This ever happened to you?
You’ve almost finished sewing and only have the hem left. Soon you’re going to wear your new knit top in that soft draping fabric that you know will look perfect and feel super great. After all that hard work, finally!
But when you inspect the final stitches you find the hem struck by The Macabre Ridge Syndrome from you-know-where… The seam is so wobbly it looks like you sewed it after that party last Saturday. Uneven seams, skipped stitches, and wrinkles everywhere.
You feel like crying.
Is this destined to be another contribution to the “I’ll never get caught with that in public” pile of shame?
How about learning how to use that twin needle once and for all? It’s not that hard when you give it some practice.
Topstitching is not only a practical way to hem, it’s also decorative and a straightforward way to add a Ready-To-Wear look to your garments. But getting those rows straight and neat can be a discouraging task. Especially if you use a regular sewing machine.
Uneven hemlines and skipped stitches gives poor quality seams that break easily. An overall crappy DIY look is not really what you strived for when you started sewing this garment, was it?
So, do you have to accept The Macabre Ridge Syndrome-look on your hems? I don’t think so. You just need some preparing, a twin-needle and a couple of good advice and. So I guess this is your lucky day 😉 Read on, my friend, let’s get on top of those rows of stitches.
Before you jump in
Let’s have some gear talk, shall we?
The solution to a professionally lolking topstitching when you don’t have access to a coverstitch machine is the twin needle. There are a few things to consider when you choose what needle to use, so let’s start with the basics.
What is a twin needle?
A twin needle is composed of two needles attached to one shaft making it possible to sew two identical rows of stitches simultaneously.
Why use a twin needle?
If you don’t own a coverlock machine, using a twin needle is the perfect alternative to achieve a professional-looking seam. At first, it can be a little tricky, but when you nail the technique, using a twin needle will save you about half the time when you want topstitching on your garment.
When to use a twin needle?
It’s commonly used for topstitching around the sleeve edges and hem. But you can use it for some of your sewing machines’ decorative stitches too, as long as you have the throat plate and presser foot to accommodate for the width of the stitch and the two needles.
Substitutes for a twin needle
You can use a regular needle and make a single row of stitches, but that doesn’t replicate the ready to wear look we’re going after in this post.
It’s also possible to sew two parallel rows of stitches with a regular needle. The challenge is to keep the same distance between the rows all around the edge of the fabric.
I’m not saying it’s unachievable, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll find that the price of a twin needle is worth the time and agony you save.
Twin needles for different kind of fabrics
You can use a twin needle on both knit and woven fabrics. If you look at the seam, you see the threads are criss-crossing on the back of the fabric. This makes the seam stretchy and ideal for hemming garments in knit fabrics like jersey, ITY knit and stretchy knits for activewear.
Types of twin needles
Twin needles come in different sizes and widths, from size 1.6/70 for fine fabrics like chiffon and silk, to 6.0/100 for heavy-duty fabrics like denim and lofty wools.
- Universal twin needle – Use for woven fabrics.
- Jersey or Ballpoint twin needle – Use for stretchy fabrics and knits.
- Jean twin needle – Use for topstitching with a heavier weight thread on sturdier fabric.
“Match the needle to your fabric type and weight, or you’ll go bananas.”
Check your sewing machines’ throat plate and presser foot width (use the ones you use for a zigzag stitch).
You do it by “walking” the stitch manually, completing a couple of stitches, with the hand wheel on your machine. This is especially useful if you’re sewing a decorative stitch with some width.
The point is to make sure the needles fit into the opening of the presser foot through the whole width of the stitch so it’s wide enough that the needle won’t touch the presser foot when you sew.
Inserting the needle
Insert the twin needle with the groove on the front facing you and the flat side of the shank on the back facing away from you. Make sure the needle is attached all the way up in the needle bar. A stable needle gives the smoothest stitches and you don’t want the needle to slide out during sewing, safety first!
If your machine has an extra spool pin, you can use it for the second spool of thread. If not, you can either use the bobbin threader pin or sew with two bobbin spools with matching threads on the same spool pin unwinding the thread in opposite directions.
Thread one spool at a time, like you usually thread your machine except for the last step where you let the second thread run outside the last thread holder, making sure the two threads don’t tangle.
Different types of seams
Make a couple of back stitches at the beginning and end of the seam.
Sew with the right side of the fabric facing you.
Sew slowly and steadily and do not stretch the fabric. A magnetic seam guide can do wonders and function as a “third hand”.
You sew a curved seam the same way as a straight seam.
Keep an extra eye on the outside edge of the fabric so you make an even seam.
You can’t get an exact angle on the row of stitches when you turn a corner with a twin needle because the threads will cross each other. Nevertheless there is a way to sew a corner if you’d like;
Sew the first line of stitches all the way to the end and off of the fabric. Cut the threads, turn your work and stitch the next row, crossing on top of the first one in a 90 degree angle.
The 3 common errors when using a twin needle:
- The fabric between the stitched rows forms a ridge.
Fix by loosen the thread tension, and sample the seam on scrap fabric until your happy with the result.
- The needle skip stitches.
Fix by using stabilizers like fusible tape or interfacing. Make sure both needles stitch through the enforced fabric or you’ll end up with a ridge.
- You end up with wobbly stitches.
Fix by using a fabric guide. To keep an even distance to the fabric edge you can use a magnetic fabric guide. or the quilting arm that came with your sewing machine. You can also place a piece of tape on the right distance from the needle and guide the fabric with your hands. With the tools, however, it’s much easier to get a great result.
Sometimes it’s practical to pre-press your hem before you sew especially if it’s a rounded edge, but it’s not always the case. Test your seams on scrap pieces of the same fabric you’re sewing and you’ll be sure what works best.
Use a stabilizing tape the same width as the hem and fuse it right at the edge of the fabric. Then it’s easy to simply fold the tape under and top stitch from the right side following the edge of the tape.
Now it’s your turn!
It may seem complicated to get those seams perfect from the start, but have faith. Go slow, and test every seam on scrap fabric first, and you’ll master the twin needle in no time.
Having self-made garments that looks like Ready-To-Wear makes them all the more enjoyable to wear and your confidence working the twin needle will grow by the garment.
Now, I’d love to see the results of your practicing what you’ve learned.
Why not have a go on the Alissa racerback tank top?
Make any pattern work for you no matter what body type, size or style.
I’ve created a process you can follow so you can wear anything you’d like. Because when you sew you rock, and so can your clothes.