How to Fake a Coverstitch with a Twin Needle

Take a look at the hem of most t-shirts and you’ll see what’s called a coverstitch or coverhem. Most people assume that this is done by a serger. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Some higher end sergers will indeed convert to a coverstitch machine. Or you can buy a stand alone coverstitch machine. I have the Brother 2340cv shown to the left, and it’s pretty kickass. I kept putting it off, thinking it was silly to have  machine that does one little thing, but it really is useful if you sew a lot.

Unless your bursting at the seams with cash, though, I don’t think I would say such an investment was necessary.  There happens to be a $5 Cheater McPeter way of doing it, which I employed for several years when I was without a coverstitch machine. Behold, the Twin Needle!!

It looks like two needles on one needle shaft, and that’s exactly what it is. You will insert the needle in your standard zig-zag sewing machine* like any other needle. You’ll also need to rig up a second spool of thread.

Once you’ve threaded both needles, you can sew as usual (though I like to take it slow). You might need some tension adjustment, as well. When you sew a regular straight stitch, the top of the stitching will be two parallel rows of straight stitching. However, the bottom (bobbin) thread will be a zig zag. It’s not quite as stretchy as a true coverstitch, but it looks almost identical.

You’ll need to follow the same rules as regular needles with twin needles: ballpoints for knits! Some ballpoint twin needles say they’re “stretch needles” instead of ballpoint.

I’d also recommend buying an extra set or two. At least for me, twin needles were more prone to breaking.

(Of course, you can always fold your hems up and straight stitch them, if you’ve got a sewing machine that takes kindly to knits. Or you can use a zig zag. But if you just can’t stand not having that double stitched goodness, try a twin needle.)

*Some older machines will not be compatible with the twin needle. Also, I’ve heard through the grapevine that some machines require that you set your machine to a zig-zag stitch when you’re using a twin needle. Both of my machines used a straight stitch, though.

real coverstitch, right side

real coverstitch, wrong side

mock coverstitch, right side

mock coverstitch, wrong side

26 thoughts on “How to Fake a Coverstitch with a Twin Needle

  1. How do you like your Brother coverstitch? I am seriously considering getting one to ramp up a home sewing business. I’ve found a local dealer that will sell one to me with warranty for $350?

    1. I love it! It took me a little while to get the hang of it. I felt like it was sort of fussy at first, but I have absolutely no complaints with it now, so I think it was just the learning curve.

  2. How do you “rig up” a second spool of thread?. I recently bought a serger that does not convert to a coverstitch, which is really what I wanted it for! Didn’t know that at the time though! I still want to keep the serger, but also would love to rig up my standard machine with the twin needle, but it only has a spot for a single spool of thread. Any suggestion on how to “rig it up” would be appreciated!

    1. My machine had a separate little nub on top of the machine that was for winding bobbins. I put a bamboo skewer (like you’d use to barbecue with) in the bobbin holder, so that it stuck straight up, and put the second spool of thread on that.

      You might be able to use the skewer trick on the spool holder, if it’s hollow, and stack the two spools one on top of the other. If not, you could tape a skewer to it.

  3. I would like to respond to LA, on the twin needle….have you tried using two small spools? one on top of each other, and may have to use a cap on your spool stem so they hold? and then try using a twin needle? Hope you get this…

  4. I’ve heard that when you use the twin needle you should run the spools in opposite directions (one clockwise and one counter) so they don’t tangle. I would think this would be even more important if you were running the two vertically on top of the same spool. Hope that helps! I haven’t used my twin needle yet, but maybe I will with this pencil skirt I’m working on (using your tut, Lex).


  5. your tutorial on putting sleeves on a shirt is excellent. it’s the best I’ve seen, even better than the videos out there on the internet.
    my question is, how would you put a sleeve onto a shirt if the shirt does NOT have a center cut on it. like a tee shirt for example. on your tutorial, you have a center cut from top to bottm of the front of the shirt.

  6. If you are going to buy a serger, remember you get what you pay for. A $350 dollar serger is going to break down and you will end up buying 3-4 more sergers. So, just look at the higher end machines (Bernina, Viking Pfaff) – get a good machine and the support and lessons from the dealer. I guarantee you will be very pleased.

    from ” been there, done that”

    1. I agree that you get what you pay for, but I disagree that a $350 serger isn’t worth buying.
      I’ve had the Brother 1034D (which retails for $200) for 4 years, and it’s still chugging along. I have several friends who sew daily like I do that also have the machine, and I’ve yet to hear a complaint.

      Is my Husqvarna/Viking machine better? Yes. But not everyone can afford or justify $1000 for a serger.

      For people with limited budgets, little serger experience, or people who sew as a hobby, I think the 1034D is a great buy.

  7. I recently bought the Brother 1034D, second hand, but never used (it was still factory threaded) for $80…VERY pleased with it so far. I sew as a hobby and give many sewn gifts. I always wanted a serger, but couldn’t justify the cost of those lovely expensive machines. This one is just right for my current needs and I’m glad I got such a good deal on it.

  8. I love your tutorials Lex, they are all fantastic. One thing I truly love you, that isn’t always there at other craft blogs, is how you don’t have that “You must buy crazy expensive equipment” and the like. You make it seem like any one (which is the truth) That any one can sew and craft.

    Thank you!

  9. One more high-five for the Brother 1034D. I seriously looked at a Babylock Image Wave serger for over a thousand dollars (I have a Babylock Ellegante and love it, and my travel machine is a Babylock Maria, so I do like their products), but I wasn’t sure I’d really use a serger enough to justify the $1500 investment. So, I bought the $200 1034D on Amazon – no tax & free shipping, that $200 was my total investment, thinking that if I wasn’t thrilled with serging, I’d have lost not-so-much, and if it was the be-all of sewing, I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade. I LOVE IT! My sewing never looked more professional. All I use it for is rolled hems, seam finishes, and sewing on knit fabric, so it truly serves my purposes. It’s easy to thread, a snap to adjust, and I haven’t had one single problem with it in nearly a year of owning it. One of my sons was so fascinated by it that he learned to use it, too, so it’s suffered through a complete novice sewer in addition to my learning time. As far as the Babylock Image Wave, I honestly don’t think I’d use all the extra capabilities, so until it goes to that great sewing room in the sky, I’m sticking with my 1034D.

    I was seriously thinking about adding a cover stitch machine to my sewing room, but I’m going to give the double-needle fake a try. You are a genius!

  10. I’m so glad to have found your site. I’ve been looking for a serger to alter sleeve and shirt lengths and finish them with the coverstitch on the front and a serged edge on the back. Good thing I didn’t buy one before learning that a serger is NOT what I want. I have tried the fake coverstitch with twin needles in the past, but the two rows of stitches seem to turn out too close to one another and the straight stitch doesn’t stretch with the fabric. Do twin needles with different widths exist? Any suggestions about working with tricot? Thanks!

    1. Twin needles do come in different widths. The 4 mm width is about the right width to mimic most t-shirt coverstitching.

      I found that the bobbin thread often got pulled too tight when I was using a twin needle, which would pull the two rows of stitching together. I started loosening the tension on the bobbin case to counteract that- if your machine has a bobbin, it should have a small screw that controls the tension. Loosening the screw = loosening the tension. Of course then you have to re-adjust when you’re not using the twin needle. I had two bobbin cases, so I had one set for the twin needle and one set for regular sewing.

      I know a lot of newer machines have a drop in bobbin and no bobbin tension control, so I’m not sure how to counteract the tension issues in that case. :/

      1. After reading your suggestion to use a twin needle to fake a coverstitch, I was really intrigued and went looking for videos to see it in action. I came across this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdExJGH_Omc) that suggests using polyarn for the bobbin (and hand-winding it) because it is a stretchy thread. However, the bobbin is providing the zigzag underneath, which already has some stretch built into the stitch, so I’m thinking maybe the polyarn would be good to use with the twin needles to give the straight stitches on top some extra stretch. I’d love to know your thoughts on this idea. Thanks.

        1. I don’t think I ever tried the polyarn style thread with the twin needle, but I have used it on my serger and coverstitch machines. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with the twin needle, and I think you’re right that it could provide some extra stretch when used on top as well.

  11. Hi, I have a terrible time, getting my cover stitch machine To work properly, please advice, I sew most of the time stretch materials,I have change needles, treads,and follow the book,no luck. Gracias

  12. What type of basic sewing machine do you use the twin needle on? I really want to try this out as i too bought the 1034d thinking I would be able to cover stitch with it.My basic machine just died so I am on the market and trying to find the best option that I can use to cover stitch with as well.

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