so in the future, when you are working with similar materials, you will already know what combinations work well with your machine. Here are a few tests that you should try:

  1. Thread type
  2. Needle type
  3. Stitching from the right or wrong side and a look at the stitch quality
  4. Stitching through multiple thicknesses of fabric
  5. Stitching through two fabrics of different weights 
  6. Stitch length

When sewing heavy fabrics, have you ever come up to a thick seam and the machine didn't want to sew? If it is a hem at a flat fell seam, it could have as many as eight layers of the fabric in it! My machine does not do well stitching over those lumps. I get broken needles, uneven stitch lengths and skipped stitches all the time. If you are having that issue, you might try using a Jean-a-ma-jig. Basically, when you are sewing up on a thick seam, the Jean-a-ma-jig is used as a boost to level your presser foot. Because the foot is already up to the level of the thick seam, your fabric can be evenly fed through the machine, keeping your stitching even. 

Tune into the Stafford Sew-Along, starting February 13th, to see how we test the topstitching for the Stafford. I hope you will sew along with us - get started by ordering your Stafford Denim Jacket Kit today! 

Stafford Sew Along Part One: Cutting and Marking
Frankie Sew Along Part Seven: Hems & Buttonholes

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