Monday, October 20, 2014

Use a Double Needle for Sewing and Hemming New Stretch Fabrics

Kenmore Sears 1974 sewing machine with double needle and multi-purpose foot
1974 Kenmore Has Everything Necessary for Double Needle Stitching

Sewing Stretch Fabrics and Knits with a Double Needle

Pants and jeans are skinny again, and stretch fabrics are back. If you’re short, you probably have to hem every pair of leggings, jeggings, jeans or whatever name we’re using this year. Even if you have mechanical sewing machine (not electronic) with straight stitch and zigzag, you can use a double needle to sew stretch fabrics and it’s worth the needle purchase to have double stitching that will stretch with the garment.

A double needle has one shank, so it fits in the needle slot just like the single needle. You need two spool holders for thread and a presser foot that will accommodate a double needle. My 1974 Kenmore will sew with a double needle, although it didn’t come with one.

Schmerz makes a universal double needle that you can find at Hancock, JoAnn or maybe even Michaels or Hobby Lobby. It should work in your sewing machine if you have two spool holders. Buy two double needles in case you damage one while sewing (they’re less than $5 each).

Remove your single needle and replace it with the double needle. Replace the presser foot with one that allows zigzag stitching -- you need the width for the double needle stitching. I use the Q-Foot or multi-purpose plastic foot for this with the best success.

Close up of threaded double needle in sewing machine
Double Needle Has Two Needles on One Shaft

Place a spool of thread on each of the spool holders. You may find that stitching works best with thread coming from the front of one and the back of the other. Thread the sewing machine with one of the threads according to the machine instructions, but when you get to the eyelet just above the needle, you may have two channels for thread. Choose one and thread the needle closest to the channel you choose.

Run the thread from the second spool in the same guides as the first one, including the tension guide, until you get to the eyelet above the needle. Place the thread in the unused guide and thread in the empty needle. Pull both threads to the back. 

Thread the bobbin as usual, and pull the thread up through the soleplate by easing the wheel forward slowly until the double needle goes into the bobbin, catches the thread and comes back up. 

Use a piece of fabric to see how the double needle works, and check the tension. You may need to adjust the tension for knit or stretch fabrics.

Close up of double needle sewing showing top stitching
Front of Fabric with Double Needle Stitching
Your stitching should appear as two lines on the front and a zigzag on the backside of the fabric. 

Sample shows backside of double needle sewing
Backside of Double Needle Stitching is Zigzag Stitch

For stitching leggings or stretch pants, you’ll need to pin the hem so you can sew from the front to the back, since you want the double stitching to be on the front. Use a seam gauge to make your stitches about the same distance from the edge all the way around the pants leg. Hem the other pants leg the same way. The double needle sews a stretchy stitch so the hem won’t rip out as easily. 

Close up of stitching in progress with double needle on knit pants
Sewing Knits or Stretch Fabrics with Double Needle from the Top

You can’t pivot with a double needle in the machine, so it won’t sew to the end of the row and turn to stitch the same area again. You can backstitch with the double needle in place, but it’s easier to go forward and overlap stitching. Once you’re familiar with double needle stitching, use it for topstitching and crafts projects.

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