Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sewing Knits With A Twin Needle...The Unofficial Tutorial

Friends, it has been all over the sewing blogosphere lately that people are having problems using a twin needle with knits.

The stitches look wonky, but I promise they aren't!

I too was having this problem until very recently when I read my manual, and my child read the back of the needle package and told me I was doing it wrong (thank goodness for little boys that read everything they can get their hands on and love to prove Mommy wrong...I think!).  After much research and combing blogs and YouTube, this is what I have come to learn.  I hope that these tips will be helpful for some of you as well.

This first one is one that I have always known, but I guess a lot of people didn't realize.  You don't need two rolls of the thread you are going to be using.  Simply wind a bobbin with your thread color and use that as your second roll.

Your rolls of thread should be spooling in opposite directions.  So if the thread you are using for the left eye is unrolling clockwise, then the spool you are using for the right eye should unroll counter clockwise.

If your machine does not have a second spool holder, you have two options.  You can either thread your spool and bobbin on one holder or you can use the peg that is for winding bobbins for your second holder.  The choice is yours, just see which gives you a better look.

On some but not all machines you can see the pressure plates that give your upper thread tension.  If you can see these and manage it, you should thread your left thread to the left of the pressure plates, and your right thread to the right of the pressure plates.  I don't have a picture of this as my machine isn't made so that I can see the pressure plates.

If your machine has a twin needle setting make sure to select it.  It does some kind of adjusting of tension, though I can not see a real difference on my machine if I do or don't select this feature.

This next tip is probably one of the biggest mistakes most of us are making.  When you thread the needle, thread the left needle through the thread holder/bar that is just above the needle.  When you thread the right needle, DO NOT thread it through the thread holder that is just above the needle.  I know...shocking, right?  This is supposed to really help with the tunneling effect that can sometimes happen when we are sewing knits with a twin needle.

Some people like to prepare their fabric with knit stay tape.  I especially recommend this if you are using a lighter knit, but really find it to be an unnecessary step with heavier knits.  With this t-shirt weight knit I just pressed the hem under an inch.

One good thing that knit stay tape does do though is give you a line to follow since you can't see where the fabric ends since you are stitching on the right side of the fabric.  Since I know that my hem is pressed under an inch, I know that if I line my fabric up at the inch mark, then the two needles will fall on either side of the hem/raw edge.

Make sure that you are not stretching the fabric as you sew it.  This will lead to upper loops that rise up from the fabric.  Just let the feed dogs do their magic, and while you are at it, slow down.  Sewing fast is not going to be helpful here.  I usually line my index finger of my right hand up with whichever measurement guide I need to be at and let that be the only thing that guides my fabric through the machine.

Your goal with the double needle is to straddle the cut edge of the fabric so that one line of stitching is above the actual raw edge and one line is below, thus encasing your raw edge.

See how the upper threads get pulled to the underside, and the bobbin thread ends up making a zig zag between the upper threads?  That is what gives the twin needle stitch it's ability to stretch with stretchy fabrics.

Finally, make sure to spread your stitch out some.  I prefer a stitch setting of 3.0 for twin needle stitching on knits.  I also end with a back and forth stitch so that I don't have to tie off the ends, but that is just my preference because it seems that when I try to tie them off, I manage to tie too tightly and mess up the stitches and cause puckering.

I hope that you find these tips helpful.  Please feel free to comment with any additional tips that any of you might have.


  1. Thanks for the tips. I have recently tried twin-needling and found it to be quite successful but I was using a Ponte Knit. Got a softer jersey dress coming up so this will be very handy. xx

    1. Ponte is great for twin needle sewing with no real issues! I find that the heavier the material the better it sews.

  2. Some of these tips are new to me. Thank you!

  3. "If your machine has a twin needle setting make sure to select it. It does some kind of adjusting of tension, though I can not see a real difference on my machine if I do or don't select this feature"

    Usually, the twin needle selection feature is just a safety setting to prevent the stitch and/or width from causing the twin needle to hit the needle plate or foot and break. In other words, there will be some stitches and width settings you won't be able to select while in twin needle mode.

    "Your goal with the double needle is to straddle the cut edge of the fabric so that one line of stitching is above the actual raw edge and one line is below, thus encasing your raw edge."

    While this may look the best, straddling the raw edge is actually going to cause more front-side tunneling problems than solve them because the needles/tension won't always be able to handle the thickness and stretch differences without consequence. Better to keep both needles hitting in the hem allowance and just get really, really close to the raw edge.


    1. So then Debbie, are you saying that the machine knows which width of twin needle and foot you are using, because there is a great bit of difference in the size of twin needles? Per the customer service rep for my particular machine, when you select the twin needle function, it loosens tension on the upper threads so as to allow them to pull through to the bottom.

      I am not being antagonistic here, but again with my machine and in my experience, tunneling happens when I try to sew at the edge instead of straddle. Of course you have a lot more experience than I do, so I would say that for other sewists should heed what you are saying. I started straddling the edge because my amazing machine maintenance fella told me that was what I was supposed to do when I complained about the tunneling issue.

      For what it is worth, I usually serge off my raw edge before twin needle hemming, but I wanted to gear this towards people who don't have a serger.

      BTW- Glad hear from you! This has been the worse Winter for wadders. Hope to see some of your awesome sews soon.

    2. I think the TN setting on machines sets for the worse-case scenario, i.e., the widest. My machine might do something to the tension too, but truthfully, I forgot since it's been so long since I even used the setting. Ha. Good to know that on some machines, at least, it's not a "sucker button" ... that's a bit of an inside family joke.

      I'm glad you had good advice re tunneling from your guy and it works. I don't think you're antagonistic. It's OK to have opinions, even if we don't agree. :-) Another thing to keep in mind is that twin needles weren't actually "invented" for hemming knits but for decorative stitching so older (how old? IDK) machines aren't really going to have twin needle settings that account for fabric stretch. Maybe newer machines have caught up, so to speak? I really don't know.

      I do know that there are so many ways in sewing to accomplish a task and so many tips from others' experiences. It's great we can all share. Everyone wins.

    3. Debbie, I am so glad you didn't think I was being antagonistic. I know I can come off brash sometimes, and I am trying to work on not sounding that way.

      This whole sewing thing is complex! Between different needles, fabrics, and machines there are endless possibilities. It is great that we can all learn from each other's experiences, but also know that what might work for one person/machine may not work for another.

    4. Nah ... you're fine with me. I'm a blunt person with a thick skin so it takes a lot to insult me. Hahaha. Have a great weekend. Maybe I'll find my sewjo and get back to the sewing room. I haven't turned out a winner in MONTHS. Yikes.

  4. I found that when I switched to the twin stretch needle it made all the difference in the world! 7/11 stretch needle by schmetz