Top stitching thread colours

I have some very special fabric in the sewing queue right now. It’s a stretch denim with a shiny silver foil finish and is destined to become skinny jeans. I’ve made a few pairs of silver jeans before, but never from fabric quite this reflective. And the question is, what to do about top stitching? I’ve always used a black or a dark grey thread on silver before, but this fabric is so bright that those will be highly contrasting. I want top stitching with a bit of definition, so that the garment looks like jeans and not trousers, but the fabric should be the star and not the stitching.

Here’s a collection of top stitching threads against a swatch of the fabric.

Silver fabric sample with various top stitching threads

Left to right: Gutermann Topstitch 000 (ie black), Gutermann Topstitch 36, Gutermann Topstitch 701, Coats Duet Extra Strong 4009, Gutermann Topstitch 38.

It’s clear to me that two lightest shades are best, but the Coats seems too dark and the Gutermann too light. The pictures only give a vague idea because the fabric can look anything from white to almost black depending how the light catches it. Normally the rule with thread choice is to go with the darker shade if in doubt, but I’m not so sure here. I’ve looked for images of garments made in similar fabric and am none the wiser as to what shade the top stitching is because they are all taken from too far away.

I acquired an intemediate shade of Gutermann thread, and realised that I ought to be looking at one strand of thread against the fabric rather than the whole spool:

Various grey topstitching threads against silver foiled denim

Left to right: Gutermann Topstitch 000 (black), Gutermann Topstitch 36, Gutermann Topstitch 701, Coats Duet Extra Strong 4009, Gutermann Topstitch 40, Gutermann Topstitch 38.

The new one is the second right, and that still seems too dark and too blue in shade and the rightmost one too light.

Here are those two on their own.

Gutermann topstitch thread colours 40 and 38

Left: Gutermann Topstitch 40. Right: Gutermann Topstitch 38.

I still can’t decide. I think once I’ve cut the fabric I’ll have to do stitching samples on the scraps. Anyone else had this problem? Did you go darker or lighter, and were you happy with it?

28 thoughts on “Top stitching thread colours

  1. You really need the top stitching samples. The lightest two threads look pretty close in the bottom samples but not enough orange in the colours in the others. If it was me I’d be shopping for a less blue hue in between in tone.

  2. I think there is a bit of a gold tinge to the fabric so maybe a thread that is a warmer colour. I think I’m agreeing with Karey. And I’m a big fan of the Guttermann shade cards – I think I got mine from Sew Essential

  3. If I can’t find a good top stitching colour I sometimes thread two ordinary threads (either identical, or in different but close colours). I agree samples are the way to go, and perhaps do a back pocket first to see if you do like your choice.

  4. I concur with Karey on this: not one shade has the right hue. You need a warmer colour, all the topstitch shown aren’t saturated enough. I’d try to find a copper and an old pink to compare, or even be bold and try a mauve. And you defintely need to see it irl! I’m so looking forwards to updates on this project though!

  5. I think you are right to avoid the darker colours, but as to which of the lighter shades I think samples are your best bet. I might be inclined to try some browner shades judging from the photos, but they might be misleading. The only other thing I can add is; have you prewashed your denim yet? I bought some denim with a shiny finish to make clothes for my granddaughter and most of the shine came off in the wash. Disappointing. Yours does look a better weight and much better quality though, so let’s hope it stays!

    1. Good point…I have had that happen to me with other shiny fabrics. I’ve had a similar gold coloured one which wore surprisingly well though, so I’m hopeful for this. I should definitely wash a swatch though.

  6. Grey is difficult! I recently had success on a shimmery grey jersey, much the same color and effect as your denim, using a grey with a slight muted green undertone. I know it sounds strange, but it really worked. Another idea is to use regular sewing thread, rather than topstitching thread, in a slightly deeper shade. It would be more subtle and still provide definition. Looking forward to your jeans!

  7. I don’t think you can tell from a photo, and you will probably need to do a few samples first. But when I made a silver, leather skirt I used a silver coloured thread which blended in well. With jeans you want the top stitching to stand out. I think I would use charcoal or black (or any deeper cool colour) if I were you as you often wear black clothes. Anyway I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome!

  8. I agree. Sampling necessary.
    Also the two threads together suggestion worked well for me in the past. It might be worth trying with this fabric.(which looks amazing BTW)

  9. Couple thoughts: Some jeans match the topstitching thread, the jeans fade over time but the thread doesn’t.
    Doubtful about using regular thread, not enough visual weight.

    Topstitching creates a teeny little ditches and reveals in the garment which make shadow lines. Esp. noticeable on light colored denim, more reason to lean toward lighter
    topstitching thread, imho.

  10. This is such an interesting post Catherine! I definitely agree that the best two are the lightest and I quite like the second although perhaps it is too blue. Maybe a thread more brown in colour would be better, like a taupe?
    With normal thread I usually lay one strand on the fabric and squint my eyes a bit to see which disappears the best but of course with topstitching you don’t want it to disappear!

  11. I would be curious how a taupe would look, as it is warmer tone of gray. I find taupe a bit of a magical color when matching thread color, it seems to go with almost everything that’s not black or white.

  12. My instinct would be the Gutermann 40, but, what about ordinary blue jeans topstitch thread? i.e. yellowy/orange? Fab fabric btw!

  13. There are a number of brands that makes jeans top stitching thread (check out cleaners supply, wawack etc in the US), including Gueterman, which also have cream/grey/silver colours that might be very nice. I’d tend to stick with lighter colours. Lovely denim.

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