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Accessories We Love: The Twin or Double Needle

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We've been asked numerous times by Sew4Home readers, "How do you get your double rows of stitching so perfectly even?" We've quietly given out our secret to several of you. But now we've decided it's time to reveal it to the world. The way to get perfectly even, super close, double rows of stitching is... to use a twin needle. If you're one of those people who think twin needles are way too complicated, you're in for a very pleasant surprise: twice the stitching is half as hard as you might imagine!

What Is A Twin Needle?

A twin needle (also called a double needle) is basically two needles attached to a single shank. One is slightly shorter than the other so your bobbin can catch the thread from both needles. So clever that bobbin!

Twin needles come in sizes just like regular needles. But they have two number designations, one is the space between the needles and the other is the needle size. For instance, a 4/80 twin needle has 4 mm between the needles, which are size 80. The picture below shows a Janome needle pack on the left; many Janome models come standard with a twin needle. On the right is a Klasse twin needle, also a very popular brand.

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There may be some limitations as to how wide a twin needle your sewing machine can take. So consult your owner's manual. Or even better, buy your twin needle from your sewing machine dealer. He/She can tell you which size will be best for your project.

A twin needle installs in your machine just like a regular needle. With the flat part of the shank toward the back, insert it into the needle hole and tighten the screw.

This may be the spot where you're saying, "Wait a minute. A twin needle needs two threads to stitch." Correct - your sewing machine is designed to feed one thread at a time. And even if it could feed two, where are you supposed to put the extra spool?

Most machines come with an extra spool pin and a hole to put it in. That's where you put your second spool. Again, consult your owner's manual to see what your extra spool pin looks like and exactly where it goes.

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If your machine doesn't have an extra pin, you can use a thread stand. Or, put your spool in a coffee mug to the side of your machine. (Just make sure there's no coffee in it.)

If you want the same thread color in both needles, but you only have one spool of that color, wind some thread onto an extra bobbin. You can use this bobbin as your second spool.

Thread your machine as you normally would, one thread at a time . The most important thing is to make sure the threads don't get twisted. Some machines allow you to separate the threads at the tension disk--check your machine's manual.

The only sad part is that you can't use an automatic needle threader with a twin needle. It helps to have a hand needle threader. You can also do what I did: find someone younger with better vision to thread the needles!

Which Stitches Can I Use?

A simple straight stitch with a twin needle always looks crisp and exact. It's the one we use most in home décor sewing. However, your machine may be able to sew a zigzag or decorative stitches with a twin needle.

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I used my Janome Memory Craft 11000 Special Edition for this demo, and it actually has a twin needle setting. When I select the twin needle rather than the single needle (the icon second from the left in the screen's bottom row), any stitches that cannot be used are grayed-out and cannot be selected.

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You may not have this screen setting option; if so, just make sure the needles don't swing too wide. The biggest danger is that one of the needles will hit the sewing foot or needle plate and damage your machine (not to mention the eye risk of flying needle shards). Before even beginning your test stitching, use the hand wheel to take your twin needles through one full stitch cycle, making sure they're safely within the tolerances of your machine. Do some test seams on a scrap to make sure you're getting the effect you want.

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Now that you know our secret for perfectly parallel lines of stitching, we hope you share it with as many other sewers as you like.

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Comments (40)

lulu unregistered user said:
lulu unregistered user's picture

I've always wondered, how do you anchor the stitching at start & end, since backstitching won't catch the bobbin thread?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ lulu unregistered user - on all the machines I've used, you can backstitch or lockstitch with a twin needle. 

Clare said:
Clare's picture

Which width twin needle would I be using most for jersey material? I'd like to order a ball point twin. Thanks for a most helpful article.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Clare - the needle type and size are fabric dependent, and the ballpoint is a good choice for knit. However, the width is really more of a decision about the look you like best -- closer together or farther apart. However, with the specialized nature of twin ballpoint, you may only have one width from which to choose.

Lysette Williams said:
Lysette Williams's picture

Hi, I have a Janome 2160 DC which did not come with a twin needle. Am I right that I can use a twin needle with this machine?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Lysette Williams - yes, you should be able to use a twin needle with your machine. It is not always a standard accessory with all models. It's also best to choose the manufacturer's branded needle to insure it is precisely sized to work with your model. 

Rebecca said:
Rebecca's picture

You don't mention that any seam made with a double needle is the easy way to achieve a straight-stitch look on stretch fabric! The bobbin thread zig-zags underneath, while the needles' thread remains straight - a simple, professional-looking way to finish serged edges of spandex or knits.

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

I have a JC PENNY'S 1989 sewing machine. It says in the instruction book that I can use a twin needle. The pix shows one but the top shaft of the twin needle is not in the middle at the top but further to the left at the top. What do u make of this? All the twin needles I have found the shaft are in the center of the top.

Cliff Bolder said:
Cliff Bolder's picture

Twin or Double Needles are available with the center post on the right, in the center or on the left.  Depending which you pick requires different machine adjustments.  They also come in various widths (spacing between needles), needle sizes and with the needles the same length or one longer than the other.  I don't know why you would choose one style over the other, but each must have a benefit of some kind.  I believe there is even a triple needle...

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

That is a machine-specific question for which I don't really have an answer. I would recommend visiting a local dealer. He/She should be able to suggest a needle for your particular machine. 

debbie thomas said:
debbie thomas's picture

I am having trouble with using my twin needles and my cording foot. any good ideas?

Margaret S said:
Margaret S's picture

How do you make pintucks with your double needle?  I adjusted the tension from the screen on my 10000 but it still wasn't enough to make a pintuck.  (up to 100)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Margaret S - If your fabric is not pintucking, it's most likely not light enough. Try adding cording, actually embroidery floss, to get the pintuck to protrude more. But most likely it's a fabric weight issue.  Take a look at our Heirloom Stitching by Machine tutorial for more tips:

http://sew4home.com/tips-resources/sewing-tips-tricks/everything-old-new...

If you are still having trouble, visit your local dealer, and we certainly wouldn't consider ourselves to be the top-level experts on every Janome model :-).

Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home's picture
@ courtney123 - I'm not 100% sure I understand the question. Does your twin needle stitch look correct from the right side? Remember, there is only ONE thread coming up from the bobbin, so it will look different than the top. If the right side looks good, you are fine. If the right side is messed up, it could be a tension or machine set-up issue, which is something we can't troubleshoot from our end, but which you could follow-up on with your local dealer.
courtney123 said:
courtney123's picture
Hi, I have just tried this! Do you know why the zigzag on the back isn't forming properly? The bobbin appears as a straight line.
Tatum said:
Tatum's picture
Thanks so much. Just got all my questions on twin needle sewing answered! smilies/smiley.gif
jewel said:
jewel's picture
I love to use the double needle on knit hems- try it- it's a fantastic way to finish.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Tina - twin needles are pretty universal - the real test is the width of the opening in your presser foot. If your machine didn't come with a twin needle in its accessory package, it probably won't say much if anything about it in the manual. If you can ask your dealer, that would be great. If not, perhaps check online with your machine manufacturer's site. Finally, you could buy a twin needle and test it. Go for the option where the needles are the closest together. If your machine's foot comes off, you could even bring that with you to the store and see if the two needle points will fit into the foot opening. I'm betting you can get it to work!
Tina said:
Tina's picture
I'm relatively new to sewing/quilting and I was wondering does your manual have to say something regarding twin needles in order to use one?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ LCO - It's hard to troubleshoot specific machine issues from a distance - especially since all the models are so different. My best suggestions would be to: 1) make sure the decorative stitch you selected is one your machine says is okay for a twin needle, 2) try a narrower stitch width rather than wider as this should make each stitch line more compact side to side, and 3) call your dealer and/or send a note to the support folks at Kenmore to see if they have any suggestions.
LCO said:
LCO's picture
Great tutorial! I had bought a twin needle a while ago, and finally got up the courage to try it out today! I did a row of straight stitching and it came out great, but when I tried doing some decorative stitches, those didn't look at nice - the two rows were too crowded together. How can I fix that? Should I make the stitch width wider? I have a newer Kenmore machine, and the manual only said not to set the stitch width wider than 3. Any suggestions? smilies/sad.gif
Lesleyr said:
Lesleyr's picture
For turning a corner unthread the needle that is on the left turn the work take a stitch rethread
Toni S. said:
Toni S.'s picture

I am new to twin needles and not very experienced anyway so maybe this is a silly question, but how would you unthread without interrupting the stitching? Wouldn't this require tying off the old stitch so things don't come apart? How does the machine know to pick up just one side when you rethread without getting tangled? When you say on the left do you mean on the inside of the corner or the outside?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Toni S - as you see, the suggestion you are referring to was from a S4H visitor, so it's not a technique we tested - although it does make sense. In her reply, the left needle is the inside needle. However, if you scroll down just a bit more, you will see our answer regarding cornering, complete with a video link. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Lisa -- To turn a corner, stitch almost to the point, leave the tip of the needle in the fabric and raise the presser foot. Turn the work 45˚, lower the presser foot, take one stitch, leave the tip of the needle in the fabric, raise the presser foot and complete the turn. Note that this stitches across the corner, but still looks good. To do a perfect 90˚ turn, you need to sew into your corner, stop with the needle up, turn your fabric 90˚, then very carefully realign the fabric under the needle so both tips line up with the previous stitching. Here's a pretty good YouTube video that someone has done. It's definitely one of those things that is way easy to do than explain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fi4MLbHh5U
Beth T. said:
Beth T.'s picture
You are wonderful!! My new sewing machine has a double needle option, and when I was reading the book I thought, "That would be way too difficult for me." Now, having read your tutorial and seeing your cute creations, I'm inspired to give it a try.
Rooh said:
Rooh's picture
Just found this now - what a great idea! And now I know what that extra spool spike is for on the top of my machine, LOL! I know, I know, I should read the manual more smilies/wink.gif

Thanks for all the info, and the tip on hand cranking to make sure the needles move smoothly!
cozy at home said:
cozy at home's picture
awesome... i always wondered what those twin needles were for smilies/cheesy.gif
matilda116 said:
matilda116's picture
When I purchased my new Janome I learned about using the double needle and I love it!. I love straight stitching with the double needle when I top stitch patch pockets. It gives clothing a professional look! I hope every one tries this tip.
SheRog said:
SheRog's picture
Two top threads, one bobbin, correct? I've always wanted to use this, but wasn't sure how! Thanks for the tutorial!
IslandLady said:
IslandLady's picture
Thank you for this article. I am one of those who felt intimidated about those twin needles and thought I will never use them. Now I'm going to try some decortative stitching with my twin needle.
I love this site--I'm learning so much and I always thought of myself as a fairly experienced sewer.
di said:
di's picture
Yes, oh yes!! I love my twin needle! It is perfect for topstitching seams on knit shirts. It looks so professional, especially around the sleeves--put one needle on one side, the other on the other side, and voila. Gorgeous seam! Thanks for posting such good directions and letting people know about this!
Gigi said:
Gigi's picture
I've often wondered about the double needle I inherited with my machine. Thanks for the lovely tutorial, I can't wait to try it out.
Lois Grebowski said:
Lois Grebowski's picture
Thanks for the reminder of this feature. I always forget that I can do that!

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