What is a Twin Needle and How to Use One

Welcome to the seventh lesson in the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel! Download the ebook for free!

This lesson is part of the Tools To Make Sewing Knits Easier section in the guide. In this lesson we will be covering the tool that everyone hemming on a sewing machine needs – a twin needle!

What Is A Twin Needle and Why You Need One

So if you look at the bottom hem of any of your store bought clothes you’re going to see a stitch with two or three top threads and a series of looper stitches along the back. These stitches are made with a coverstitch machine. If you don’t have access to a coverstitch machine, you can achieve a very similar look with a twin needle on your sewing machine.

The twin needle is going to give you two uniform rows of top stitches just like a coverstitch machine. The back of the stitch will be different, of course, but it accomplishes a similar task on the cheap.

Not only does this double stitch look more professional, but it also provides a little added stretch to prevent any stitches from popping. This is especially true when coupled with some stretch thread. More on that in our next lesson.

Types of Twin Needles

The two different kinds of twin needles you’ll be looking for will be a stretch twin needle and a ballpoint twin needle.

Stretch Twin Needle: A stretch twin needle has a smaller rounded tip and should be used for highly elastic fabrics such as spandex or scuba.

Ballpoint Twin Needle: A ballpoint twin needle should be your go-to for all other knit fabrics.

Another thing to keep in mind as you are shopping for a twin needle is the width.

The width of your twin needle refers to how far apart your two needles (and stitches) are spaced. It is rare that you find a twin needle too wide to fit down past the sewing plate, but it can happen. This is dependent on your particular sewing machine and presser foot. Keep your receipt just in case you need to return it for that reason.


I have two things to say about twin needles. First, DON’T BE SCARED OF THEM! Many people don’t even want to try sewing with them, but if you can sew with a regular needle, you can sew with a twin needle!

Second, making sure your bobbin tension is correct will fix so many problems one can encounter with twin needles. I’ve found this video (poor quality, but very informational) helpful for machines with a separate bobbin case, and this article is helpful for both bobbin types.

– Diana Rammell, Raspberry Creek Fabrics and Custom Printing


How to Install And Use A Twin Needle

You’ll start by simply replacing your single needle with the twin needle just like you would any other needle. The next thing you’ll have to do is get yourself a second spool of thread. Or you can wind up a bobbin with your current spool so that your stitches match.

Once you have your two spools ready, you’ll need to get something to hold the second spool. For this, I just taped a rounded stick/dowel onto the side of my machine. See the picture:

Then while keeping your two threads pinched in between your fingers, you’re going to thread them through your machine as you would with a single thread. Do your best to prevent any twisting as you go.

The last step is to thread your two needles. Once again, do what you can to keep your threads parallel with one another, rather than letting them get all twisted up.

Editor’s Note: Enjoying this fundamental sewing technique? Put it to use on our Annette Womens Swimsuit!

Tips for Making Your Twin-Needle Experience Even Better

Fixing the “Tunneling” Issue

If you just installed your shiny new twin needle and you are getting a tunneling effect on your top stitch, chances are that your bobbin tension needs to be lowered. The bobbin is looping through two different threads so the lower tension will keep it from pulling them towards one another, creating that tunneling. If you think your bobbin tension is low enough, try increasing your needle tension.

Using Stretch Thread

Now the entire next lesson of this series will be on stretch thread and wooly nylon so I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that using one of these two in your bobbin will help make that top stitch more flexible, preventing popped stitches.

Making It Look More Professional

Topstitching can be a wonderfully personalized touch to your knit clothing. Its function is to help reinforce certain seams or keep certain places in your garment laying flat. But more obviously, it provides an aesthetic touch that can be personalized to your taste. The two things you can do to really make your topstitching look more professional with a twin needle are:

  1. Lengthening your stitches – The longest length on your machine
  2. Using thicker topstitching thread – Makes the topstitch bolder

Assignment for this lesson: Install a twin needle on your sewing machine and practice top stitching scrap pieces of fabric folded over. Adjust your tensions until you achieve a nice flat top stitch.

You’re on a roll! Let’s move onto the next lesson in the series, How To Use Stretch Thread to Sew Knit Apparel.

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4 thoughts on “What is a Twin Needle and How to Use One”

    1. Sorry Veronika! You snuck in and saw the post before I meant to publish it lol! I am wrapping up everything now for The Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel and it will all be live by the 20th 🙂

  1. hi,
    i was searching to see if i could leave my walking foot on with twin needle sewing,and boom there you are,thank you so much for sharing,,

    1. Hey Nadine! It really depends on the walking foot. If it has a wide enough opening, then it should be no problem. I can use a twin needle with my walking foot 🙂

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