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Foot of the Month – Pintuck Foot

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by Sara Snuggerud in Foot of the Month

Janome Pintuck Foot SetThere is a GROOVY Foot for That!

Long before we had sewing machines capable of multitudes of fancy stitches, and before the innovations we have seen in the 21st century, sewers for eons have added creative details to dress up their fabrications. When machines only had straight stitches it did not limit creativity, but rather, lent itself especially to tucks and pleats commonly seen in vintage clothing.

Tucks are not as common today but if you watch out you will occasionally see something with tucks. There are usually a few dressmaking patterns that feature tucks, and the current Lands End catalog has a few examples which give a classic look to casual wear. Some areas of the country, especially the Southern states, specialize in heirloom sewing where sewn details are an art form and tucks are an integral part of the design.

Traditional tucks are precision stitched along a folded edge of the fabric on the right side of the piece. They can be sewn very close to the fold as pintucks are, or any distance from the edge depending on the desired look. There are a number of variations for spacing the tucks, and the directions they are sewn or pressed.BERNINA Pintuck Foot

With the advent of the zigzag machine came many new possibilities for creative sewing techniques. It was also the beginning of double needle capability which made it possible to have a new look that parallel lines of stitching provided. Double needle pintucks are sewn in a different manner, and are a variation of the traditional look. They can also be sewn smaller, finer, neater, and sewn with more precision.

Tightening the bobbin thread causes the fabric between the sewing lines of stitching to raise up to make ridges like the look of the smallest of pintucks. Instead of sewing on a folded edge double needle pintucks can be sewn anywhere on the fabric, and are not limited to just straight lines. They can now be curved or shaped.

There is one more important accessory needed for really pretty pintucks which is a foot with grooves underneath that would give space for the fabric to raise up even more. The flat bottom of a regular zigzag foot inhibits the fabric from raising up enough. Pintuck feet actually have multiple grooves so that after the first one is sewn the tuck can be moved into another grove so that as you sew the second tuck the results will be perfectly parallel and automatically spaced.

Pintucks are used to add interest, surface detail, and texture. Try sewing multiple rows of pintucks on a print fabric and watch it change the color and design.  Along with double needle pintucks come even more ways to modify the look. They can be hollow or corded, colored as in shadow work pintucks on very light fabric, they can be sewn in straight lines or curved, and they can follow any shape.

The size of the pintuck can vary depending on the spacing size of the double needle, the size and how many grooves on the foot, and the fabric. The finer the fabric the smaller and more delicate the pintucks can be, the heavier the fabric the larger the pintucks. Most machines have five and seven groove feet available for small and medium sized pintucks. Some machine brands have two more sizes; one for very small or fine pintucks, and one for large on heavier fabrics like flannel and light to medium denims.

Double needles vary is size, which is the measured distance between the two needles. They also coordinate with the grooves on the feet and the fabric to obtain the best results. Sizes listed from the smallest are:

1.6 (use with 9 groove foot)
2.0 (use with 7 groove foot)
2.5, or 3.0 (use with 5 groove foot)
4.0 (use with 3 groove foot).

To thread a machine for double needle work use the second or auxiliary spool pin and two spools of thread. Hold both threads together as one, and thread them though all thread guides up to the needles, then put one thread through each needle.

Many machines have what is called a double needle safety whereby when it is activated it will prevent the machine from breaking the double needle by limiting the stitch width. If your machine has this feature, remember to use it. Otherwise be very careful when using double needles with any stitch besides straight stitch.

Corded pintucks have a cord incorporated on the underneath side which gives body and a prominent appearance to the pintuck. Shadow pintucks use a brightly colored cord that shows through under very lightweight or voile type fabrics.

Alternative uses for the pintuck feet: The center groove on the three groove foot can be use to guide and sew over cords or 1/8” elastic on the top of the fabric, a technique called couching.

The five groove foot can be used as an alternative for the invisible zipper foot.

Variations of machine brands of pintuck feet:

Bernina pintuck feet are the #30 three groove for heavy fabrics, #31 five groove for medium weight fabric, #32 seven groove for light fabric, and #33 for very light weight fabric. There is also #46C clear pintuck foot to combine decorative stitches in perfectly parallel rows with pintuck lines.

Viking pintuck feet: nine groove for very light fabrics, seven groove for light fabrics, five groove for medium fabric, and a three groove with a raise seam plate for Designer Diamond, Ruby, and Topaz, and three groove with a raised seam plate for all other models.

Janome pintuck feet: five groove for medium fabric, and seven groove for light fabric. Janome feet may fit other brands of low shank machines.

6 Comments
  1. Janie says:

    Hi how would this go with a paff industry machine

    1. Sara says:

      You would need to check if this foot would be available for your machine with your local Pfaff store.

  2. Margarida meire says:

    Quero MT esse calçados p preguinhas ou nervuras. Onde compro?

    1. heirloomc says:

      You will want to check with your local sewing machine dealer.

  3. Vicki Rushing says:

    Settings for stitch length and width. Also tension ( higher tension If pin tuck does not sit up enough) No one seems to include all the info in one place!

  4. Elaine Rutledge says:

    My Bernina pintuck feet are among my favorite machine accessories. At the moment, I am focusing on sewing linen: modern clothing with heirloom details, and loving the linen mini-piping I can make with my 3 groove pintuck foot. I have bolts of different weights of linen – making tops and dresses in the medium weight (4.7 oz/50 x 54) with a lighter weight (3.8 oz/52 x 53) for the piping. I’m retired, so I have come the full circle, and am back to sewing only for myself, friends and daughters.

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