Twin and Triple Needle Work




Judy Day made this intricately embroidered heirloom dress which showcases decorative stitches. By using a single color for both the stitches and  the satin ribbon sash, the frock exudes a quiet elegance, in spite of the complexity of the embroidery.   Adding more stitches to the skirt balances out all the stitches on the bodice.  The overall effect is just so pleasing.

The dress was a blank canvas for twin and triple needle work, the subject of a sewing club meeting that Judy taught for years at B-Sew Inn, a huge Babylock  dealership in Springfield, Missouri.

As you can see, the use of the twin and triple needle in combination with a sewing machine’s decorative stitches creates complex, perfect patterns. But if you have no experience with their use, you would be wise to read up on the topic.




It is important to note your machine’s maximum stitch width. The width of the twin or triple needle must be subtracted from that in order to determine the maximum width for your decorative stitch.

The size of twin needles is determined by the width between the two needles and the size of the individual needle. So a 1.6/70 twin needle has a distance of 1.6 mm between needles and each needle is size 70. Twins come in a wide range of sizes, from 1.6, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 4.0 and 6.0. The size of the needle increases along with the width.

So if you machine has a maximum width of 7 mm and you have selected a decorative stitch with a width of 4.0, you cannot use a needle wider than 3.0. In fact, you are well advised to back of a little and limit yourself to a width of 2.5.





It is also recommended that you hand crank the fly wheel through one full stitch sequence to be certain that your needle does not hit the foot. If you have selected a foot other than the one recommended for that stitch, you might have a reduced width available. Twin and triple needles are expensive, so you don’t want to break one before you get started.

I have more success with twin and triple needle work when I use a lightweight stabilizer, such as the 3″ Stitch ‘N Ditch. Without it, the single bobbin thread tends to draw the needle threads together resulting in a decorative stitch that is not flat.

The use of twin and triple needles has always fascinated me. About a hundred years ago, at one of Martha Pullen’s first schools in Huntsville, Theta Happ demonstrated twin needle shadow work in her Tips, Tricks and Techniques workshop. Now, there are machine embroidery designs that feature twin needle work, but back then it was history in the making. On a piece of white batiste, she created a lovely shadow work vine with a 1.6 twin and a simple serpentine stitch. Both the two top and the bobbin threads were a soft shade of green. Then decorative stitches for leaves and flowers were worked with a single needle.

Theta even hooped a piece of batiste and with the twin needle stitched her name free motion. It was beautiful.

I hope Judy’s dress will inspire you to try some decorative stitches with twin and triple needles. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

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