Monday, 8 August 2016

How to sew with twin needle and get the best result

This is a guide to getting better result with twin needle, also known as double needle. I happened to read a blog post about using twin needle because it was recommended by a page on Facebook that I'm following. I checked if there was anything new, but there wasn't, not in that sense. New thing that I learned was that maybe sewing with twin needle isn't as usual as I have learned to think. I checked Pinterest and found several pins about the topic, I read about 10 and only one mentioned briefly why twin needle is such a good thing and none of them mentioned what makes it so. I have at least 5 blog posts waiting to be finished with pictures and everything and I'm writing something unplanned. Why? Because I got so annoyed by the blog post about using twin needle that I just had to. That post included one mistake and the other posts I read had the same mistake. Someone has to correct it.

The needle I'm talking about looks like this:

I have had the education of a seamstress but in our school we rarely used the knit fabrics, they were considered as easy choice. The main focus was in other clothing fabrics, drawing patterns, design your own wardrobe etc. I remember we did one t-shirt with knit fabric, just to know what it is like and I remember one sentence about twin needle by my teacher and that was something like "It is good to use twin needle with knit fabric." Why? That wasn't explained. We only used the school's industrial coverlock (I only now realise how cool that was!) to finish the t-shirts and that was it. It was only after I had kids that the topic came up again. After all, the kids' clothes are usually made with knit fabrics, they are comfortable, they are nice and stretchy so you can move with them freely. I only had that one sentence in my head about using twin needle but couldn't see why I would buy a specific needle to make two stitches next to each other when I can use the regular ones I already have and use zig zag? And now, after all this rambling we get to the point.

The stitch with twin needle stretches. Even if my kids pull their t-shirts over their heads and stuck their elbows under the shirts, they will just stretch and won't break. Of course, you want to check the threads you are using, if they are poor quality or very thin, they will break, no matter what. Zig zag stretches too but the twin stitch gives the shirt whole more professional look.

And now, finally to the guide itself to the secrets of twin needle.

First, choose your needle based on the fabric you are going to sew. Sharp one to woven fabrics, ballpoint for knit fabrics. Believe me, it makes a difference. They are available in different sizes based on the needle size and also the width between the needles. I usually use the one with 4mm width.

Second, you need to have two sewing threads. To change the look you can easily use two different colours for both stitches but if you prefer not to and don't own two of each colour, use your bobbins!

The first tip was found in other blog posts too, but I will include here to keep things simple. Place the threads so that they unwind in the opposite directions; the other one counter-clockwise the other one clockwise.

When threading your sewing machine for twin needle, handle the two threads like they would be one through the last hoop:

This style works for me but if you have a sewing machine with one hoop like me and have problems with your twin needle stitch, try this:

The other thread goes under the hoop,the other one over it. This, like unwinding them to opposite directions, prevents tangling. If you have own hoops for two needles, you don't have this problem.

When you start sewing, make sure your thread tails are long and stay out of the way, better grab them and hold them back for couple stitches. No back stitches! To get the best result, use long stitch. My sewing machines max stitch is 4mm, I use that. Also, be careful with pulling the fabric, too much pulling or too sharp turn and you might just have a broken needle.

The stitch looks like this:

I have four different stitches, each has different settings and they all look the same on the right side. But... on the back side:

Number 1 is sewn using the overall setting of my sewing machine. The needle threat's tension is somewhere in the middle and so is the bobbin. When you see something like this, your first thought probably is that you have to increase the tension of the needle thread, you do that and you get the result of number 2.

Now to the thing that got me so annoyed in the beginning is right here with the picture above. Each and every one of the blog posts I found accepted that the twin needle stitch looks like number 1 on the wrong side. Possibly number 2. Like I said, it is quite brief time that I have been sewing with knit fabrics, but I have used twin needle so much that it has become obvious what it should look like and what the standard is. Standard isn't number 1 or number 2, it hardly is number 3 and number 4 comes close, it isn't perfect but good enough for me.

How did I do it then? You can increase the tension of the needle threat as much as you please but it only gets you to number 2. Take your bobbin out in it's case:

Unscrew the little screw counter clockwise just a millimeter or so and try again. This took me to number 3, if you aren't happy with it, unscrew it a bit more and now you should have something similar as in number 4! And make sure your needle threat has the maximum tension.

My sewing machine is ancient and I suspect the tension isn't as good as it has been some 30 years ago, that's why I accept the number 4 in the picture above but I have seen twin needle stitches that look better than mine so just try it with your sewing machine!

Why am I so mad (because that's what I'm) about this? That's because someone obviously popular had written a post about useful topic, saying it was complete guide and it was spread on popular Facebook page and then it has this serious flaw. But it does look the same on the right side? Yes it does. I can use different colour bobbin thread and don't mind it because it doesn't show to the right side but that's just that, colour. Now we are talking about making a seam that actually lasts. Numbers 1-3 will break if stretched and you have to sew them again. Number 4 stretches nicely and lasts much better.

The twin needle stitch is there because it stretches so don't make it un-stretchy!

When you are finished, don't use back stitch, in worst scenario you will end up breaking your needle or in second worst scenario, get tangled threads.

My way to finish the seam is like this:

I carefully pull the bobbin thread so it pulls the needle thread loops, I pull them through:

Sorry about that, this seam is number 1 but you get the point...

Then I make a knot and use needle to hide the thread ends under the stitch:

Here is also a close up to twin needle stitch that has real zig zag on the wrong side. A stitch like this won't get bulky on the right side either but is nice and flat.

A close up from one of the shirts I made for my kids:

I use twin needle for hemming but also for finishing the neckline.

If you have any questions or something to add I have forgotten, feel free to connect! And as always you can pin my pics, share them on social media any way you wish. And new thing too, you can now follow my blog on Instagram! I share there more than just my blog post pics and you can find my blog as upcyclelina_blog.


  1. Great tips! Twin needles are great, aren't they.

    1. They are, once you learn to use them. In the beginning I thought they just aren't worth it, too many broken needles simply because I didn't know how to use them. But now I wouldn't manage without. :)

  2. I've been sewing for 60 years and a few years back I started using twin needles. it took me a little time to figure out how to make them work as I wanted. But now I use them for knits all of the time. I have a couple of sets that are only 1.5mm; they're great for seams and I use the 4mm (or 6mm) for hems as you do. For a long time I had been drooling over a coverstitch machine, but even though using twin needles is slower, it's still plenty fast for me and I haven't had to put out $300-$500 for another machine. (Plus I already have seven of them - call me an addict!!)