How do you create two parallel lines of stitches without having to sew twice? The simple answer is…by using a twin needle. But twin needles aren’t quite that simple and there are a few things you need to know before you jump in and use one. None of them are scary or particularly difficult, it’s just important to know that you can’t treat then exactly like a single needle.
Let’s take a look at what twin needles are, when you should use them, and some top tips for getting the best results. Plus there’s a few examples of Waves & Wild patterns that you could use a twin needle for and when you’d use it.
What is a twin needle?
A twin needle is two sewing machine needles attached to a single shaft that can be put into a domestic sewing machine in the same way as a regular, single needle. It sews two parallel lines of straight stitches at once on the top of your fabric, and creates a zigzag of thread on the back. As they have two needles, a twin needle uses two spools of thread (on the top/to the side of the sewing machine) plus the bobbin thread.
Most domestic sewing machines can use a twin needle but NOT ALL OF THEM CAN. Always check your manual before using a twin needle! If your needle plate (the flat metal section on your sewing machine which the foot sits on top of and where the needle goes into the machine) only has a small hole where the needle goes down then you either can’t use a twin needle or you need to swap to a different needle plate with a large hole.
Just like regular needles, twin needles also come in a variety of types and sizes, but they also have different widths too. The most commonly available types of twin needles are universal, stretch and jeans/denim in the standard needle sizes for these sorts of fabric (see the blog post How To Choose The Correct Needle for more information on needle types and sizes). The width of a twin needle is the gap between the two points of the needles; different width will create parallel lines of stitches closer together or further apart. Twin needle widths range between 1.6mm and 6mm. It is important to check the hole in your needle plate and space in your sewing machine foot before you use any width of twin needle to check it will fit between the gaps. If you use a twin needle that is too wide for your needle plate or machine foot then you will snap the needle. This can be dangerous for you and could cause damage to your sewing machine too.
When can you use twin needles?
Once you’ve worked out that your sewing machine can use a twin needle, you’ll need to know when and where you can use them for your garment sewing.
Twin needles are most commonly used to hem knit fabrics. They create a professional-looking finish on the front and the zigzag on the back means that the straight stitch of a twin needle actually has stretch.
Twin needles are also good for topstitching when you want two parallel lines, like on necklines and pockets. And using one means you don’t need to sew twice or worry about getting the two lines perfectly evenly spaced!
Tips for using twin needles
- Always work looking at the right side of your hem or garment. This means you won’t be able to see the turned up raw edge on the wrong side of your hem so it won’t provide a guide for where the stitches need to go. Use the guides on your sewing machine’s needle plate or your foot edge to judge where the stitches needs to go to catch the raw edge on the back. If this is too tricky then you can mark a line using a fabric pen on the front.
- Ideally the left needle will just catch the edge of the hem on the back/wrong side and the right needle will be onto the fabric of the hem. Wider twin needles will give you more room for error with this but make sure they fit your machine and foot.
- You need to view stitch length when using a twin needle in the opposite way to a single line of straight stitches. A shorter stitch length will give your rows of stitches more stretch as shorter stitches create more zigzags on the back, and it’s the zigzags that give the stretch. If you find your thread is breaking when the garment is worn then try a shorter stitch length.
- Tunnelling…something to avoid! It means that the fabric between the stitch rows is raised, and on a perfect twin needle stitch the fabric remains flat. To correct tunnelling you’ll need to adjust the stitch length or the tension, or both. Take your time and only adjust one thing at a time. Test on a fabric scrap but be sure it’s the same fabric as your garment and fold a fake hem if that’s where you are getting the tunnelling. The tension and stitch length needed when sewing one, two or three layers of fabric will all be different so make sure you are testing on something that replicates the part of the garment where you want to use the twin needle.
Where to use twin needles
Here are a few examples of parts of a garment that could suit a twin needle, and a few Waves & Wild patterns you’ll find this. Can you spot your favourite pattern? Have you been using a twin needle? The instructions always give an alternative stitch (e.g. zigzag) but a twin needle does give a really smart looking finish.