An Ultimate Guide to Sewing Machine Presser Feet

Hey, you!

Sewing machine presser feet allow you to extend the functionality of your machine and/or make certain time-consuming, drudge jobs quick and simple.

Here is a short list of some of the many presser feet available to you…

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Common Presser Feet

All-Purpose or Zigzag

4mm and 7mm all-purpose or zigzag presser feet

All sewing machines come with a all-purpose or zigzag presser foot. It has an extra wide opening that allows you to sew a wide range of stitches, such as zigzag stitches, decorative stitches, heirloom stitches, stretch stitches, and even straight stitches.

My Janome 415 is a mechanical machine. It is at least 20 years old. That’s its all-purpose presser foot on the right in the image above.

My Janome DC2014 is a computerized machine that came out in 2014. And that’s its all-purpose foot on the left. With a maximum stitch width of 7mm, it will yield a much wider zigzag than the 415.

If you don’t know the maximum stitch width of your sewing machine, it is easy enough to determine:

Simply take your tape measure and using the side with metric markings (that is, millimeters [mm]) measure the opening of your all-purpose presser foot from one side to the next.

Pro tip: Knowing the maximum stitch width of your sewing machine is important when buying universal feet. For example, if you have a 7mm sewing machine, then you don’t want to zigzag or do other decorative stitches with 5mm presser feet. You will break your needle.

Blindhem

two styles of blindhem presser feet

The blindhem presser foot is another presser foot that is generally included with your sewing machine.

Its official purpose is to sew a blindhem. But that little blade makes this foot capable of so much more…

  • Precision topstitching;
  • Precision edgestitching;
  • Stitching in the ditch; and
  • A gorgeous Hong Kong seam finish.

And probably more…

Buttonhole

two styles of buttonhole presser feet

The buttonhole presser foot makes automatic buttonholes as easy as a cool breeze on a gorgeous spring morning. And it is usually included as one of the standard presser feet that comes with your machine.

Gathering

The gathering presser foot will lightly gather fabric or attach a gathered edge to an ungathered edge quickly and without any fuss. Sweet!

Overcast

overcast presser foot on right and overcast stitch sample on left

Who needs a serger?! Not me. (Well, at least not right now.)

My Janome DC2014 does a spectacular job of finishing seam allowances with its overcast presser foot. Love it!

Pro tip: If you are wise enough to buy a sewing machine that takes universal presser feet, then you will avoid paying a small fortune for additional feet.

Quarter Inch

quarter inch presser foot

The quarter inch presser foot allows you to sew an exact quarter inch seam allowance. It is without a doubt an absolute MUST HAVE for those who quilt.

But those of us who construct garments will also find it extremely helpful when constructing one of the most beautiful seam finishes EVER and my personal favorite: The. French. Seam.

This is usually a presser foot you have to purchase separately. But it came standard with my Janome DC2014.

Roller

roller presser foot

The roller presser foot increases control and reduces friction when sewing fussy fabrics, such as denim, silk, leather, vinyl, velveteen, or velvet. It works its magic by feeding the upper layer and the bottom layer together.

Just so you know: If you have this foot, you don’t need a Teflon foot too.

Ruffler

The ruffler presser foot looks like a Medieval torture device in miniature. But if you do a lot of ruffling, this is the foot that will make evenly spaced ruffles super fast and easy.

Single-hole

When you want the most precise straight stitch ever, the single-hole presser foot is for you. It is usually used in combination with a straight stitch throat plate.

Teflon

The Teflon presser foot is also known as the nonstick presser foot. It looks very much like the all-purpose/zipper foot.

It eliminates drag and puckering when sewing leather, ultra suede, laminated foam, oilcloth, vinyl, rubber, and other sticky fabrics.

Walking

closeup of walking or evenfeed presser foot

The walking presser foot also goes by the names dual feed or even feed. And it is a screw-on, rather than a snap-on, presser foot!

It has built-in feed dogs (see the white teeth in the image above?!) that grip your fabric from on top so that both layers can feed evenly.

It is great when you are sewing knits, multiple layers, slippery fabrics, pile fabrics, or pattern matching.

I got really lucky as it came standard with my Janome DC2014! But I did once pay a handsome ransom of $150 for one for a previous sewing machine I owned. UGH!

Zipper ~ Conventional

The conventional zipper presser foot is standard with all sewing machines. It can be wide or narrow.

Personally, I like the narrow one best. Because I think it is more versatile.

Zipper ~ Invisible

clear invisible zipper presser foot and an invisible zipper

The invisible zipper presser foot is usually an additional presser foot you have to purchase. It is not technically required to install an invisible zipper, but it can be very helpful.

It comes in clear plastic or metal. The benefit of the clear plastic foot is that you can see clearly where your stitches are landing.

Does Your Machine Have a Low Shank Height?

A sewing machine can be low shank or high shank. And it is important to know which yours is when you get ready to buy add-on presser feet.

No one ever explains this to you when you buy a sewing machine.

So I wanted to change that by telling you upfront that you need to know which machine you have.

And I think you should also know that 80% of modern sewing machines are low shank machines, which is good.

How to Measure Shank Height

ruler measuring sewing machine shank

If you want to find out if your machine is a low shank machine, it is really simple:

  1. First, lower your presser foot.
  2. Then, measure the distance from the bottom of your presser foot to the thumb screw that holds the foot on the presser bar.

If it measures less than ¾ inch, you have a low shank machine.

And you know what’s great about this?!

You can use just about any universal low shank presser feet on your machine. (Unless you are a Bernina or a Janome Horizon. Sorry.)

However, if the area measures more than 1 inch, you have a high shank machine. High shank machines measure about 1-¼ inch.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, there is a third shank type. It is the slant shank, but it is only found on Singer sewing machines.

Now, let’s talk about presser feet types…

Two Types of Presser Feet

There are two types of low shank presser feet:

  • Snap-on
  • Screw-on  ~ for example, the walking foot

snap-on presser foot and screw-on presser foot

How to Change Snap-On Presser Foot

If your machine takes snap-on presser feet, changing them is as easy as a summer breeze:

how to change a snap-on-presser-foot

  1. Turn off your machine and unplug it.
  2. Raise the needle to its highest position either by pressing the needle UP button. Or, turn the handwheel TOWARDS you until the takeup lever is at its highest position.
  3. Lift the presser foot using the presser foot lifter.
  4. Then, look behind your presser foot for a release button or lever. On my Janome DC2014, it a red button.

To snap on the new presser foot:

  1. Place the presser foot so that its horizontal pin or bar is directly under the groove of the presser foot holder.
  2. Now, lower your foot holder to lock the foot in place.

Now, how simple was that?!

How to Change a Screw-On Presser Foot

Okay, frankly, while I love my walking foot, I use to despise having to put it on because it is a screw-on presser foot.

It’s not that it is so difficult, but it can be a bit of a pain in the ar$e…

Because you have to get out your screwdriver and work in a rather confined area to get the job done. And for some reason, I’m all thumbs when I do it.

But that’s just me. You,…

You will be a pro after your first few tries. So let’s do this…

how to change screw-on presser foot

  1. Please turn OFF the power to your machine and unplug it.
  2. Now, press the Needle UP button. Or, turn your handwheel TOWARDS you until the takeup lever is at its highest position.
  3. Lift your presser foot using the presser foot lifter.
  4. Then, release the presser foot.
  5. Use a screwdriver to remove your presser foot holder from the presser bar by turning the thumb screw counter-clockwise. Whatever you do, do NOT use force on the thumb screw! You don’t want to strip its threading.
  6. Align the hole on your screw-on presser foot with the hole on your presser bar. Now, tighten the thumb screw by turning it clockwise.

Done!

Pro tip: A magnetized screwdriver has a magnetized tip that is drawn irresistibly to the screw like a new lover.  See how the thumb screw and the screwdriver are all over each other in the image above. No slipping and sliding drama, thank you very much. Trust me, you want one of these!

a screw-on presser foot, a thumb screw, and a screwdriver with a magnetized tip

The End

When it comes to presser feet, the choices are endless.

As you become the boss of your sewing machine, you will want to explore the wide, wild world of sewing machine presser feet.

Because if there is a tedious sewing job that needs to be done, there is probably a presser foot for that.

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click this link to learn all the essential sewing tools you need to begin sewing insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click this link to learn everything you need to know about your sewing machine!

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