The Best Kept Secret on Your Sewing Machine

Have you ever had silk charmeuse and chiffon slither away from you, oblivious of the feed dog traction, or struggled to sew a bulky denim or wool seam? I know a sewing machine technique tip that will change your life.

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Sewing Machine Tips for Presser Feet

There is a little known option for the sewing machine’s presser foot that will make all of your struggles with challenging fabrics go much easier. It’s the tension knob for the presser foot.

The knob is usually found on the left side of the machine. If you are facing your sewing machine and stick your hand out as if to shake hands with your presser foot, the knob should be just above your hand. It’s generally marked with a picture of a presser foot.

You can adjust the presser foot tension knob according to your fabric. For heavier fabric, you will want less tension so that that fabric slides easily between the presser and the feed dogs. For lighter fabrics, you will want more tension, or pressure, so that the presser foot holds the fabric securely to the feed dogs and keeps it from sliding away.

It’s amazing what this simple trick can do for your final sewing project. Stitches will be smoother and more even, and you will have more control over the fabric overall as you manipulate it in the machine.

For more great sewing tips and techniques, we put together this guide for sewists on sewing techniques and we have an incredible selection of books, DVD’s, webinars and more at Shop Sew Daily.

Do you have a great tip for using a sewing machine? Let us know on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching!

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Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

16 thoughts on “The Best Kept Secret on Your Sewing Machine

  1. On older machines, the tension adjuster is usually on top. You press down on the outside of it to release the tension and to increase, you push down on the rod that pops up.

  2. Just a word of caution using the pressure adjust-It’s not quite that straightforward for sometimes with thin, sheer fabric-organza or organdy for instance, the pressure must be DECREASED or it won’t feed properly (ask how I figured that out!). Each fabric needs its own assessment.

  3. When the stitching suddenly goes crazy on your machine, try a new needle. Sometimes the current needle might have bent slightly (when sewing over bulky layers, or a zipper or pin, etc.) and though you can’t see the bend, it will be distorted enough to affect the stitching. A fresh needle usually cures the problem.

  4. I never can print out! I click on “PRINT” and all I get is a blank page and it does nothing. I have waited like 5 minutes on different one to print. I have to copy and paste on Micrsoft Word and then print. Un-Happy Person right now. Having second thoughts about this site

  5. Some of my machines (I have 13 working machines…) have this option, but my favorite machine – my Pfaff 1471 does not, although it does have a built in walking foot. Working with sheer fabrics is a challenge with even the best machine!

  6. I have found that the best way to sew sheer is to have a piece of paper under the fabric and also a piece of paper on top. When you are finished sewing, just fold & crease the paper & rip it off. I use strips about 2 inches wide on the bottom and a narrower strip on the top that is even with the edge of the fabric. After a little practice, it is really pretty easy! Tearing the paper off is tedious, but worth it.

  7. I have found that the best way to sew sheer is to have a piece of paper under the fabric and also a piece of paper on top. When you are finished sewing, just fold & crease the paper & rip it off. I use strips about 2 inches wide on the bottom and a narrower strip on the top that is even with the edge of the fabric. After a little practice, it is really pretty easy! Tearing the paper off is tedious, but worth it.

  8. Hi,
    To sew silk charmeuse and chiffon slither u can use role of mould between fabrics. Then u can see ur garment sewn excellent and wrinkle free.
    Excellent dresses, skirts and shirts. It’s a secret that my grandma seamstress taught me.

  9. I would like to confirm the post of Sameen 2 and expand, the rule for presser foot pressure is as follows:
    If the fabric is or has “stretch” to it (whether heavy or fine) – don’t forget that means the bias of all fabrics: you must DECREASE the pressure (It helps to avoid those waves that occur when sewing), adjust according to weight so that the fabric feeds smoothly.
    For all non stretch fabrics :
    Heavy fabrics : INCREASE the pressure ( this helps to feed the heavy fabric easily and avoids those tiny stitches you get or your impulse to “help” the fabric along because it isn’t going anywhere)
    Fine fabrics: DECREASE the pressure to allow the fabric not to “snag” or be damaged by the feed dogs by too much pressure.
    A trick for sewing silk charmeuse or chiffon, check you have put the “roller foot” on your machine. This presser foot is made for leather, plastic, vinyl (Bernina foot # 51) however by DECREASING the presser foot pressure it will sew these fabrics beautifully (don’t forget the proper needle and thread of course 🙂 and if you have a straight stitch plate for 9mm machines).
    Happy sewing!!

  10. Clarification for my above comment: “If the fabric is or has “stretch” to it (whether heavy or fine) – don’t forget that means the bias of all fabrics:” – there is a word missing which changes everything it should read: – don’t forget that ALSO means the bias of all fabrics.
    Sorry about that.
    Happy sewing!

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