Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Twin Needle Tutorial and More

Many of you have asked me to share the twin needle method of attaching bias tape.  This was taught to us at the "Vistas of Japan" workshop by Gail Lawther.  In her books and pattern packs she shares some ideas for attaching the bias tape with ordinary stitching and also with decorative embroidery stitches.
  • Twin needles are available in a variety of widths and the important thing is to get the right width for the bias tape you'll be using.  With Gail we used quarter inch fusible bias tape (from Clover) and a 4/80 twin needle and stitched with a very small zigzag.  This created a pleasing slightly raised faux trapunto effect. 
Looking on the internet I've found there are also twin needles available for using with metallic threads - this could be a whole new area of experimentation!
  • The twin needle goes in your machine just like an ordinary needle and then you need two reels of cotton of the same colour and weight (or of different colours of course, more room for experimentation).  Most machines have additional spool pins for this but if your doesn't wind two bobbins with thread and put them on your spool pin with the threads going in opposite directions.  
  • Thread the machine almost as usual, check your manual.  With mine I need to omit the last thread guide with one thread.  With some machines it is possible to thread either side of the tension discs. 
  •  Use a presser foot that allows you to see where you're going!  My machine says use the plastic T foot. 
  • Then carefully try the machine out, not by pressing the foot pedal but rather by gently turning the handle.  If nothing crunches you're good to go - on a practice piece first.
Gail's method sounds remarkably straightforward but I think we were all terrified of it.  However, it turned out to be remarkably straightforward!
Now straight is the keyword here, applying the bias tape in curved lines is what is naturally wants to do, being bias tape. 
Applying it straight takes a bit of practice -
  • press with the tip of the iron at the beginning and then at the end of the line you're following and then press between those points.  
Sewing round corners is a whole new skill.  Applying the tape with the iron is fun, it turns corners rather neatly, but twin needles don't pivot! 
  • When you reach a fold (and make sure you are sewing so that the folds have their "back" to the needle so that the presser foot doesn't nestle in the fold), 

stop and raise the needle.  Then turn your work a little, keeping the needle on the inner side of the turn in the same place,
then take another stitch and repeat until you're on the straight again.  Gail described it as being like those marching bands at tattoos where the people on the outside end of the line have to run while those at the inside end just march on the spot and the whole line revolves.  Does that help?

Practise and have fun, I think this stained glass method could be appearing quite a lot in my work. 
Thanks Gail.
Clover fusible bias tape is a horrific price in UK.  You can make you own (yeah right) or you can get a friend who's visiting USA to bring some back.  I'm trying to find a reasonably priced source....any suggestions?

I also want to show off my lovely cherry blossoms that I've added to my Mount Fuji quiltlet.
The flowers are a development of the Suffolk Puff (or yo-yo as it's now commonly called) with the puff pulled in towards the centre several times and then a scattering of beads added in the middle, cute eh?  This quilt is nearly all done now (I hope I'll get it backed and bound at quilting group on Friday) and I'm pleased with it.  I'm intending to make another of Gail's patterns in the Japanese series, possibly the Japanese Sand Garden.

British P&Q magazine have recently started a blog and are planning to have some special quilty goodness in cyberspace.  There will be blog buttons for all those talented bloggers out there who produce such wonderful material that is featured in the magazine....that's you Lynne and you Trudi....wow I have such star connections, or who blog about articles they have liked or prizes they have won. There'll be some special blog giveaways - please spread the word and watch this space! Look out in the magazine too for hints when you need to check out the FB page!

Finally for today, here's the quilt I'm making for the BritQuilt Swap - I hope this will be finished on Friday too, it's due in the post at the beginning of July.  It has been very interesting for me to work with these fabrics which aren't "mine" at all but I have had some praise for the quiltlet and hope my partner in the swap will like it (or at least be kind).
That's all for today, I'm off to watch Wimbledon.


  1. Great tutorial Lis. I will have to have a go at this one. I have used twin needles quite a bit but never for tape, what a good idea.
    Love the Brit quilt, lots going on there and do I see a button? That lilac and green look so good together

  2. love those little cherry blossoms. i have the tool that makes those easily. ought to get it out.


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hugs, Lis x