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A Walking Foot for Every Sewing Machine

Walking Foot Close UpThis week Heirloom Creations takes a look at the walking foot or dual feed foot or even feed foot or any of the many other names giving to this helpful quilter’s friend. This is the one sewing machine accessory that will help you keep everything in it’s place. Below, there is a description of quilting, peicing, why a walking foot is beneficial. Join us as we “walk” through the subject of walking feet.

Quilting – A Short Definition

“Quilting “is the most popular sewing sport today. Traditional garment sewing has experienced some decline over the years because the ready-made industry is very strong, but the love of sewing has not diminished. More than ever people still like to express their creativity with fabric and thread and machine, and quilting draws new aficionados daily.

The word “quilting” however is a term used loosely to cover a broad subject. Part of the definition of the term depends on whether the word is used as a subject or a verb. The finished product, a quilt, is the subject, but getting there is a verb. Because there are several aspects to quilting, it helps to know which part of the process to which someone refers. People say they quilt, or they want to learn to quilt, or they may say they have a “quilting” machine. In general quilting refers to the whole process of making a quilt.

A quilt consists of three layers, a creatively designed top, a batting for warmth and body, and a back to hide the batting. The three layers are then sewn together, the process which is specifically called “quilting”. The stitching all over the entire quilt makes the three layers into one. Part of what makes a quilt is the design of the quilting stitches.

Peicing vs Quilting

For some, sewing the pieces that becomes the intricate design for the top of the quilt is “quilting”, whereas it really means “piecing”. Often there is so much work that goes into creating the top that it is the end in itself, and that person has no intensions of doing the actual quilting, the layering and the sewing of the layers together.

To make the top into a quilt takes more work, time and energy, and some special equipment. One option is to take the top to someone with a gigantic machine called a long-arm who will do the layering and quilting for you. The larger the quilt, the Queen and King sizes, the more you may want to pursue this option. With large quilts there is a lot of fabric to manage and the space in the middle of the machine, or the “arm”, is usually not big enough on most home sewing machines. A finished quilt smaller than about 50 – 60 inches wide is normally manageable.

The Case for a Walking Foot

To do the quilting yourself you now have to understand why you need special a foot and why the normal sewing foot won’t accomplish the task. No matter what machine you have, when the presser foot comes down and presses on the fabric, and the feed dogs are pulling the fabric under the foot, there is always a small amount of slippage of the fabric layers. Normally this slippage is not noticeable, but if you are doing long seams there can be enough shift to make the top layer seem noticeably longer than the bottom layer of fabric. You also see the problem when matching plaids or prints that start out aligned but don’t match at the end of the seam.

When you are working with three layers as with a quilt, the problem compounds very quickly and the three layers can shift significantly. No matter how hard you try to keep everything flat and smooth, the layers will shift and the quilt will look lumpy and slightly out of alignment.

What the Walking Foot Does

To counteract the shifting of the fabric, there is a foot that is designed so that all layers feed evenly called by several names, a walking foot, a dual feed foot or an even feed foot. It is more than just a presser foot in that it has a two-part mechanical action that lifts the sole while the feeding mechanism on the foot moves with the feed dogs of the machine. It looks like it “walks” as it steps up over the fabric, instead of pressing and pushing on the top layer.

What provides the walking action of this foot is a lever that fits around the needle screw. As the needle goes up and down it provides the lever with the mechanical action to make the foot “walk” which keeps all layers of the quilt feeding evenly. Aside from making sure that lever is on the needle screw correctly when attaching the foot, once the walking foot is on it is as easy as the normal foot to use and the slippage problem is solved. The walking foot solves the same problem with many other types of sewing and sewing with unusual fabrics.

A Walking Foot for Each Machine

Bernina’s Walking Foot attaches the same as any other foot while making sure the lever is around the needle screw. It comes with three interchangeable soles and two quilting guides, one for the right side and another for the left side, useful for straight line quilting. The original sole is like the regular zigzag foot. For decorative or intricate work there is an open toe sole, like the #20 open toe foot. The newest addition is the edge stitch sole with the central guide, like the #10 edge stitch foot. The needle position may be changed to sew up to 2.5 mm to either side of a seam. To change the sole loosen the small screw on the side with the screw driver provided. The part that holds the sole separates and the soles can be interchanged.

Husqvarna Viking’s Interchangeable DualFeed foot comes packaged with the standard straight stitch foot, the zigzag foot with an open toe area and right and left quilt guides. Additionally, there are two more changeable feet available. The Changeable ¼” Guide foot provides for accurate ¼” stitch lines next to seams. The Changeable Quilter’s Guide foot has a central guide, like the edge joining foot, for perfect stitching in the ditch. Unscrew the shank that holds on all the regular snap on feet. The dual feed foot screws-on in its place. The changeable feet snap on by lifting the foot up on to the dual feed foot mechanism.

Janome’s Even Feed foot fits many low shank style machines. Two kinds of quilting guide accessories for the Even Feed foot come packaged together. The adjustable Quilt Guide fits into a slot on the back of the foot and can be adjusted to the right or left of the foot depending on the quilting direction. The Ditch Quilting Guide is for stitch in the ditch style quilting. It also attaches to the foot in the slot in the back, like adjustable quilt guide.

Additional Walking Foot Information

We have several videos discussing these feet and demonstrating their use.

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