FOOTWORK: How To Use A Walking Foot

Adding a walking foot to your tool box will save your frustration some time down the sewing road. A walking foot can make a pesky job trouble free. Learn how to use a walking foot to evenly feed fabric layers for a professional finish.

How to use a walking foot.

When to use a walking foot.

  • MATCHING PLAIDS & STRIPES: The walking foot prevents the fabric from shifting while sewing so the pattern remains aligned.
  • STITCHING SLIPPERY FABRIC: The foot eliminates the need for excessive pinning, which often damages slippery fabrics, such as satin.
  • QUILTING: The walking foot keeps fabric and batting layers together while quilting.
  • GARMENT CONSTRUCTION: The walking foot ensures precision when stitching bulky fabric layers.
  • STITCHING HEAVYWEIGHT FABRIC: The foot keeps heavyweight layers aligned while stitching.
  • ALIGNING SEAMS: Seams are even and perfectly aligned because the foot prevents the fabric layers from shifting.

When not to use a walking foot.

  • REVERSE SEWING: The foot isn’t designed for use in reverse.
  • foot assists in forward movement and won’t allow the fabric to move side to side.
  • SOME DECORATIVE STITCHES: Wide decorative stitches require side to side fabric motion, which is inhibited by the walking foot.

Feed Dogs

The feed dogs sit along the machine throat plate. Using rotating teeth, the feed dogs grab the lower fabric layer and pull it from front to back as the needle stitches. The feed dogs are typically spaced on either side of the presser foot; the feed dog distance depends on the maximum stitch width.

For example, if the machine allows for a 9mm-wide stitch, the feed dogs will be approximately 9mm apart from each other. Some machines feature another smaller set of feed dogs that’s slightly farther forward and centered along the stitching area, adding extra support for the fabric when using a wide stitch.

Walk the Line

Because the feed dogs grab only the lower fabric layer, the lower fabric layer might move at a slightly faster pace than the upper layer, causing an uneven seam. This is especially problematic when working with slippery fabric, such as satin or silk (1),

(1) Silk

and heavyweight fabric, such as canvas or leather (2).

(2) Heavy weight fabric

The walking foot uses a grooved finger to guide the upper fabric layer at the same rate that the feed dogs guide the lower fabric layer, ensuring even seams and proper fabric alignment. Machine manufacturers are developing more versatile walking feet that allow for more flexibility when sewing. Some walking feet feature interchangeable “soles,” or the foot base that touches the fabric. These soles either feature a standard needle are
or an open-toe area.

Some manufacturers carry feet that allow the combination of a multiple seam guide foot with the walking foot. Built-In System Some machines don’t require a walking foot because they have built-in dual-feed systems. On these specific machines, the integrated walking foot is generally located above and behind the needle. It can be engaged and disengaged as necessary. An integrated feed system offers versatility and doesn’t impede the ability to use other accessory feet (3).

(3) Integrated walking foot

Do you use a walking foot? Share any tips in the comments section below!

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