You’ve done it! You’ve made it to week 3 of the Learn to Sew series. How have you done so far? Are things going ok? So far we’ve learned to sew a straight line and how to zigzag stitch. Today we are going to learn how to turn things and how to top stitch along with a couple of other handy sewing tips.
So, on to the lesson.
Lesson #3: Turning and Top Stitching
What do I mean by turning? Very often when you are sewing you are going to put the right sides together, stitch them and turn them right side out. That’s how you sew something without getting a raw seam on the outside. You’re going to use it all the time, so let’s learn how.
I am going to demonstrate this idea with the strap of an apron. In this example, I cut out my straps to the size I need. I then lay them so that the right sides of the fabric (the part that has the pattern-the part that I want to have show when I am done) is on the inside. So that the right sides are touching each other and I am looking at the wrong side.
Then, as you can see in that picture, I am going to sew it together (of course where you are sewing will depend on what you are making. This is just one example.)
Important: You will always need to leave an opening in your sewing of at least a couple of inches. Otherwise you won’t be able to turn it right side out. Typically the pattern or tutorial will tell you where to leave your opening.
Once I am done sewing and have left my opening (in the case of a strap that’s easy-it’s just open at the end of the strap) I am going to start to pull the fabric through the opening so that it is right side out.
Sometimes this will be easy, but when you are working with a small space it can be a little tricky. There are a few tricks to help you poke that fabric through.
First, use something like your scissors or a chopstick or knitting needle to help you push the fabric through:
You can also reach inside the tube and pull from there a little:
Once you get it completely turned you are going to press it nice and flat:
Then, in most cases you will need to sew your opening shut. To do that you will pinch it or press it so that it matches the seam you already had and then stitch it closed. Yes, this will leave a little bit of stitching on the outside of your item. That’s ok-it’s normal. Typically you will put it at the bottom of the project so it doesn’t show as much.
Now, what is top stitching? Top stitching means to sew on top of the the thing that you just sewed and turned. Hence the name top stitching.
There are 2 reasons to top stitch.
1. To hold what you just sewed in place. For example, if you sew the strap to a bag and then top stitch it, the strap will be more sturdy and your seams will stay where you want them instead of shifting around.
2. It can add a nice finishing touch to what you made.
As you can see in this picture I top stitched this messenger bag strap. In this case I did two straight lines just to add a nice look to it.
To do this you are simply going to line up your presser foot once at say a 1/2″ seam allowance and sew a straight line then do it again at a 1/4″ seam allowance. Easy.
Here’s another example of top stitching. This time it’s on another bag (in fact, it’s this week’s project bag) but it’s around the front of the bag:
One more example. This time from my ear warmer headband.
You can use top stitching on anything.
A couple more things to note for this lesson. Sometimes when you are sewing something that will need to be turned right side out, you will be sewing curves. (You ready for that?! You’re going to do it in this week’s project.) When you sew a curve, before you turn it right side out, it is helpful to make some very small cuts in the fabric that got right up close to (but definitely don’t cut through it!) your stitching. This helps the fabric to not pucker and bunch when you turn it right side out:
See the little cuts in this now?
You can do this for any curves that you sew to help it lay more flat.
So, to practice these skills this week I have 2 project options for you. You can make this small messenger bag. You will sew with right sides together, turn and top stitch in this project:
Or, if you want a second option, you could do this VERY easy ear warmer headband. It also has turning and top stitching: