One of the most intimidating things about sewing knits is the finishing techniques. Well, at least for me. Maybe you, dear reader, have never feared your twin needle, but I have, and I am here to tell the tale, and to say, I am no longer afraid! And if you are afraid, that is okay too, because there are other options for finishing knits besides a twin needle. And there are some great notions for making finishing easier. So let’s start there.
Helpful Notions for Finishing Knits
The number one, not-so-secret, best way to improve your finishes is Heat&Bond Soft Stretch. This stuff is basically magic. Like wonder under, it is ironed on and helps a seam stay in place. But this version is made for stretchy fabrics, is wider, and washes away. Not only does it hold your hem in place without pins, it stabilizes the fabric, making it easier to keep your stitches even, whether you choose a twin needle or a zig-zag.
The next most important thing is making sure you have the right needle. I like a chrome ballpoint or stretch needle. Twin needles also come in regular and stretch so make sure you have the right one. I am not too proud to admit that when I first began sewing I had no idea that there were different needles for wovens and knits and I just sewed everything with my regular needle! How I have changed, and how my knit sewing has improved because of it!
And now let’s get into the minutiae of using a twin needle.
Use a Twin Needle
First of all, and this may be obvious to some of you, but it was not to me, a twin needle must be used from the right side of the fabric. I was very used to doing hems from the wrong side so that I could make sure I caught the fabric. But that won’t work with a twin needle, since the underside is a zig-zag. But fear not, there are a few solutions if you are nervous about catching the fabric.
The most beginner friendly is to first baste the hem in place. Then you can use those basting stitches as a guide, either above or in the center of your twin needle. Once you finish, simply remove them.
The other option is to measure your hem and use a seam allowance guide that is ⅛ inch less than your hem. For example, if I turn my hem up ¾ inch, I sew it with the bottom edge at a ⅝ inch seam allowance.
Make sure, when using a twin needle, to increase your stitch length. I prefer 3mm, but do a little experimenting on some scraps to see what you prefer and what works best with your fabric.
And lastly, I find it really difficult to get tension unless I have two spools of the same thread. While you can wind a bobbin and use that, which saves you some thread and a trip to the store, I find my twin needle finishes always look better (and require less cursing) when I have two spools of thread. When threading the twin needle take care not to twist your threads around each other. It is also worth referring to your machine manual as well, to make sure you are following the recommended instructions for using a twin needle.
Twin needle not for you? Welcome to the world of the zig-zag stitch. You are probably familiar with this world. I will venture a guess you’ve spent some time here before. And if you haven’t that’s okay too. The zig-zag stitch is a versatile, weird, and beautiful little stitch. It is great for seaming, finishing, and hemming. You can adjust its width and its length.
One benefit of the zig-zag stitch is that it looks the same from the right or wrong side. So if you prefer to stitch from the inside, that is no problem. Another benefit is you only need one spool of thread. Nothing fancy is required.
Like with a twin needle, for a zig-zag stitch, you will want to experiment with length and width. It can really vary depending on what kind of fabric you are using, and which part of the garment you are finishing. This is when having a notebook comes in handy. Write down the length and width and fabric so that you remember them for the future.
If you are very new to knits, I think it is best to start with a zig-zag. It is just a bit easier to manage than a twin needle. That being said, there are no rules about how much experience you need, and if you have your heart set on a twin needle, give it a try!