Top stitching knits tip: Oliver’s rock climbing sweater

Three words: Tear Away Stabilizer

I’m sewing a Merino Stretch Knit Wool zip up sports top for my son to wear rock climbing.oliverclimbing1

The pattern I’m using is Jalie 2212, and I’m really loving all the seams and design details. 2212_2The directions have you top stitch the seams which is a great idea to keep the seams from chafing my son, an expert rock climber who sometimes sleeps on cliff ledges and wears the same thing for days when on a climbing trip.

So here is my quick explanation of how to top stitch knit seams.topstitchknitseams


My fist try at top stitching the merino wool knit seam was a failure. I didn’t add any kind of stabilizing material under the seam and just top stiched with my sewing machine.MY seam became really wavy, stretched out and ugly.

My second attempt included cutting 1 inch strips of knit interfacing to the seams before sewing. This did keep them from stretching out and they look good. HOWEVER, there is no stretch at all to the seam, and that is not what we want when sewing active wear. Interfacing works great for applying zippers to knits, though.

My third attempt was finally a success. I had some tear away stabilizer so I cut about a one inch strip to iron onto the seam on the wrong side after pressing my seam allowance down to one side. I top stitched the seam and tore away the stabilizer. It comes off quite easily. This definitely gives the best result. The seam isn’t stretched out at all or wavy, yet it still has some stretch to it vs the non stretchy seam I got from using interfacing.


I really wanted to make him something to wear while he is out climbing. A little piece of Mom’s love to wear out on the wall.11950391_10152640900648078_2082555471170198337_o

As many of you who read my blog are moms too, you can probably imagine how nerve wracking it is to have a child engaged in such a possibly deadly sport. I’m proud of my son; he trail blazed a mountain in Patagonia, South America this past spring, he and his friend made the map and named the climb, he’s done climbs like Yosemite’s Half dome, and is vice president of the climbing club at UC Berkeley. All I can do is pray, and maybe you can too, that he doesn’t decide to become a free climber or slip. 1506770_10153266195849380_1142089903564150591_nIt’s hard to believe he’s turning 22 this week. He was a Thanksgiving baby. The night I went into labor with him I was dancing salsa with my mom in our old kitchen like a maniac. He came two weeks early. All that jostling and the tryptophan in the turkey and he was ready to be born early! We now can share a beer together in our downtime….because life is short and we need to enjoy and be thankful our loved ones.

I won’t have a photo of my completed shirt until after Thanksgiving so to those of you in the US… Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. says

    Wow, those climbing pictures are crazy awesome! With two very careful little girls of 2 and 5 I can not even imagine how nervewrecking and proud you must feel. But who knows which adventures they will undertake in the future… Maybe getting all excited by getting perfect finishings on knit fabric, like I do? Will defintely save this tip, thanks!

    • justine says

      Whatever it is, sewing or extreme sports,I hope they follow their dreams!

  2. Judy Roberson says

    Know it will be a nice top .. Happy Birthday to your son..
    Hope you and family have a blessed Thanksgiving..

  3. says

    I ‘m looking forward to seeing the finished sweater. My daughter is a climber too, although not as extreme as your son (however she might like to be). She’s on the climbing team at University of Texas at Austin. I’ve only watched her indoors in the climbing gyms, and don’t care to watch her outdoor climbing. TOO nerve wracking, as you know!