An Ultimate Guide to Sewing Machine Presser Feet

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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’s a couple of things you should keep in mind when it comes to presser feet:

  1. The most important part of a presser foot is its underside! Because this is where all the magic happens.
  2. Knowing the maximum stitch width of your sewing machine is important when buying universal feet. For example, let’s say your sewing machine has a maximum stitch width of 7mm. But you attach a 5mm universal all-purpose/zigzag presser foot and then set your 7mm machine to to zigzag or decorative stitch, it is likely you will break your needle!

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

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

Common Presser Feet

All-Purpose or Zigzag

presser-foot-zigzag-all-purpose-feet-7mm-vs-5mm

All sewing machines come with an 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.

You need to know that the width of the opening can vary from 4mm up to 9mm, depending on the age, type of sewing machine, and/or manufacturer.

In the image above, we have a 5mm all-purpose presser foot vs. a 7mm all-purpose presser foot.

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. Easy.

Sew easy 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.

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to zigzag stitch!

Blindhem

two styles of blindhem presser feet

The blindhem presser foot is another presser foot that is generally included standard with modern sewing machines.

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

And probably more…

Buttonhole

presser-foot-automatic-buttonhole

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 modern sewing machines. If it doesn’t, please just walk away from that machine!

Overcast

Who needs a serger?! Not me!

Seriously, in the image below, I sewed a plain seam, and then I finished the seam allowances (SAs) with an overcast stitch! Now isn’t that lovely finish?!

Now, see the vertical bar that the blue arrow is pointing at in the image below? Well, if you ever invest in an overcast presser foot, check out how that vertical bar works its magic!

overcast-presser-foot-and-mock-serger-sample

Sew easy tip: If your pattern calls for a 5/8 inch SA, you could reduce the SA to ¼ inch. Then, with this foot you could sew the seam AND finish it in one go like you do with a serger!

overcast-presser-foot-and-mock-serger-sample

Quarter-Inch (Patchwork)

The quarter-inch (patchwork) presser foot allows you to sew an exact quarter inch seam allowance (SA).

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 topstitching or when constructing one of the most beautiful seam finishes EVER and my personal favorite: The. French. Seam.

There are two flavors: (1) with a guide (in the image above, the blue arrow points to the guide along the right edge of the foot) or (2) without a guide.

This is usually a presser foot you have to purchase separately, but it does come standard with some sewing machines like my Janome DC2014.

Roller

roller-presser-foot

The roller presser foot was originally designed to sew double knits. But because it increases control and reduces friction when sewing, it is great 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 probably don’t need to buy a Teflon foot too.

Single-hole

single-hole-presser-foot

When you want the most precise straight stitch ever or if you’re sewing slippery, silky fabrics, the single-hole presser foot is for you.

It is often used in combination with a straight stitch throat plate.

Teflon

teflon-nonstick-presser-foot

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

But it is nonstick!

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

Sew easy tip: If you have a roller foot, then buying this foot is probably redundant!

Walking

even-feed-walking-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!

RELATED: Click HERE to see how the walking foot produces a very pretty knit hem!

Zipper ~ Conventional

conventional-zipper-feet-wide-vs-narrow

The conventional zipper presser foot is standard with all modern sewing machines.

It can be wide or narrow. Usually sewing manufacturers will include the wide version — you will have to shell out additional dollars for the narrow version if that’s how you swing!

Personally, I like the narrow one best (like the one on the right in the image above). Because I think it is more versatile — for example, you can use it to insert an invisible zipper or make and insert piping.

Zipper ~ Invisible

invisible-zipper-presser-foot

The invisible zipper presser foot is usually an additional presser foot you have to purchase.

Although it is not technically required to install an invisible zipper, it can be very helpful.

This presser foot can be had in clear plastic or metal. The benefit of the clear plastic version is that you can see clearly where your stitches are landing.

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to insert a zipper! (Coming So Soon!)

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, domestic sewing machines are low shank machines, which is good.

How to Measure Shank Height

measuring-sewing-machine-shank-height

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 center of the thumb screw that holds the foot on the presser bar. Check this out in the image above.

If it measures about ½ inch or less, you have a low shank machine.

And you know what’s great about this?!

You should be able to use just about any universal low shank presser feet on your machine. (Unless you own a Bernina or a Janome Horizon. Sorry.)

However, if the area measures an 1 inch or more, you have a high shank machine.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, there are third and fourth shank types: the slant and the clip-on. But they are only found on Singer and Bernina sewing machines, respectively.

Sew easy tip: Most high-end and embroidery sewing machines are high shank.

Now, let’s talk about presser feet types…

Two Types of Presser Feet

There are two types of low shank presser feet:

  • Snap-on ~ (a) lower the groove onto a bar on the presser foot or (b) snap the bar on the presser foot into a groove
  • Screw-on  ~ for example, the walking foot

snap-on-vs-screw-on-presser-feet

How to Change Snap-On Presser Foot

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

presser-foot-release-lever-or-button

  1. Raise the needle to its highest position either by pressing the needle up/down button or by turning the handwheel towards you.
  2. Turn off your machine!
  3. Lift the presser foot using the presser foot lifter (1).
  4. Then, look behind your presser foot for the presser foot release button or lever (2).

Then, to snap on the new presser foot:

snapping-on-presser-foot

  1. Place the presser foot so that its horizontal pin or bar is directly under the groove of the presser foot holder. The blue arrow points the way.
  2. Now, lower your presser foot holder using the presser foot lifter (1) 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 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 will be a pro after your first few tries. So let’s do this…

remove-presser-foot-and-presser-foot-holder

  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 from the presser foot holder.
  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!

align-screw-on-presser-foot-with-presser-bar-attach-with-set-screw

  1. 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.

Voila! Your screw-on presser foot is ready for business!

screw-on-presser-foot-attached

Sew easy tip: A magnetized screwdriver has a magnezed tip that is drawn irresistibly to the screw like a new lover.  In the image below, see how the thumb screw and the magnetic screwdriver stuck together in mid air! No slipping and sliding drama, thank you very much. Trust me, you want one of these when installing screw-on presser feet!

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 HERE to learn all the essential sewing tools you need to begin sewing insanely pretty dresses!

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

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6 thoughts on “An Ultimate Guide to Sewing Machine Presser Feet”

  1. Comprehensive article. Very helpful.

    I have a quarter inch foot identical to the picture. What is the function of the small hole immediately to the left of where the needle descends? Thank you.

    • Hi, Adele. That’s a great question. I have spoken with several sewing machine dealers online and watched three videos on the Janome site about the 1/4 inch foot and no one has a clue. I have one last resource: my local Janome dealer, who is very knowledgeable. I will call him on Monday and see if he has a clue. If not, then I guess it’s just there to be “cute!”

      Are you a sewing newbie? And are you an aspiring dressmaker or quilter? I would love to know!

    • Hi, Adele.

      I’ve been doing some further research on your question, and I wonder if this could be the answer to your question.

      If you click HERE, they refer to that presser foot as a SCANT quarter inch foot, which means that when you line up the guide on the right of the presser foot with an edge, it sews a line of stitching that is just a tiny bit shy of a 1/4 inch.

      I don’t quilt, but apparently sewing using a SCANT 1/4 inch makes for more precise piecing.

      So I wonder, if you want to sew an actual quarter inch, you can move your needle to the left and use that extra hole to sew a line of stitching that is exactly 1/4 inch.

      I don’t have that sewing machine or that presser foot any longer, but check it out and let me know.

      And thanks for the question! I love doing a bit of detective work!

      • And Adele has her answer. These are her words…

        “and we have an answer, but not what either of us thought.

        I had originally thought that a thread could be threaded through the hole for some reason or other. Maybe as a guide of some sort. Nope.

        Your extensive research came up with the scant 1/4″ idea. Nope.

        BUT the thought of moving the needle to the left position (I use a Kenmore machine) was inspirational. Turns out that sewing through the hole results in a 3/8″ space.

        I will forward a picture to you immediately following. Too many devices. Mystery solved. Well done us.

        Thanks much.

        Maybe have a gander at my instagram page @stitchandrepeat. You will see there that I’m not a quilter either.”

        Thanks, Adele, for the great question.

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