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I have been sewing with stretch for almost 18 months now. But only recently I was introduced to a great way of making my knit t-shirts, dresses and leggings look so much more professionally finished. How? I starting using a twin needle.
Using A Twin Needle To Get Professional Results On Knit Fabric
A Twin or Double needle is exactly that. Two needles on a single shank that fits into a standard sewing machine. Soon after starting to sew with knit fabrics, I was introduced to using an overlocker. And this makes my seams so much more professional looking. But I was still a little disappointed in the finish to my hems and necklines. Yes, you can use a zig-zag stitch to finish these. But that can look a little clumsy.
I had even considered purchasing a special machine called a coverstitch to hem my knit projects. These are really expensive. So when I started using a twin needle I was delighted at the results.
(and that I wouldn’t need to buy a special machine!)
But what do you need to know if you wish to start using a twin needle yourself?
Can I Use A Twin Needle On My Machine?
I would suggest you read your machine manual. Or look online at the make and model of your machine before assuming that a twin needle can be used on your particular machine. I have a basic John Lewis JL110 machine (which closely resembles a basic Janome machine). This model is able to use a twin needle, and even comes with a double bobbin holder on the top.
How Do You Thread Your Machine When Using A Twin Needle?
If you do have two bobbin holders on the top of your machine then place a bobbin on each. When I started using a twin needle I just assumed that you would have both threads coming off the bobbins in the same direction as if you only had one bobbin. I never had any issues doing this. But doing some research it seems that there is a risk of the threads becoming entangled if you have them coming off the bobbins in the same direction. So if this happens you should make the threads come off in opposite directions as seen below.
Note: I didn’t have two large bobbins of the same pink, so I wound some onto a small bobbin. And I have also seen pictures where two small bobbins have been used on the same holder on top of the machine.
Wind both threads from each bobbin through the machine in turn, ensuring both are caught up by the tension plate/springs. And then thread each needle with a separate strand.
Some machines have separate loops like mine for ensuring that each thread gets fed through each needle without entangling. And some machines have an extra guide above these loops as an extra step to threading the machine. As ever, it is worth looking at the manual of your machine to see that you are threading correctly.
Some advice I have seen online has been if there is an extra threading guide above these loops is to have one thread going under and one thread going over. Again, the idea is to ensure that the threads DO NOT get tangled.
How Should I Set The Tension When Using A Twin Needle?
Whenever I start a new piece of sewing, or use a different weight of material, I like to try out the stitches that I will be doing on a scrap piece first. This makes sure that everything is ok before I sew on my garment.
(And makes sure that I don’t ruin anything, or need to spend time unpicking!)
I have actually read a lot about tension when using a twin needle whilst researching. And didn’t find any of it useful or true. I sewed several rows of stitching on the same scrap piece, with the only difference between rows being that the tension was reduced each time (from left to right)
On the top, the stitches all look the same, though there may be slightly more puckering the more the tension is increased on the upper stitches.
And from underneath there also did not seem to be much difference. I’ve seen articles that go on and on about how the tension is so important when using a twin needle. Even going so far as to tell you to reduce the tension in the bobbin holder inside the machine. (which to me is just asking for trouble if you are not an expert…I once messed around with my bobbin holder tension screw and it took me AGES to get back to a tension that was ok again!)
At the end of the day, I just think that trying it out on a scrap piece first is better than messing with the tension needlessly.
Can You Do A Zig Zag Stitch Using A Twin Needle?
On some machines you can. But do check yours. And also ensure that the twin needle passes through the presser foot properly before starting to stitch. Or you’ll end up with broken needles.
Should You Reverse Stitch Whilst Using A Twin Needle?
Whilst it often helps to do a backstitch at the start and end of sewing, the twin needle is much more prone to tangling when doing this, and I have broken several needles doing backstitching.
However, it can help to make sure that the stitches don’t unravel or break once the hem is sewn.
So, what results can I expect?
I first used a twin needle when I was making my Heather dress (see the tutorial and review here). The pattern guide called for a twin needle to be used on the neckline and hem. I’ve been disappointed in the past by using a zig zag around the neckline. But the finish by using a twin needle looks so much nicer!
The stitch can stretch, and looks much neater than a zig zag. So I have also been using it to hem and do the waistbands on other stretch/knit projects.
However! I have had mixed results when sewing hems that need to stretch a lot. I’ve found that the twin needle seam tends to break up. Some fellow stitchers advised me to lower the upper tension on my machine to combat this. But I do think it is something worth keeping in mind. If the seam needs to stretch a lot, maybe we still need those zig zag stitches or tricot stitches after all!
My only other tip? Make sure that when hemming that you place the pins on the OUTSIDE of the garment, where the double line of stitching will be. Normally I would place pins on the inside of a hem, but this doesn’t help when you are sewing the material right side up!
As ever, I use a metal seam guide to get my double line of stitching evenly around the hem.
Then sit back and enjoy your really professionally finished item. And be glad that you decided to start using a twin needle!
Have I missed any points, or have you any questions? Do comment below, or find me on my social media channels.
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