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How To Use a Double Needle

A great sewing skill to help your sewing look professional is knowing how to use a double needle. It’s a simple technique, but it’s hard to master unless you have some sewing tips for using a double needle on your sewing machine. 

I have been using a double needle for many years, and I’ve tried everything and read every article about how to use a double needle. These are the tips that work best for me. Let’s learn how to use a double needle!

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How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com
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What is a Double needle?

A twin needle or a double needle is two sewing machine needles connected onto one shank. One needle is slightly shorter than the other needle so the bobbin can catch both threads.

A double needle sews two lines of parallel threads while the bobbin goes back and forth in a zigzag between each stitch.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

A double needle is a way to get the look of a coverstitched hem without using a coverstitch machine on knit fabrics.

A double needle can also be used on woven fabrics to sew pintucks, decorative stitching, or hems. Learn more about all the basic sewing stitches you need to sew clothing.

Kinds of double Needles

There are lots of different kinds, sizes, and widths of double needles.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

When looking at the information on a double needle case it will tell you what kind of needle it is like a stretch needle or universal needle. The case will also tell you the width between the two needles which is measured in millimeters and the size of the needle (i.e. 75, 80, 90, 100, etc.)

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Make sure you use universal double needles for woven fabric and stretch double needles for knit fabric. I use my stretch double needles the most and like to have a couple extra in case the one I’m using breaks.

where to find double needles

There are lots of different places to find different sizes of double needles!

Joann Fabrics only has universal needles

Amazon: has all kinds of needles and free shipping

Wawak has the cheapest needles but not free shipping

How to Use a double Needle

Learn about the different kinds of double needles, the widths, and the sizes and how to recognize the differences. 

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

If your sewing machine only has one spot for a spool of thread, then you can buy a spool pin* that fits right on your bobbin winder.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Spool Image

Instead of buying two spools of thread for your double needle, you can guy one spool and wind two bobbins. Use a bobbin as a spool of thread.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

When you thread your sewing machine the right thread will go on the right side of the thread divider and the left thread will go on the left side of the thread divider.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

When you use a double needle then you can’t use the needle threader.

You must use a zigzag foot and a zigzag throat plate since the double needle is wide.

Once you thread the machine, put in the sewing machine needle, slowly turn the hand wheel to see if the needle hits the sewing machine foot.

Sew with a straight stitch.

Use hem tape to stabilize the hem before sewing. This is the most important part because it prevents tunneling and your fabric from stretching out. My favorite hem tape for woven fabrics is HeatnBond Lite* and my favorite hem tape for knit fabrics is HeatnBond Soft Stretch Lite*.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

I sewed some examples of using hem tape and not using hem tape to see how hem tape makes such a difference. The top fabric is a woven, the middle fabric is swimsuit fabric, and the bottom fabric is cotton spandex jersey knit.

Each sample has hem tape applied to the top hem but not on the bottom hem, and the top hem looks much better. You can also read about three different ways to hem knit fabrics.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Lined swimsuit fabric doesn’t need hem tape. The four layers of fabric in the hem of a swimsuit make it stable enough to not use hem tape. Also, I found it really hard to get the hem tape to adhere to the fabric with a safe, low heat. Here are some tips for sewing swimsuit fabric.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Don’t change direction while sewing with the double needle in the fabric. You’ll break the needles.

Leave long thread tails after sewing.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

If sewing on knit fabric stretch the hem to pull the bobbin thread into the zigzag. This prevents any breakage while wearing the item. I notice that I need to do this more on lighter weight fabrics.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Use a seam ripper to pull all the fabric tails to the inside of the item. Tie the threads in a tight square knot and trim thread tails to 1/2″.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

Press again after sewing.

If after using all these double needle sewing tips and you still have trouble with your threads popping, then use Eloflex stretch thread in the bobbin for just a little more stretch.

How to Use a Twin Needle // heatherhandmade.com

If you make something using this tutorial, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!

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Hi guys, I'm having an issue with this stitch and double needle. See the pics located here: https://goo.gl/photos/xU3JFBGJgvtBFdWF8 The first is the front, looks fine, right? but the second is the back. What the heck is going on? Tension issues? Bobbin tension? Foot height? I'm not getting the zig zag back and forth. This causes the tunneling I see on the front some. Any help would be great!

It looks like the bobbin is too tight and the top thread is too loose. This could depend on the fabric you're using or the tension on your machine. Since writing this post I've started using 1/2" double sided iron-on tape. It keeps the fabric from tunneling!

Hi Heather, thanks for the response. The problem was, that I figured out late last night, is that I was using the "stretch" length stitches with my twin needle. That was causing a triple stitch and giving me the back you see. Changed it to stitch length of 3 and all is well. My 8 shirts came out perfect. Hope they hold!

I've been using twin needles for many years, initially to do pin tucks but in recent years for stretch hems. On some fabrics it will miss a stitch on one needle so you get a long stitch on one thread. I've changed needles and threads and not found an answer. It does seem to be fabric related as I can do one fabric without problems and go straight to another and miss stitches. Any clues?
They make a great finish around a neck where you have done a rib band and pressed the seam allowance towards the garment, then twin needle close to the seam line on the garment – looks like a commercial cover-stitch machine

pretty much every machine that does a zig-zag stitch can use twin needles, even older machines … YOU DON'T USE A ZIG-ZAG stitch with the twin needle … it's the width of the hole in the throat plate that determines whether or not you can use the twin needle and if you can do a zig-zag, you can use a twin needle …

great tut …. darlene

I'm not for sure I can use 2 threads at once on my machine. I'll check the manual. Thanks for this tutorial! I'd love to be able to use a double needle!
Gina @ Gina's Craft Corner

Re: Double needle tip: change presser foot pressure
Would you please explain how to change the presser foot height?
Thank you.

It depends on your machine. Mine has a little dial on the side, but you'll need to read your manual to see how to do it on yours.

I've read two other walkthroughs before this one and you made it so simple to understand! Thank you ^_^

Mary, I think I need some more information about what you're doing. My guess is you have other straight stitches or your double needle stitch is too long making the zigzag stitch on the bottom not have enough room to stretch. Send me an email at sunnysummersmile(at)gmail(dot)com so I can understand better. Thanks!

This is a great post. I recently used double needles for the first time to shorten some hemlines on knit tops. I noticed with the stretchier fabric that the thread was popping when I slipped it past my hips. Would you have any advice on preventing this or what I'm doing wrong? Thanks! Mary

wow! Thank you for this. Seriously cause I always look at the hems of my clothes and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get that stitch! Now I know. I didn't even know they made double needles. Wow. Learn something new every day!