How to Hand-Sew a Topstitch or Pickstitch

Written by victoria sweeney
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How to Hand-Sew a Topstitch or Pickstitch
Details like topstitching make a garment look finished and hold up longer. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The pickstitch, also called prickstitch, is a form of topstitch that creates a subtle decorative line. Pickstitching is often used to mount zippers and to tack down facings, but can also be used as a purely decorative detail by using contrasting buttonhole twist instead of standard thread.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Hand sewing needle
  • Thread or buttonhole twist
  • Garment or fabric

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  1. 1

    Press down the layers being stitched, making sure all folds are sharp and even. If you iron with steam, wait for the fabric to dry thoroughly before stitching.

  2. 2

    Thread your needle with a knot at the end of the thread. Bring the needle up through the back of the fabric at the right end of the line to be stitched and pull through to the knot.

  3. 3

    Bring the point of the needle down about a millimetre behind (to the right of) the point where it emerges, then up again 1/4 inch to the left. Pull the stitched closed. You are creating a very small backstitch with a gap between one and the next.

  4. 4

    Moving right to left, repeat along the length of the seam. Keep the stitches firm but not taut. Tie off at the back of the fabric.

Tips and warnings

  • To keep your line of pickstitches perfectly straight, try laying down a strip of low-tack masking tape (sometimes called Blue Painter's Tape) and stitching right along the edge. Be sure to test on a scrap to be sure the adhesive doesn't mar the fabric.
  • If you're left-handed, it may be easier to stitch left to right.
  • If you draw the line of stitches too tight, it will pucker your fabric. Check frequently to make sure your stitched fabric lies flat.

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