Mini-Tutorial: Finishing top-stitching and machine quilting invisibly

So, you’ve spent time sewing, stitching and pressing and your lovingly handmade bag or fabric basket is nearly finished. Now you are top-stitching the completed seam, spending time ensuring that the stitching is neat and even, perhaps even using different spool and bobbin threads so that the you coordinate exactly with lining and outer fabrics. So no way do you want to back stitch or reverse stitch at the beginning of your row of top-stitching – if you are anything like me, you will want it to look absolutely perfect. Or maybe you are doing some beautiful machine quilting and your bobbin has run out, or your design means that you can’t hide the end of your stitching in the binding – this method will work for you too!

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Firstly you need nice long tails of threads to work with – 5 or 6 inches is ideal. If you are machine quilting and you’ve run out of bobbin thread – just unpick a few stitches to create some tail to work with. If you are top-stitching, this is not the time to use the automatic thread cutter on your sewing machine!

The picture below shows the beginning and end of my row of top-stitching. You need to work on the wrong side of your project, so the first step is to pull the threads on the right side through to the wrong side. Pull on the bobbin threads on the wrong side, and the loops of the spool threads will appear – use a needle or pin to hook the loops and pull the threads through.

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Here’s how it should look when you have everything through to the wrong side:

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Knot the threads together in two pairs, like this. Obviously, if you’re quilting, you’ll only have one set of threads to worry about – yay, you’ll be done in half the time!

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Thread up one pair of the thread tails onto a needle with a reasonably large eye. This is a slightly cheaty short cut. If you are working with very fine fabrics or you are quilting and don’t want to make great big needle holes on the back of your quilt, you can use a smaller needle and deal with the thread tails one at a time.

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Insert the needle really close to the knot that you made in this pair of threads, and make a long stitch back along the seam line:

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Pull the threads through and keep gently pulling until the knot disappears beneath the fabric.

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

The stitchy jargon phrase for this is burying the knot. Only one lonely knot left to go now – and if you are quilting you are all done. Snip off the excess thread tails before you deal with the other knot.

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Now you can repeat for the other set of thread tails, if you need to.

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

Mini-tutorial on finishing top stitching and machine quilting invisibly

And that’s that! Hope you find this a useful – old hat to many I am sure, but now I am teaching beginners I’m realising it’s definitely worth sharing these tips.

11 thoughts on “Mini-Tutorial: Finishing top-stitching and machine quilting invisibly

  1. Even as an old hatter I’m always interested in how others tackle these finishing details and find I’m always learning something new – this time it is to tie a knot before burying the threads – thanks Ali think my finishes will be even more secure now!

  2. Hey Ali, my mom showed me this trick years ago, but I forgot all about it. So Thank You very much for showing everyone this great trick. 🙂

  3. Hi Ali I have learned something new tonight thank you. I top stitch on many projects and am always disappointed at the finish. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. Dorothy xx

    1. Thanks so much Dorothy – pleased you have learned something new. I noticed that my students (so far!) often find this bit very stressful, so I thought some extra info and pictures might help! Thanks as always for your lovely comment.

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