Sewing Stripes: What Colour Thread?

Hey, everyone! Finally, I’ve picked up the pieces of my Striped Renfrew Top and started to sew. And yet before I even started sewing, I thought of something to write about!

When you’re sewing a striped fabric, especially one with a strong contrast between the colours, what colour thread do you use?

knit striped fabrics

For this taupe and cream, I can choose either taupe, or cream. (Seems obvious, right?) But there are some things to consider when picking your thread colour. Weigh your options, consider all of the factors below and then make a decision!

Some factors to consider:

What colour is dominant? Are there fat black stripes and skinny white stripes? In that case I’d pick black. In my fabric, the taupe stripes are wider than the white ones, so it would be logical to choose taupe as the thread colour.

What colour are you serging, if you’re planning to serge as well? I’m planning to serge in cream or off-white, so it will coordinate better with the serging if I choose cream thread.

What does the fabric look like from the inside? Some fabrics are bright and printed on the outside, but all-white on the inside. Perhaps you might want to use white thread then.

Is there any topstitching? If so, what colour do you want the topstitching to be? If there is no topstitching, the colour of your thread is less important as it’s just going to be visible from the inside, maybe a little at the seams if they pull apart.

renfrew top view B close-up of neckline

(from memory I thought the topstitching on this shirt was cream, but it’s actually navy!)

Do you want to switch between thread colours? Perhaps there’s a wide black stripe at the hem but you were planning to use white thread. It might look better if you switched to black thread just at that one spot.

Can you find a good colour match in thread? For my taupe and white striped fabric, I can easily match the cream colour, but it was hard to find just the right taupe. So I’m going to go with the cream thread, because I would rather have matching cream than slightly-off taupe visible for the topstitching.

I know, that seems like a lot of thinking about something as simple as thread colour! I’m an analytical person and I think like this all the time, weighing my options, figuring out the best way to approach something before starting. The more planning at the front end (before starting sewing) the faster the sewing process goes!

Here are more blog posts about the Renfrew Top. (Get the pattern here.)

That is a lot of posts already! I won’t cover everything in the making of the striped version, just the things that make it different from the solid, cowl neck version.

How do you choose thread colour when your fabric is striped or heavily contrasted? What factors are most important to you?

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16 Responses to Sewing Stripes: What Colour Thread?

  1. clothingengineer January 16, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    I am constantly in this dilemma when it comes to sewing prints. Generally I match to the dominant color. If it has a bunch of different colors with no dominant one, I match to a middle color. At least that way it won’t be too bright in the dark parts and too dark in the light parts. When dealing with something that has a lot of contrast (like a black and white print) I will match to the darker color. For some reason the black thread against the white background is less noticeable to me than the white thread against a dark background.

    • indigorchid January 16, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      I had the same thought too – that matching the darker color will make the stitching visually recede a little, while matching the lighter color might make it pop a little more.

  2. francesca January 16, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    I made a batwing dress with some gorgeous eco jersey with wide stripes in nacy and ecru, with an empire elastic line – self drafted after I saw a dress in a mag that i liked. I sewed it all up in navy, but when it came to hemming, I went a little crazy. Where the sides of the skir them curved up and the edges changed colour, I changed thread colour to match the colour on the outside. Same with the sleeves hem. It took a while – and I did it by hand in herringbone stitch – but it looks amazing…..

  3. Rachel W January 16, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Ooh, good post– I’ve dithered over this a LOT in the past. Like, if I have to topstitch on something striped or colorblocked, I’ve gone so far as using black bobbin thread and white upper– that way I can just flip my work over to topstitch in the correct color on the correct bit, instead of changing out all the thread. Definitely overthinking this, right?

    I’m very new to serging, so I hadn’t considered matching the serging thread to the lockstitched thread. That’s a thoughtful touch!

  4. Debbie January 16, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    I usually try to match to the darkest color. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and I have been known to change thread colors for different areas of a garment. To me, the darker thread recedes into the background and does not pop as much as a light colored thread on a darker background. I’ll also frequently use different colors for the top and bobbin thread, but I just assume that’s me being OCD.

    • indigorchid January 16, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Ooo, I do that differently colored top and bobbin thread thing too. Let’s agree it’s totally normal, yeah? ;)

      • Irina January 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

        I think it’s great to use different colours on top and in the bobbin. I did that when I sewed my lace dress – brown lace was the top layer and champagne taffeta was the bottom layer. So I have my top thread matched up to the lace and the bottom thread matched to taffeta. I actually wasn’t sure if anybody else did it but it seemed to work for my project :) Glad to see I am not the only one :)

  5. Seraphinalina January 16, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I haven’t sewn with stripes yet. I just don’t feel drawn to them in fabric or RTW. You can also go Oona style and use fabric pens to change the thread colour to match if it’s really noticable.

    • Marcy January 16, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      I love how she breaks out the fabric pens and ‘hides’ all her stitches. It seems like it would be fun to do, but I’m not sure how necessary it really is on busy fabric as she usually picks.

      • Seraphinalina January 16, 2013 at 11:21 am #

        I completely agree. I don’t think I’d have the patience to do it or feel the need, but I like the idea.

  6. Amy January 16, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Every time you post something about the Renfrew it makes me wish you had a pattern for a knit sun dress. Is this something you might do in the future?

  7. aliza patell ratnayaka January 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Hi thank you for the very helpful information about sewing the Renfrew. I do like the cowl neck and I wondered if you have any tips on sewing the V neck version? I cant seem to get the v to sit well.
    thanks Aliza

  8. Lisa January 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    well…all those above links finally did it! You made me buy 3 of your patterns–hee hee!! I WAS just going to buy the knit top, since that was this post, but I’ve been eyeballing some others..so just went ahead & purchased them! You enabler, you! ha! :)

  9. Liz January 16, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    What about Oonaballoona’s method of using one colour and marker pens to match the thread when the colour of the fabric changes – genius!

  10. Kathy Bell January 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    How do you match the stripes on the sleeves to the body of a t-shirt?

  11. Daniela March 13, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I think in seasons for this decision. If the garment if for summer, I’d probably use a the paler colour, if it’s a winter garment, I’d use the darker. Seems to me, white and pale is casual and summery, and black/dark is more classic and wintery.

    I’ve been known to ink in visible stitching too, adds a bit of class to anything.

    Just found this website, I need to get the machine out again after moving house.

    Daniela

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