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How to Use a Twin or Double Needle
We’ve been asked numerous times by Sew4Home visitors, “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 a variety of 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 space between two size 80 needles. 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 Klassé twin needle. Several manufacturers offer twin needles; check to be sure it’s a proper fit for your machine.
There may be some limitations as to how wide of a twin needle your sewing machine can handle. That answer should be provided in your machine’s manual. Or even better, buy your twin needle directly 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.
If your machine doesn’t have an extra pin, you can use a thread stand. Or, you can simply put the additional 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 around one another. Some machines allow you to separate the threads at the tension disk. Again, check your machine’s manual for specific instructions.
The only sad part is that you can’t use an automatic needle threader with a twin needle. It helps to have a classic hand needle threader. You can also try what we often do: 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, which can be very pretty, especially with two different colors of thread.
As mentioned above, the slight difference in the length of the needles is what allows the single bobbin thread to secure both threads as they penetrate through to the back of the fabric. This means that the back of a twin needle stitch is likely to look quite different from the front. Keep this in mind when deciding where your twin needle stitching will go on your project. If the back of the project will be visible, consider using a bobbin thread that matches the fabric in order to best conceal the bobbin stitching.
The image below shows you the back of straight as well as decorative stitch options. The larger flat surface is the back; the smaller flipped over section is the front.
Some machines, including many of the Janome models in our Sew4Home studio, actually have a twin needle setting. When you select the twin needle setting on the machine, any stitches that cannot be used are grayed-out or otherwise disabled so they cannot be selected.
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 presser 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 plate and foot. Then, do some test stitching on a scrap to make sure you’re getting the effect you want.
A standard presser foot that can accommodate a zig zag stitch is the most common option to use for double needle stitching. The goal is to use the presser foot with the widest opening for the needle swing.
Now, go forth and make perfectly parallel lines of stitching.
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I just got Quasatron electric sewing machine, I am a beginner so I do wish that someone should recommend the manual for me
Hello Betty – As an exclusive Janome studio, we don’t have any specific information on that machine brand. A Google search using the brand name, model number, plus “manual” should get you a list of online and/or in-store possibilities in your area.
Hi I just got a janome skyline s3 for Christmas I’m loving the machine I’m a beginner sewer as well it came with a twin needle and extra spool holder so this information is handy I’m yet to try this out.
Hi Mellanie – SUPER congrats on your new Janome!! You’re going to love it. And, yes! try out some twin needle stitching. Love those perfect parallel lines 🙂
Can my Janome dc 2150 use a twin needle
Hello Lou – that is a Janome we haven’t used here in the studio. It appears to be mostly for the AU market. Looking at a photo online, it seems like it has a standard wide opening in the needle plate and the A foot, so it should be able to accommodate a twin needle. To be 100% sure of the correct size, check your manual or reach out to your local Janome dealer to confirm the best twin needle option.
Hi I purchased the janome S9 a few months ago and love it so far. This is the first time on this machine using the twin needle for stained glass quilting. I am having trouble with the inside needle skipping stitches. I can see when it happens as the thread to that needle will loop up between the thread guide and the needle and then go to the next stitch. I have rethreaded it several times and am sure that it’s the way the manual diagrams show. Can you help me? Please and thank you
Hello Joanne – Congrats on your S9 purchase! It is a fave machine of ours. Regarding your recent issue, it does sound like you’ve tried all the standard fixes we would suggest. For things like this, troubleshooting long distance really isn’t the best option. It would be best to take the machine into your local dealer so he/she could see the problem in person in order to offer the best solution.
Hi, will a singer heavy duty 4423 machine work with a twin needle for sewing stretch fabrics? Will i need to purchase a different foot to use with it?
Hi Sachi – We are a Janome exclusive studio so we don’t have specific information about the Singer model you are mentioning. In general, a twin needle can stitch on stretch fabrics. You might want to consult the machine’s manual or perhaps find a sewing machine dealer in your area who could confirm what your particular model can do best.
My Kenmore 385 does not take twin needle..it hits the plate …even though I use recommended settings. What could be the problem?
Hello – I’m afraid we are not familiar with that specific machine. If you are using the settings recommended in your manual as well as a machine needle designed for your model, I’m not sure what might be happening. There are so many variables with machines, it’s not really something we can troubleshoot long distance. It might mean a trip to your local sewing machine repair shop.
Use a straight stitch setting, I have two of these machines also. Works great. Tension 3 – length 2-3 but B is straight stitch. you will love it. To thread look up on U- tube easy peasy. I use these all the time on knit/ jersey with spandex.
From another follower, Patricia O’Malley – she says: “you can tae the plate off with a small screwdriver. I have the same sewing machine as yours. It works. I sew t-shirts with optimal results. However, I haven’t tried decorative stitches yet.”
I have a Janome Skyline 5. When I do twin needle stitching the underside of the fabric does not show a zig zag stitch as I was used to seeing on my old machines. It looks like a very straight line for the bobbin thread and that thread can be pulled out easily. Is this the way it is supposed to be? I am disappointed because when hemming a knit the twin needle stitches hardly stretch. I am so glad I found your website! No one has been able to answer my question.
Hi Carol – As you can see in the photo above, different stitches do result in different bobbin thread patterns, including more of a straight looking stitch. It sounds like you’re an experienced sewer. If you’ve carefully followed all the steps in your S5 manual for setting up for twin needle stitching, you should have success. There might be some tension issues, but that really can’t be diagnosed long distance. You might want to reach out to your Janome dealer to see if the machine needs service. Regarding the knit hemming, maybe you’d have more luck with a stretch stitch.… Read more »
thank you Liz. i just found this!
I have a Janome JW8100. Can I use a double needle?
Hi Valerie – This is not a machine we’ve used here at S4H, but taking a quick peek at its manual on the janome.com website, I don’t see any reason it could not handle a twin needle. As described above, test your stitch selection and settings on scraps first. And, use the hand wheel to manually drop the needles and perform an entire stitch pattern to insure the stitch clears the hole in the standard presser foot as well as the hole in the throat plate.
Hello, I have Usha Janome stitch magic machine, I want to know, which type of pattern I can sew with double-needle, please give some suggestion
Hello – This is not a Janome machine that is sold in the US, so we don’t have any direct experience with it. There should be information within the machine manual on twin needle stitching. If not, simply try some test stitches with a twin needle installed. Go slowly and carefully – as described above, first start out using the hand wheel to manually drop the needles and perform an entire stitch pattern to insure the stitch can clear the hole in the presser foot as well as the hole in the throat plate.
Hello and thank you for the very helpful information. I have Janome DC3050, on instruction didn’t tell anything about twin needles…Could I use it?
Hi Renata – Your Janome DC3050 can handle a twin needle. Make sure you have the Zig Zag foot attached as it has the nice wide opening to accommodate the needles. As mentioned above, always test the stitch width using the hand wheel to insure the swing of both needles will fall within the opening in the foot.
What would a 1,6mm be useful for? Seems awfully narrow to be useful, though I am no expert, so thank you for your help.
Hi Red – I’m not sure I’m understanding your question. Did you come across a needle in that size or see a reference to it somewhere? We don’t mention it above. Usually 2 to 2.5 is the smallest readily available option, but I’m sure there are specialty options that are smaller – I imagine it would be for twin needle work on fine fabrics, perhaps for heirloom sewing.
WAWAK and other suppliers.
I have a Magnolia 7318, can I use double needles with this machine?
Hi Helen – The 7318 has a standard presser foot (also called the zig zag foot) so it can use a twin needle. Check your manual to confirm the proper size of the needle spacing.
Thanks for this. I’m a long time twin needle user, however my machine has started skipping stitches when using a twin needle- always just the left needle. I have tried rethreading, adjusting tension, buying new needles- nothing is fixing the problem! Any ideas? Thank you!
Hi Ruth – It sure sounds like you’ve done everything right! The only other thing I can think is that somehow the needle isn’t seating straight, but that is really something for a knowledgable repair person to take a look at. I think a curbside visit to your local dealer might be in order.
I have a singer 8280 machine….I want to ask what size of a twin needle would work perfectly
Hi Fayth – So sorry, but we do not have specific information on Singer machines. We are an exclusive Janome studio. That said, most twin needles will fit the majority of sewing machines. Your machine’s manual should have more details. The size of the needle will be dependent on the fabric with which you’re sewing. The width between the needles is personal preference. This tutorial might give you some additional information on needle sizing:
I have singer 1409 as well as 2.5/80 and 3.0/80 twin needles. It supports straight stitch but breaks for zig zag stitches. Is there any way to stitch zigzag?
Hi! We don’t have specific information on individual machines – especially for a Singer as we are an exclusive Janome studio. Whether or not your machine can zig zag with a twin needle should be covered in your machine’s manual. As you can see above, we were able to use both a classic zig zag as well as decorative stitches with a twin needle so it is certainly possible, but your machine may not support it.
I have 2 of these needles but have never used them. Time to try them out.
Hi Robin — I believe that means you have “twin twin needles” :-)) And, yes! Time to get them out for a test run. Have fun!