Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tip Tuesday! - Walking Foot

Tip Tuesday! - The Walking Foot (AKA Even Feed Foot) 

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!"

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give credit where credit is due whenever possible.
These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

Are any of you old enough to remember THIS SONG by Nancy Sinatra?

These boots are made for walkin'

And that's just what they'll do

One of these days these boots

Are gonna walk all over you

Are you ready, boots? Start walkin'

Come on. I know you want to sing along. Go ahead. Nobody's watching. Play it again and do the dance too? 

Well, I think we quilters should change it up a bit to say: 

This foot is made for walking,

And that's just what it'll do.

One of these days this foot 

Is going to walk all over you!

Are you ready quilters? Start walking!


Are you thinking that I've lost my mind or have you figured out what foot I'm talking about? 

I'm talking about the wonderful walking foot (also known as even feed foot) for our sewing machines! 

For those of you are familiar with your walking foot and use it a lot, please feel free to leave a comment here to provide the rest of blogland with some insight as to why and how you use your walking foot. I'm sure some of you are using your walking feet in ways many of us have never even considered.

Please! Educate us! I always want to learn more.  :-)

So, What Is a Walking Foot & What Does It Look Like? 

Basically, the average walking foot is a big, bulky, odd-looking foot that has an arm (or two) that attaches to the needle bar.


A walking foot is designed to move, or feed the top fabric under the needle at the same rate as the feed dogs are moving the bottom fabric, eliminating slipping or "creeping" of fabric, puckering or pleating. 

In other words (or perhaps a better visual) would be to say that the walking foot provides a gripping action from the top of the fabric which coordinates with the grip of the feed dogs, which are built into the bed of the sewing machine. As the bottom feed dogs pull (or feed) the fabric under the needle so that even stitches are created, the walking foot is gripping and pulling the fabric from the top. (They have learned to play nicely so we quilters get great looking quilts!)

In order to get the best results, it is very important to buy the correct walking foot for your machine brand and model. 

Some machines come with a walking foot built into the machine. It usually sits to the back of the machine, near the pressure foot lever and can be engaged when needed. This is often referred to as integrated dual feed.

Some walking feet come with interchangeable soles that are switched to best accommodate the fabric used and task being performed. 
The Standard or Basic Sole (most common) is for attaching most fabrics. It is used for knits or other fabrics that have "give" (are stretchy). The Standard Sole has a 1/4" marking on it which is great for attaching binding or working with narrow seams on "slippery" fabrics.

The Quilting Sole is open to allow for better visibility for quilting. This sole also does a great job of keeping quilt layers from slipping or shifting while machine quilting.

The final sole is the Edge Stitching Sole. This is perfect for edge stitching or top stitching, especially on quilt pieces or stretchy denim.

How Does It Work? 

In a nutshell, a walking foot helps keep fabrics aligned when sewing.

A walking foot has built in feed dogs that grip and advance the upper layer of fabric as it travels through the sewing machine. This is done in unison with the machine's feed dogs, which grip the underside of the fabric. This action keeps the layers from shifting apart as they move through the sewing machine and prevents puckers, especially during straight line quilting. It is also especially helpful when sewing together rag or denim quilts and when sewing a binding to a quilt. 

Probably the most challenging part of using a walking foot for me was figuring out how to attach it properly. I would strongly suggest you have someone show you how to attach the foot, or do an internet search for a you tube video, etc. for your specific machine. For example you might search for "how to attach a walking foot to a bernina sewing machine."  

Uses for the Walking Foot
Attaching Borders - The walking foot helps to eliminate the fabric shifting that causes the borders to begin even, but end up with excess at the end. 

Matching Plaids, Checks, and Stripes - Because it reduces the shifting of the fabric, I am able to match plaids, checks, and stripes with much more accuracy when I use my walking foot. I do pin, but I find I don't have to use quite so many when i use the walking foot. This is great because I love to work with stripes!

Sewing with Knits, Minkee or Other Stretchy/Slippery Fabrics - I find that I have a problem with the fabric stretching when I sew with knits, Minkee or other stretchy fabrics. Using my walking foot has definitely improved that and I am much happier with the results.

Sewing with Laminates, Oilcloth or other "Sticky" Fabrics - Some fabrics are bulky or sticky and just do not want to move freely through the machine. The walking foot grabs on to them and helps push them through. 

Top stitching - The walking foot helps to eliminate the often inconsistent stitches I get when top stitching, that I believe are caused by the bulk created by the seam allowance. 

Quilting - straight line, in the ditch, etc. - Because the walking foot helps to feed all the layers together evenly, quilting through the quilt sandwich is much easier than using a "regular" machine foot. You do still need to baste, but I'm sure you will be much happier with your results if you use a walking foot. I sure am. 

Attaching Binding to a Quilt - When I first started quilting, I found that I often encountered puckering on the underside and uneven sewing along the top while I attached bindings. I wasn't too thrilled with the results, considering how much time and effort went in to making the quilt. Once I was told to use a walking foot to attach binding, those problems disappeared and binding is actually one of my favorite parts of the quilt making process.  

Get Your Own Walking Foot?

As I stated before, in order to get the best results, it is very important to buy the correct walking foot for you machine brand and model. 

The first thing you should do is a bit of research to see if your machine requires a specific walking foot. Many manufacturers make their own, which are compatible exclusively to their machines and/or models. 

Now I know that some people have called the walking foot an investment foot because of the price (mine now retails for around $180), but consider how much you will use it and make the decision for yourself. You can always look for sales and buy then. 

There are generic walking feet which might work on your machine. I've seen those priced as low as $20. If you think the generic feet might work for your machine and know someone who has one, why not ask if you can try it out on your machine? Even though it fits and works, it may not produce the best quality stitches and you haven't spend any money. 

I have had my walking foot for many years (I believe I paid right around $100), and bought it because I hated the way my quilting looked. Knowing no different, I only used the walking foot for quilting and even though I was much happier with my quilting results, I was not thrilled with my binding. (I didn't have such wonderful access to the internet to learn about all the other ways I could be using this foot so I was stuck in a rut and figured this was a "one purpose" foot. Boy was I wrong!) 

When I finally asked a local shop owner for suggestions, she told me about the walking foot and I was thrilled! I can honestly tell you the I have NEVER used another foot since that day to attach bindings and I have bound a lot of quilts - my own and for many other people.

A student once told me that she felt the walking foot looked a bit menacing and that she was scared to use it. 
I completely understand that, but this foot really is a GENTLE GIANT and I know you will LOVE it - once you figure out how to attach it! :-) 

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