How to Use a Twin Needle for Your Sewing Machine

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Everything you need to know: Twin Needles. 

Photo of Schmetz stretch twin needle clear container and a twin needle next to it out of the case.

Everything you need to know about using a twin needle. A twin needle is a great tool if you want to sew knits with your sewing machine.

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If you’ve ever tried sewing knits, you know it’s not always an easy task. Producing seams and hems that are both stretchy and attractive can be difficult. But the twin needle is here to help!

Knit garments need to stretch in order to fit and hang correctly on the body, and that means that hems also need to stretch so that your stitches don’t pop when you put on and take off the garment.

There are multiple ways to hem a knit garment:

  • you can use a stretch stitch on your sewing machine, such as a zig zag or a triple stitch
  • you can use a specialized machine for hemming knits called a coverstitch, or
  • you can use a twin needle

Twin needles are nice because the hem they produce looks more professional than a zig zag but you can use your regular home machine.

What is a Twin Needle?

Twin needles look complicated but they really aren’t!

A twin needle is basically two needle tips on one shaft, so it still fits into your sewing machine like a regular sewing machine needle.

A twin needle produces two straight parallel lines of stitches on the top side of your fabric and a zig zag on the bottom side.

Because the bobbin thread is zig-zagged, it creates some stretch in your stitches.

Most commercially made knit garments are hemmed with a coverstitch machine, but a twin needle produces a hem that looks identical to a coverstitch on the top side of your fabric.

For other types of sewing machine needles, check out Everything You Need to Know about Sewing Needles.

What Type of Twin Needle Do I Need?

Twin needles come in the same variations as regular sewing machine needles. You can buy them in different types (universal, ballpoint, stretch).

The other factor to consider is the distance between the two needle points, which is indicated on the package and measured in millimeters. This is largely a matter of preference, but because needles that are spaced further apart allow for wider zig zags on the back side, the wider twin needles tend to produce more stretch in the hem.

How to Use a Twin Needle

Using a twin needle is relatively easy. You install it the same way you install a regular needle. Then, you need two spools of thread.

Some machines come with a second spool holder that snaps into place over your bobbin winder, and you can use this to hold your second spool.

You can also use a separate spool holder, and I’ve even heard that some people will stick a straw on their bobbin winder and then put the second spool on the straw.

Another option is to wind three bobbins in the same color and put two of them onto the one regular spool holder on your machine.

Threading a Twin Needle

Whatever method you choose, you want to wind your threads one at a time. Make sure you refer to your manual because some manufacturers want you to thread both threads through the last thread guide and some want you to leave either the left or the right thread out of the last thread guide.

Thread your machine with the first thread, and finish by threading the needle tip on the right side of the twin needle. Then thread the machine a second time with the second thread, finishing with the left side of the twin needle.

What Setting Do I Need for a Twin Needle?

Some machines have a special setting for twin needles. Look at your manual to see if yours does and make sure you use it.

On non-computerized machines, just use a regular straight stitch. Whatever you do, do not use a zig zag stitch with your twin needle! Because a twin needle is wider than a regular sewing machine needle, using a zig zag stitch will likely mean your twin needle hits your foot, damaging the needle, the foot, or both.

Adjusting the Tension for Twin Needles

Twin needles can be finicky when it comes to tension, so make sure you test the tension on a scrap of fabric first, and make sure you fold the fabric as you will with the hem on your garment.

If your top tension is too low, the stitching will tunnel, meaning you will get a raised ridge between the two parallel lines of stitching. Raise the top tension a little bit at a time and keep testing. It may also be helpful to increase your stitch length a bit. 

Learn more about sewing machine tension.

Sewing with a Twin Needle

When you’re ready to sew your hem, it’s sometimes helpful to use wonder tape to hold the hem folded over. You can also just press it really well and use pins or clips to hold it in place.

The best method will depend both on your fabric and what’s easiest for you. Start slowly and check your tension on the top and bottom of your garment. You can backstitch with a twin needle or you can choose to tie off the ends.

Twin needle placed in a sewing machine to sew knits.

Soon you’ll have a beautiful, professional-looking hem!

Other blog posts about beginner sewing: Sewing 101 / Creating a Fabric Friendly She Shed / How to Sew on Patches

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How to use twin needles to sew knits (and clothing). Photo: B&W image of a Schmetz stretch twin needle.

This post was written for DIYDanielle by Becky McGill-Wilkinson.

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