Contrasting Colour Thread – Would You?


Contrast Overlocker Thread

This is my current make in a gorgeous teal crepe. The seams are finished by overlocking in red thread because a) I couldn’t be bothered to change the threads, b) I like the contrast and c) no one will see this.

On the same make, there’s top stitching involved. I sewed that in matching thread because a) I couldn’t be bothered to change the threads, b) any issues with accuracy will become screamingly obvious and c) everyone will see this.


I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to contrast thread with topstitching and I pick my battles. I want to know that I have pretty good control of the fabric on the machine and I’ll use my number 57 Bernina foot to make sure things stay accurate. Then, maybe I’ll use a contrast thread. But if I was topstitching a collar in thick wool, I’d definitely choose matching thread, thanks very much. I don’t need to draw attention to any less than perfect sewing!

I have used contrasts with delightful results. This skirt still brings me pleasure every time I wear it.

baby-pink-collageI’ve also seen some very successful top stitching from other people. I’d love to know their secrets! Any tips, my friends? For example, I’ve never used specialist top stitching thread. Does it make a big difference?

And are you sometimes like me – too lazy to change your overlocker thread?



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40 Responses to Contrasting Colour Thread – Would You?

  1. I would definitely try the special top stitching thread, it comes out looking very professional, especially for casual trousers and skirts. If you do, make sure to get a topstitching needle too, they have a longer eye with more room for the thick thread to move. I shredded a lot of topstitching thread with a regular needle before I figured that one out …

    For my last few pairs of pants I’ve used two colors of topstitching side by side. (I saw this look on a pair of my husband’s jeans and really liked it.) I tend to prefer thread colors that compliment the fabric, but add a little interest. I like subtle, but at the same time I don’t want all my careful topstitching to just blend invisibly into the fabric. Of course, that means more changing of the thread colors, but I make up for it by sewing all the construction seams which won’t show with something really basic, like grey.

  2. Tanya says:

    Too terrified to change my overlocker thread! Everything’s been done in white so far…I did have a broken thread the other day and had to sit down (for over an hour!) and work out how to rethread but it took me and my lovely man so long I was tearing my hair out! One day…

  3. Jenny Lester says:

    I would probably use a matching rather than a contrasting thread, maybe using the “stitching” thread in the overlocker needle, but why I don’t know. I have reels and reels of mixed colours of overlooking thread, so why not use it to brighten up the inside of a garment, and save the perfect colour for seams and top stitching which will be seen. However I noticed a student recently, who when making Vogue 9004, a top with a diagonal front seam using 2 different fabrics, overlocked the white fabric using coloured thread which was on her overlocker and although it didn’t show through – I thought looked wrong!!! What do you think???

  4. Ooh, do try the topstitch thread, it looks fab – I’d second the use of a special topstitch needle though, it makes life so much easier. In my experience the process goes a lot smoother if you use normal thread in the bobbin. That way you dont have to muck around with the bobbin tension!

    Love contrast overlock threads – your teal and red combo is gorgeous!

  5. helen says:

    I first used contrast topstitching thread on a denim dress I made last year. The results were OK, the tension on the back wasn’t great. Then I found Yes I Like That blog post on topstitching and learnt all I need to know. I’ve used I a few times since and looks fab.
    Do try the topstitching thread, it gives great results. Use a proper topstitch needle and as the post above says use normal thread in the bobbin. You also have to play with your tension but now I know to move the dial up to 7 and it works fine.
    Ideally I’d like to have two machines set up so I didn’t have to change the needle and thread all the time!

    • Jen (NY) says:

      That’s a good point about the needle (no pun intended). I always switch to a new one for top stitching, and whenever appropriate, a microtex needle.

      • helen says:

        you’ll find the topstitching needles are designed for the thicker thread. I once spent ages trying to thread a normal needle with the thicker topstitching thread and spending ages trying to do it and wasting thread with snipping the end after each failed attempt!

  6. N says:

    I have a few colors of serger thread but almost always use a matching color in the left needle and white or black in the others.

  7. Sam says:

    Ugh, I hate changing my overlocker thread. It just takes so long (or that’s what it feels like). My top tip with regard to top stitching would be to go slowly.

  8. Sharon Holmes says:

    Sharon says,
    We always use contrasting coloured threads on the children’s clothes we. We overlock blue threads on to pink fleece, the result is really cool

  9. laulipopnz says:

    I will top stitch in a co-coordinating thread, actually I do this a lot, half because I can’t be bothered to change threads.
    Also I just made up two little girls dresses yesterday and I had red in my overlocker that I couldn’t be bothered changing as I am also in the middle of something red.
    normally if I can’t be bothered changing my overlocker threads there is normally only white or black in it so it tends not to matter too much!

  10. Always too lazy to change threads – sometimes with disastrous consequences if the threads are different quality and pull against each other but I generally get drawn to using up bobbins and threads. The more top stitching I do the better it gets. You have used the same trim on your skirt that I had on my denim one at Minerva last week which was a shorter version of a M&S skirt that fit my waist but made me look old because it was too long. Get idea. Jox

  11. Jen (NY) says:

    I usually topstitch in the same color of thread, unless it’s jeans or something like that. I think that using a slightly heavier weight of thread can result in more professional looking top-stitching that regular thread. I often use Gutterman Mara, which is available here in NYC (whereas labelled “top stitching” thread is hard to find since there are very few regular fabric shops). It is also possible to use a double strand of regular thread in the needle. When I tried this I thought the stitched line looked a little too “bumpy” for my taste. Alternatively, I sometimes use glossy rayon embroidery type thread. I think the rayon thread is nicely subtle when topstitching black fabric with black thread.

    However, I do kind of enjoy contrast on the inside of a garment where no one else sees it– whether that’s contrasting overlocked edges or complementary colored facing pieces. It can be a fun way to experiment with pattern & colors. Red thread inside is a nice one!

  12. I’m generally willing to change the serger thread if I *have* serger thread that matches… and I only have around 6 or 7 colors because I can apparently never be bothered to buy more colors. So if I don’t have something that matches, there’s generally a good chance of it being a contrasting color!

  13. Lucy says:

    To be honest, I am REALLY lazy about it. I can’t be bothered buying 4 spools of thread in a particular colour, so I have white and the light grey that came with it. Those actually work for most projects, to be honest. I have some red and brown I bought when I thought I HAD to use the same colour for the fabric, then I decided changing the threads was too much work. So I’ll probably build up a small collection of colours and call it a day there. I’m endlessly impressed with people who take the time to find just the right colour of overlocker thread, though.

  14. dietcouture says:

    I’m generally too lazy to change threads as well, but I love to use contrast topstitching. The specialty thread is really fun if you want a thicker look, you may have to play around with the tension and stitch length compared to your regular sewing thread. If I want a heavier stitch, but don’t want to bother with the specialty thread, sometimes I’ll just do the same thing that has already been mentioned – using two spools (either the same or different colored) and treating them as one. I’m the exact opposite of my mom, who is a much better sewist than I, but insists on only using same-colored topstitching.

  15. Erika says:

    I change my server threads by clipping them off at the spools, then taking off the old spools and place the new ones, and then knotting the new thread to the still-threaded old threads. Then I just run my machine till the new thread comes out, works perfectly! (You might want to do the needle threads by hand if you are afraid your knot won’t pass the needle)

  16. sewsable says:

    For my overlocker I use either cream/white or dark grey for all my projects as I find they both blend well if you make sure to use light on light and dark on dark; matching isn’t really necessary. For my coverhem I either match or go total contrast depending on how lazy I’m feeling (have to wind off bobbins to fill both needle threads normally, and for topstitching it depends totally on what end result I’m after. If it’s a casual piece or a statement piece I’m more likely to go with contrast; but for a suit for work then I’ll match.

  17. Kathy Lynch says:

    My overlocking life has changed recently…I no longer break out in a sweat at the thought of changing threads! I recently purchased a Babylock Imagine. They certainly aren’t cheap (but then, neither am I!) but SO worth it. With the press of a lever, thread is “sucked” through for the 2 loopers in an instant! And the 2 needles are as simple as a sewing machine to thread. HOORAH!
    Having said that, I think the red looks really cute on that beautiful shade of blue, Karen.

  18. Fashionista says:

    I was gifted by my lovely neighbour (who acquired them from a friend who was cleaning out their mother’s house) 100s of spools of thread in every colour and shade imaginable. So I rarely have to buy thread (except for black and white) for which I am very grateful (allows more funds for other fancy haberdashery 😉 ). As my overlocker is very old and very simple, changing 2 of the 3 threads is really easy, you just knot the new thread on and run it through. The remaining thread which runs through the needle is also straightforward to change so that easy process combined with lots of thread colour choices, most of the time the overlocking finish matches the fabric. Which suits my OCD perfectly. I have started to use a lot of seam binding and french seams so the overlocker isn’t utilised as much as it once was.

  19. Diana Deap says:

    Occasionally,I will use contrasting thread to serge finish seams if it looks pretty but otherwise I do like the thread to match. I happen to love top stitching so I mostly use contrasting threads. I like top stitching thread and I usually use a jeans needle which works really well! And that’s my two cents worth!

  20. Nikki says:

    I only use navy, black, white, cream and brown for my overlocker and change it according to which one goes best with my fabric. I always topstitch with the same thread I sew the seams with, always matching.

  21. SewingElle says:

    I love contrasting overlooking thread colour and I sometimes even use it too…

    My topstitching tip is to use an edge stitching foot for my Bernina- it takes the guess work out of even distances from the edge.

    I’ve had good results with topstitching thread and if I’ m using a contrasting course I like to use a matching colour in the bobbin. It gives just a teensy bit more definition to the contrast stitch.

    Love that skirt and your fancy stitching!

  22. Maggie says:

    I’m just making some green stretch jeans and topstitching with a brighter shade of proper topstitching thread. It looks the business. Newly acquired hand crank singer is set up in the kitchen for topstitching, which it seems to have been created for, and trusty Bernina 1008 and over locker cluttering up the dining room, along with ironing board and all the other paraphernalia! Lucky I have a supportive DH.

  23. Rachel says:

    that looks like fabric for a wedding guest dress!

  24. Paola says:

    I use the blind hemstitch foot from my Bernina to do topstitching, which keeps things nice and even, without much stress.
    I’ve used specialist topstitching thread on denim, with a longer stitch length, and have been happy with the results.
    If I think I’ll be toggling between construction seams and topstitching I’ll set up my old machine to do the construction seams, and have my Bernina do the topstitching, because it has a much nicer stitch than my old machine.
    As for contrasting thread for overlocking – yes, often, because I like the look of it!

  25. Tanya says:

    Oh yes – l do this all the time. If l feel l can get away with using odd coloured thread for overlocking, meaning that the colour won’t be seen then l will. I am one of those people who can’t be asked to go through the rigamarole of changing fiddly overlocker threads unless l really have to.

  26. I love a contrast but when it comes to overlocking, it’s pretty much always because I can’t be bothered to change it. 4 spools! 4! That teal fabric looks like it feels amazing

  27. fabrickated says:

    I really like top stitching, especially on a tailored garment. I tend to do this by hand, using a top-stich or buttonhole twist. I measure the stictches from the edge as I go along and take small stab stitches. This finish is quite common on vintage outwear.

  28. Suzie says:

    I am SUPER lazy about my overlocker thread – so much that I now just only use pale grey threads which tends to go with pretty much every fabric I have sewn with! And I avoid top stitching like the plague – my sewing isn’t neat enough to be seen on the outside of my makes!

  29. katie says:

    I do always try to match my overlocker thread colour (though I like that blue/red contrast!), BUT I totally plan my sewing projects out to do a bunch in one colour i.e. black before switching to another colour. Lazy/practical.

  30. cupandpenny says:

    I wish I had an overlocker! Maybe that’ll be my Christmas present…

  31. Personally I also like the contrasting color thread. Also this trend is becoming popular as I have noticed many seamstress’s add such a contrasting touch to their garments.

  32. Erin says:

    I try & plan projects around my serger thread. For instance I recently used black & picked my next project because it also uses black. For topstitching using the right needle is crucial & I’ve found it generally looks best with a slightly longer stitch length. My best tip is to go slow. Maybe it’s just my machine, but I’ve found my most consistent results happen when I go slow, despite the fact it feels like it takes forever. It’s always worth it.

  33. I use contrasting threads in all my projects on purpose, and actually I use three different colors in my serger. I think it’s more fun, even if I’m the only one seeing those colors.
    The funny thing is that I do change the threads to make sure I’m using the best combination of colors for the fabric I’m going to use : )

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