Conquering the Twin Needle: Tips for hemming knits

The twin needle used to be the monster that haunted me in my dreams. Worse than even the button hole there was the twin needle and the pile of hemming I had to finish off my me-made garments from months past that I had been avoiding.

Turns out my fear was well founded.

When I first started sing my twin needle I was really bad at it. Like awful. There was tunneling and skipped stitches galore and what stitches there were ended up being so tight they would pop at the slightest tug.

So I started my own personal journey to conquering the twin needle. There was a lot of trial and error, a few tears, many cuss words, and countless hours spent with my seam ripper but within a few months I had figured it out and was hemming like a pro (well as mush of a pro as you can be with a twin needle!) and I learned a few things along that way that made a world of difference.

The secret to perfect top stitching with a twin needle start well before the actual hemming, it actually starts when you are buying the needle to begin with. You need to be sure you are buying a twin needle that is deigned for stretch fabrics. Look for ones that specifically say the word stretch, jersey, or knit on them. I personally like the Schmetz one but I am a creature of habit.

Ready for tip number two? Now right before you are ready to hem, you need to stay stitch the hem. No really, for more projects than I could count the only thing I needed to do to get perfect top stitching using a twin needle was to do some sort of stay stitching along the bottom edge of my garment, where I would be top stitching over once the hem allowance was finished.

I run the edge through my serger to do this but a zig zag stitch from a regular machine could work just as well. The stay stitching gives the fabric under the twin needle more stability, helps keep it from stretching, and helps bulk it up so it moves better over your feed dogs. It is seriously magic trick when it comes to thin, slinky, or extra stretchy fabrics.

Then we need to make sure that needle is threaded correctly! Only one of your top thread should be going through the needle guide. This keeps them from getting tangled as you sew. Also make sure that the threads are not on the same spool holder on top of your machine. If your machine only has one spool holder, they sell supplementary ones at JoAnn Fabrics or on Amazon. Separating the spools is key to making sure the tension stays correct thoughout your hem.

Another trick? Be mindful of your stitch length. I had a tendency to set my stitch length to be as long as possible, thinking it would make hemming quicker. All I was really doing was making it harder for my machine to catch the bobbin thread when it was rotating. It may take some experimenting to find the right stitch length for your machine but for my Singer Heritage machine the sweet spot for stitch length is 3.4.

Here is another hemming game changer no matter what you use to hem, get yourself some proper hem clips. They not only hold much more securely than pins but they also measure your helms, making sure you keep a proper hem allowance the whole way around your garment entirety.When I am using a twin needle to hem I especially like using my hem clips because they remove any possibility of my hem allowance shifting as it is pulled through my machine.

Now if the stay stitching isn’t doing the trick for your particular project you may need to get yourself some soft-stretch hem tape. This double sided tape provides a hem in and of itself but can also be sewn over with a needle without gumming up your needle. It makes very crisp, clean hems and is great for beginner sewists. It’s only real draw back is that the structure it gives hems can look out of place on very thin fabrics or fabrics with a lot of drape.

Still struggling? Here are a few more quick tips:

  • Place a tear away stabilizer between your fabric and the machine to add extra stability
  • Use a walking foot to help your fabric feed evenly though the machine
  • Provide slight tension on the hem of your garment while stitching by pulling from the back of the machine

There you have it! My best tips for mastering the twin needle hems! Anything you think I missed be sire to drop your tips in the comments so we can all share in the hemming greatness!

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