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When, Why, and How to Use a Walking Foot While Sewing

Loretta learned to sew on her grandma's treadle sewing machine. She began sewing her own clothes in 7th grade and still enjoys fabric work.

This walking foot is pictured with a quilting guide. Read on to learn when to use a walking foot.

This walking foot is pictured with a quilting guide. Read on to learn when to use a walking foot.

Why Use a Walking Foot?

The throat plate of your sewing machine has a set of "feed dogs," which are little teeth that grab the bottom of the fabric and move it along as you sew. A straight-stitch or zig-zag foot with a flat bottom is often used for home sewing, exerting static pressure on the fabric moving over the feed dogs. These feet work fine for many types and weights of fabrics and also plain or patterned material.

However, some sewing projects just don't turn out the best with a regular pressure foot. Some materials may be too thick or too slick or have stripes or plaids to be matched, or you may be using a knit fabric which can stretch or bunch while moving along the feed dogs.

This Foot Makes the Fabric Shift Less as You Sew

A "walking foot" is an accessory that is basically a second set of feed dogs for the top of your fabric. The purpose is to feed fabric evenly through the machine by having teeth on the top and bottom of the fabric.

This pressure foot can make certain sewing tasks far easier and give better results. The fact that there are now two sets of feed dogs means the fabric will not shift as you sew, which is especially important for certain projects.

How to Use a Walking Foot: Sample Sewing Project

Please be certain to view each thumbnail photo. I am a visual learner, and the pictures will have added explanations within them to clarify the text.

Step 1: Define Your Project

I wanted to alter a knit top and keep the original hem, but that's just for this project. If you are making a new knit garment, you would just hem it in a regular way using the walking foot and a stretch stitch, so don't worry about keeping the original hem in that case.

You may want to match plaids or stripes, sew a quilt batting, or use a slick fabric. Use care in matching your plaids and stripes when you cut your pattern and pin or clip in place carefully.

Step 2: Measure and Clip or Pin

If you are altering a garment, measure where you want the bottom of the original hem to fall. Or you can measure where the stitching of the original hem is. Whatever you choose, clip or pin all around the bottom of your garment.

Step 3: Plan the Stitching Line

Plan your new line of stitching about 1/8" or 3/16" away from the stitching on the original hem.

Again, if you are making a garment from scratch, matching plaids, or quilting, this is just extra information for you to keep an original hem.

Step 4: Attach the Walking Foot

A walking foot can range from fairly inexpensive to around $200. The more expensive walking feet have three different sole plates for the foot! Some are specific to certain machines. Read the documentation that comes with your sewing machine to see what you need to purchase. You may need a "low shank" or "high shank" model.

In my case, I needed this Brother model. It's affordable and does what I need it to do. It also lists all the machines it fits further down in its description.

Remove not only your current pressure foot but also the pressure foot holder. Your walking foot will replace the entire contraption.

Screw the clip into place while having the forked tine over the thread bar. This little exercise may take a few minutes or a couple of tries. That's okay, just don't give up.

Mark a scrap of fabric with different settings for reference.

Mark a scrap of fabric with different settings for reference.

Step 5: Select Your Stitch Carefully

Now that you have your walking foot in place, it is time to select the proper stitch for your work. Use a scrap of the fabric that you will be sewing on.

Testing is especially important for knits. You must consider which stretch stitch to use, or a zig-zag stitch, the length, the width, everything. Also, for knits, use either a ballpoint or universal needle. A regular sharp will break the threads and could cause damage to your fabric.

Make several lines of stitching and note all settings: the length, width (if any), thread tension dial, needle position (if applicable), and anything else. Spend time on this step. Evaluate your sample, decide which setting gives the best result, and continue!

Step 6: Sew, Press, and Cut

It's time to sew! If you are moving a hemline upwards, sew a new seam along the line you have previously marked.

If you are making a new garment, follow your pattern or directions.

After sewing, in all cases, press your new seams flat. You may need a pressing cloth for special fabrics.

Cut away any excess fabric or trim seams to reduce bulk if needed.

Please see all thumbnails for full explanations.

The finished hem

The finished hem

Final Result: Even Hem With No Bunching

In this case, the finished hem is exactly as I intended. The walking foot kept an even feed from the top and bottom with no stretching or bunching of the knit fabric.

Have fun with your new accessory, and happy sewing!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 The Sampsons


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on February 01, 2021:

BTW, Ms Dora, I very much liked an article of yours, but could not comment since it was moved to a network site.

The one about the boy (cousin?) hiding the mirror on you, for you to look like a thief. The whole story resonated with me.

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on February 01, 2021:

Oh, awesome! Have fun and good luck on your projects!!!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 01, 2021:

Thanks for the sewing lesson. I have a renewed interesting in using the sewing machine. Just yesterday, I watched my teacher stitch some curtain hems. Your article is timely for me.