On many of the supply lists for projects in Stitch, you'll find the following: "Optional: Walking foot for your sewing machine."
If the designer is a little more opinionated, it may read: "Optional, but helpful ..."
So what does this odd-shaped foot do, and is it: optional, helpful, or ... necessary?
Basically, 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 your 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 through from the top.
So when is a walking foot "Optional"?
• If you're working with two layers of a fairly stable woven fabric, there is very little need for a walking foot. The pressure of your feed dogs against a standard foot provides all the friction necessary for the fabric layers to move through smoothly.
What are the "Optional, but Helpful" uses?
• When working with laminates or oilcloth, a walking foot definitely helps to keep these "sticky" fabrics moving.
• If you have several layers of fabric or heavier, canvas-type fabrics, it's often difficult for the machine foot to provide enough pressure to keep the fabric layers from shifting. Frequent pinning may solve the problem, but a walking foot is, well, helpful.
And how about the "Necessary" category?
• If you are quilting layers of fabric with batting, a walking foot keeps all the layers stable and moving smoothly. This is true whether you're making a bed-size quilt or a small tote.
• And here is a little known--but my new favorite use for the walking foot: topstitching on knits. No more watching the knits creep and bunch as you finish neck edges or hems. I learned this trick from Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop and now can't imagine working with knits without my walking foot.
That being said, may I also say that in sewing, I'm always a bit hesitant to use the word "necessary". I've done a tremendous amount of fairly complex sewing on an old Sears machine which has no bells and maybe one whistle. So when I use the word "necessary", I don't mean that it is absolutely impossible to complete a project without it. It is simply that the process is so much less laborious and the results are so much more successful with the foot than without it.
Walking feet are not inexpensive, but depending on the type of projects you work on, your sewing can be a lot more pleasant when you use one.
Sewing machine feet perform all sorts of distinctive tasks. In the Stitch DVD: Secrets of Home Décor Sewing, Kevin Kosbab demonstrates using a zipper foot to make pillow cording. DVDs are a great way to learn something new and to enhance your current skills—to say nothing of the fun factor!
Now I'm curious—what's your favorite foot? Are there projects you wouldn’t do without it? I'd love to know.