Learn how to use a walking foot! This amazing sewing machine presser foot makes sewing difficult fabrics and matching seams, stripes, and patterns much easier as the layers of fabric are fed through the machine together. It is a must-have tool for sewing knits and other slipper fabrics. If you are a quilter then the walking presser foot will match your quilt block seams to perfection as well as sew through numerous layers without puckering.
Walking Foot Tutorial
This tutorial will discuss what is a walking foot, its uses, when to use it, and how to use a walking foot. The end also gives you some troubleshooting tips and alternatives.
A sewing machine walking foot - what a sensible name for an attachment that does exactly what it says. This is the one foot on the machine that can walk you through a number of processes and is adaptable, hard-working, and makes sewing bulky fabrics simple.
The walking foot is also known as a dual feed foot or an even feed foot.
What is a Walking Foot?
The sewing machine walking foot is an attachment for your machine that replaces the all-purpose presser foot (regular presser foot). The walking foot has an extra set of teeth on the bottom, which is used to guide the layers of fabric evenly through the machine.
A walking foot will prevent uneven feeding of fabric layers and improve your sewing quality. The walking foot holds the top layer of fabric and moves it along at the same speed that the machine’s feed dogs are moving the bottom layer of fabric.
Generally, a regular presser foot if fine for guiding fabric through when it is just two layers. Where the walking foot is superior is with several layers or when you need extra control.
It is quite large in size and has a box-like protrusion at the back of the machine, which hides the walking mechanism. Some brands have detachable or interchangeable sole plates at the bottom to suit slightly different purposes. Mine has a fixed plate.
Here is a photo of my Janome walking foot from the side and top. You can see how bulky it is. I have to say, though, that despite its size, once it is on your machine, it doesn't feel that different from a regular foot.
Instead of gliding over the fabric with the foot touching at all times, it lifts up and down so that any pulling or puckering on the top layers or bottom layers is released. This foot is especially useful for bulky, stretchy, or slippery fabrics. It is easy to attach and, with a bit of practice, will make your sewing of difficult fabrics a whole lot easier.
What is a Walking Foot Sewing Machine?
There are some industrial sewing machines with a walking foot attached. Years ago, I had one for sewing leather. It felt a little like driving a truck as it was so loud, but it did sew the leather beautifully.
This tutorial will discuss walking presser feet for home machines rather than these industrial machines.
What is a Walking Foot Attachment Used for?
A sewing machine walking foot travels slowly over different types of fabric and helps to produce a smoother, more professional look.
It is invaluable in thick quilting projects, including stitch in the ditch quilting but its job does not end there. The extra set of teeth to grip material from above makes this gadget ideal for use over thick fabrics or bulky seams. The teeth on the top help grip stretch material as well as silky fabrics.
The walking foot can climb over bulky seams, and sews waistbands, fly openings, and crotch seams. It is also ideal for garment sewing and stitching bindings, hems, and packets.
In many sewing projects, the walking foot will be of great use. The walking foot controls the movement of the fabric and helps to avoid puckering and shifting of the fabric.
One of its great assets can be seen when stripes or plaids are to be sewn. The walking foot holds the fabric in place for accurate matching of stripes.
When to Use a Walking Foot
Walking feet uses include sewing:
- Machine quilting and sewing quilt binding. It evenly feeds quilt layers and quilt blocks to eliminate puckering.
- Bulky seams and bulky projects and thick fabrics. Heavier fabrics and garments such as jeans or those made from faux fur.
- Slippery fabrics like Lycra and knits
- Thick straps on a tote bag where ripples are caused by a regular foot.
- Stripes and plaids or directional print fabric that needs matching.
- Leather and vinyl-coated fabric as well as other sticky fabrics.
- Stretch Fabrics prone to uneven stitches.
When Not to Use a Sewing Machine Walking Foot
- Free Motion: This gadget is not suited to free motion embroidery because the feed teeth are controlling the direction of the fabric, not allowing it to move in different directions.
- Reversing: Walking presser feet cannot reverse so it is not suitable if you need to backstitch ends.
- Wide Stitches: You can't use a walking foot for wide stitches. You need to use a walking foot with straight stitches or very narrow stitches.
Brands of Walking Foot
You can purchase the same brand walking presser foot as your sewing machines such as Janome, Brother, or Singer, or one of the many generic ones on the market. They are readily available at your local haberdashery or Amazon or eBay. Before purchasing, you will need to know whether your machine has a high shank or low shank.
How to Use a Walking Foot Instructions
Here is how to use a walking foot, including the best stitches, and needles, and attaching it to your sewing machine.
What Stitches to Use with a Walking Foot
The sewing machine walking foot is not very versatile in terms of the kind of stitches it can do. It likes to stick to the straight and narrow!
The walking foot will not do a reverse stitch or fancy wide decorative stitches. The walking foot is best used for straight stitching and for the completion of quilts using the space bar included with a walking foot kit.
A walking foot is best with a straight stitch or narrow width stitches.
What Needle to Use with a Walking Foot
Just use your regular needles, which will be matched to your fabric. If you are sewing thicker or bulkier fabrics, make sure you choose a thicker needle that will not break.
- Quilts - Quilting Needles
- Leather - Leather Needles
- Cotton Straps - Thicker Universal Needles
Further Reading - Types of Sewing Machine Needle
Thread to Use with a Walking Presser Foot
Once again the thread should match the fabric you are sewing. I would recommend a strong thread since you will be sewing bulky or difficult fabrics.
Further Reading - Types of Thread
Supplies for a Sewing Walking Foot
All you need is your walking foot and a screwdriver to undo the screw that normally holds on your all-purpose sewing foot. Most machines come with an appropriately sized screwdriver. You can see here the walking foot in comparison to my regular foot and the screw that needed to be removed.
How to Use a Walking Foot on Your Machine
Setting up your machine to use a walking foot may take a bit of time and practice, but it is not difficult.
Step 1 - Remove the Original Presser Foot
Firstly you need to remove the current presser foot and presser foot holder. Keep the screw from the presser foot holder on one side, or try not to remove it completely. Put the presser foot in a safe place.
Step 2 - Attaching the Walking Foot
- Make sure your needle is up and out of the way.
- Slip the walking foot into place but don't screw it in yet.
- When attaching the walking foot, ensure the lever is over your needle clamp screw. This is the claw-like extension at the side of the foot.
- Finally, use the utility screwdriver from your machine to ensure the screw is tightened.
It is important the lever is set over the needle bar. This is just a resting position, but as the needle bar drives the needle, the lever of the walking foot will move in unison with the needle. This will make sure that the serrated feeds of the walking foot and the feed dogs of the machine will work together.
My Janome lever is a straight bar that just sits on top of the needle clamp screw. Other brands have a claw-like end that goes around the needle bar.
It is all about the synchronization of the top and bottom feeds as they work over and under the fabric.
Optional Extra: The quilting bar that comes with the walking foot is an extra part of the attachment and is ideal for quilting. Slide it through the holes provided on the walking foot and set it at the desired width to sew evenly spaced lines along the quilt. The bar is not essential for other sewing projects but is very useful for keeping an equal distance of stitching for quilted projects.
Step 3 - Sewing with the Walking Foot
Sewing with the walking presser foot is not that different from straight stitching with a regular foot.
- You will thread your bobbin as normal. Ensures your machine is set to sew in straight lines.
- When sewing, it is best to go a little slower so the mechanism has time to walk up and down smoothly. My Janome has a switch on the foot pedal that can go from high speed to low speed. If your machine doesn't have a speed regulator, then just go easy on the pedal.
- Don't forget that this foot won't go backward, so just start near the edge and go forwards.
- To stop the ends from unraveling, pull the threads to the back and knot the ends. Another way to secure the ends would be to make the first inch or so really small stitches. Put the stitch length down to 0.5 and then switch to your regular length.
Further Reading - How to Stop and Start Seams
Troubleshooting the Walking foot
If your walking presser foot is not working smoothly, here are some suggested remedies.
|Foot not walking smoothly||Check it is attached correctly to the machine. In particular, check the screw and that the lever is over the needle bar.|
|Won't backstitch||It is not designed to sew in reverse. Go forwards. Tie the ends of the threads to stop unraveling|
|Skipping stitches||This is more likely your needle. Check the type and replace it if damaged or bent. Also, check the thread is appropriate weight and type.|
|Won't attach to the machine||Check for brand compatibility|
Alternatives to Walking Sewing Foot
When you are sewing really bulky fabrics, knit fabrics or quits, then the walking foot really is the best option. For other finer fabrics like Lycra and knits, there is another alternative. You can use a Teflon presser foot. This is much smaller.
The regular-sized sewing machine foot can just snap on and is much easier to maneuver and sew curves. Because the foot is coated or made entirely from Teflon, it glides over fabric that would normally stick and result in uneven or skipped stitches.
Walking Foot - In Conclusion
Now you know how to use a walking foot, it is important to try out the new gadget on scraps of fabric to test drive the walking foot. You will be amazed at the difference it makes to sewing knits.
After you have finished, you may not want to go back to your normal presser foot. Your walking foot will behave beautifully on bulky fabrics, stretch knits, and slippery fabrics.
Caution! This foot responds best to slower speeds so set the pace at a slower tempo.