May’s Hack: Design Inspiration and Twin-Needle Tucks

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Last month, I asked for heaps of input for the 40’s Charm hack.  (Click here to find out more about my free t-shirt pattern and the hacks I’m doing all year.)  That was fun, we’ll have to do something more like that later.  From the second I pinned her on my Hack Board, I knew I wanted a crack at translating this vaguely Asian-inspired 1950’s dress into a knit turtleneck.  Or a sweater.  Or a layering piece.  I just had to wait for cooler weather.

Cooler weather has arrived in Queensland!  I find I need a few long-sleeved tops since most of my clothing suits an “endless summer” climate.  In approaching this hack, I decided to make the same top from two very different jerseys.  The first one is a layering tee, made from a fluttery, clingy Hemp Rayon.  It’s not a blend, but rayon made from hemp.  Check it out.I feel a rayon jersey post coming on, there’s so much to say, and only so much room in a single post.

I toyed with a few ideas for how to make the tucks on the neck- darts, pleats, pintucks?  Then I remembered a simple embellishment technique- Twin Needle Tucks.  Have you ever tried this?  These tucks work well on lighter weight fabrics, and lend a little texture to an otherwise flat piece of fabric. They also “take up” very little fabric, so I don’t need to do anything special to the pattern in order to use these tucks.  Really, they can go anywhere on a garment.

Most machines support twin-needle action- be sure to check the instructions.  Basically, two threads sit on top of the machine…

…and feed down through a double needle.  It’s important not to twist the threads, which is why the top of the needle shaft area has these two little clips.  That helps prevent tangling.

Before I jumped into embellishing my top, I played with stitch length and tension on a scrap of the fashion fabric- better to work out the kinks now than deal with surprises later.  The bottom row of stitching is the regular machine tension- 4.  I loosened it right up and stitched another row next to it.  Neither were exactly what I was looking for- too flat.  When I tightened the tension, I found the delicate ridges I wanted.  (Also- a smaller stitch length makes them even more pronounced.)

The difference in tension really shows on the back- when the top threads are tight, the bobbin thread pulls the two lines closer together.  Takeaway lesson: tighter tension for ridges, looser tension for a simple double-stitch (often used on hems).

I marked the embellishment lines on my pattern, then the fabric, then held the fabric up to me and decided to play with the spacing of the lines.  The new embellishment line are in green.  May’s Hack (no clever name yet!) will also have long fitted sleeves and a diamond shaped underarm gusset to reduce bulk for layering (and enhance mobility).

Once I marked the shirt, I stitched along the lines.  The center of the line lies between the needles- too easy.

At the neck edge of each twin-needle tuck, I simply tied the threads together to secure them.  At the other end, I pulled up the bobbin thread gently- both to increase the “ridged” effect, and to pull the top threads to the back.  Then I tied them off securely and trimmed the threads.

Once I finished that, I immediately rinsed out the marker.  After my whites disaster, I’m a little jumpy about that kind of thing.  It’s still wet, the dry fabric isn’t so transparent.  I like this effect- so much so that I kind of want to make more little tucks all around the neckline.  And the back neck.  Everywhere!  I plan to finish the neck edge in my usual way.

But what about the plushy black merino?  The hemp jersey is far too slinky to support a collar, but I figure my merino has the body for it.  I have had the image of a stand-up collar in my mind for months now, but I find myself distracted by this little beauty:

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Hey!  Those neck dart things look familiar, this time teamed with a teeny Peter Pan collar.  Now I’m torn- Side closing Mandarin with shoulder buttons, or Peter Pan collar?  You know I’m susceptible to persuasion…

Personal Stuff: About a month ago, I spilled something on my laptop.  And kept typing after wiping it up.  BIG MISTAKE.  Then I spent a week on tenterhooks- would she or wouldn’t she survive?  How many of my files could I salvage?  How am I going to work on my Pants Blocks and patterns?  It was a disaster.  For a few weeks, I used a dinosaur desktop we keep for watching movies (and won’t support my imaging software or scanner).  Then my FIL was so consumed with grief over my laptop’s demise he bought himself a new one and passed his old one on to me.  Today I had a full work day to actually set up my “digital workspace” once more- files, imaging programs, everything is now on my FIL’s old laptop.  It took more time than I thought it would to import all that stuff…  I’m really, really grateful.  I didn’t want to whine about it much, but not being able to work on patterns was really getting me down.  So now I have four patterns that were all ready to go except for the computer work- expect to see some new stuff over the next month!!  Thank you, FIL.  I’ll shut up about Santa…


  1. Great idea! Are there different sizes of twin needles then? It´s just that I have some but they don´t seem to sew quite so close together so I was wondering….!

  2. You can also cord your tucks to make them a bit more pronounced. I remember being taught how to do this when I first got my sewing machine, but that was almost 30 years ago. I think I did it once or twice back then, but had forgotten all about it until I saw your post. It would be fun to try it again!

    • Yes- I might resort to cording when I make the tucks on my thicker fabric… I may just cord them anyway, it’s another great way to embellish. :) I’d love to see what you end up pintucking.

  3. What width of needles did you use as they range from 1.6 to 4.0 mm. You can also use wooly nylon in the bobbin to make the backside tighter. Wish we used this technique more often!!!!!

    • It isn’t marked on the package (came with my machine) but when I measure it seems like 1.6mm?

      Thanks for the tip on wooly nylon- I’ll have to try that. How do you get it on the bobbin? Hand or machine winding?

  4. You have officially redeemed twin-needle tucks. I’d heard them “advertised” as equivalent to one-needle pintucks and they soooo aren’t, they’d been shelved as items to scoff at quietly.

    But you – you’ve redeemed them by making them beautiful, all on their own.

    • Thanks, Hearthie… I’m always a little bemused when someone tries to sell me on a technique by saying “This is just the same as *that*” when it obviously isn’t…

  5. Thanks for a reminder on the twin-needle tucks – it’s a nice idea and I might need to try that soon too. (I did make some tucks by accident when I was trying to figure out how to use a twin needle). My oldish Bernina does not have the two clip/hooks above the needle, so I put one thread through the single clip & the second thread back behind the little knob thing and then through the clip. It keeps the threads untangled just fine, but threading both straight through without this ‘detour’ can lead to disaster…broken needle, machine out of time…you don’t want to know about the repair bill! : (

    As for your computer troubles–ackk! It’s probably just the keyboard that’s dead. If the internal hard drive wasn’t soaked, it can be removed and put into a case that has built in USB etc. You can then get your files from it just like it was a regular external hard drive.


    • Oh! Sounds like the thread tangling really did a number on you! (I do love the voice of an oldish bernina..)

      I thought it was just the keyboard, too, but… It will turn on, and even show the screen and everything but the light at the charger won’t turn on and it also won’t recognize that it has a battery… We’ll take it into the Apple store anyway to see what can be salvaged (if anything)… I never used to understand those who have attachments to their electronics, but I’m a little sad that she’s dead.. ;)

  6. I just used your knit binding tutorial — and my twin stretch needle! I was messing around with a crew neck t-shirt. T-shirts are always too long for me, so I cut off the bottom 3″, folded it up and used the twin stretch needle to hem it. I shortened the sleeves in the same way. Then I used the material from the bottom to make a new, larger neckline to replace the crew neck; using your method it turned out very nicely.

    I appreciate your comments and that of Jen about the potential problems of twisting thread. I had no idea!

    • Yay! I’m so pleased you got a nice result. It’s satisfying, isn’t it? :) You totally made my day.

      Yeah, but with a little care it won’t twist. And be sure to check your machine’s manual.

  7. Steph I vote for the mandarin collar and shoulder buttons. PPs are cute but so, like, everywhere? ;-) (I AM a Valley Girl after all!)

  8. Decisions, decisions! Both the Peter Pan collar and the side closing Mandarin would be gorgeous! What I love are those twin needle tucks – I don’t think I’ve seen these before and now I’m quite intrigued by them!

    • I think I’ll use loops… OR! Or- Or… I could get some frogs… I love the look of frogs… oooooooh

      Theresa, or maybe ChrisC taught me to make tucks that way. I always liked them, but seldom use them. Which is silly, cause they’re cute.

    • I knew you’d be all over that!! :) It was actually on my mind as I was working on this pattern/hack, and that’s why I made one as a “layering” piece and the other one will be a little more whimsical. I was thinking of the outdoorsy types out there. ;)

      • :D I’m also partial to the peter pan collar, but a mandarin collar would work well for me to make a wool jersey 1/4 zip layering piece… Much cheaper than Icebreaker, and in a colour other than pink! (My brother’s work only got my size in pink… It fits, but it’s not me.)

  9. I made some of these lovely little tucks by mistake when I forgot to change needle once and thought it looked cute then promptly forgot all about it! Then I found a doily/hanky thingy at the op shop the other day which had criss-cross double needle tucks all across it. Probably not a hanky then – can you imagine blowing your nose on all those lines?! hah. Anyway, lovely reminder again today when I finally check in on your blog.

    I wonder too how you got on with the pink washing machine dye disaster. Did you find a solution?

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