Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sewing Machine Presser Feet - Where to Start

This week's question comes from fabric designer Jan DiCintio, a.k.a. Daisy Janie. Before she began designing droolworthy organic fabrics like these:
she made close to 2000 handbags, many of them with her old Kenmore model 158.19141 sewing machine, and she asks:
Hi Candy! I've always been impressed by your artfully done free-motion machine embroidery - too cool! What type of presser foot do you use. if any? Have you used other presser feet, like a hemmer foot? I want to experiment more with what different feet can do but am intimidated by where to start!
Presser feet! They were invented to make our jobs easier...and there are so many of them out there!

Jan's referring to my Free Motion Quilting that I do, here's a video if you're interested in seeing me in action:

The foot that I use there is a spring loaded darning/embroidery/quilting foot and looks like this (I'm using a Juki TL-98Q in the video, but I also have a Bernina 1530, and she's where I spent the bulk of my time learning how to free motion quilt):

When you combine this type of foot with lowering the feed dogs, you are able to move the fabric around in any direction, all controlled by your hands.

This foot is often included with a sewing machine because long before people were free-motion quilting with their sewing machines, they were darning with them, and this foot was invented for that. (Darning...does anyone even know what that is anymore? Basically, adding thread and support to an area of clothing that is worn threadbare by stitching back & forth and side-to-side). However, your machine is so old that the foot may have gotten lost!

Anyway, I did a little googling to find out about your machine, and I did find a couple of places that sell a free motion quilting foot that looks like this:

Sew4Less (picture source too) and Keepsake Quilting

Another favorite foot of mine is one that helps with topstiching - which I know YOU love Jan! On my Bernina I use the blind hem foot and use that vertical piece to butt up to the edge of the fabric I'm topstitching and adjust the position of the needle so I can choose the distance away from the edge. The Juki doesn't have a moveable needle, so instead I have 3 (2 pictured below) compensating feet - the right side of the foot is deeper than the left, letting me butt the edge up to the deeper side and topstitch along without a care in the world!

These are the feet that I love, and make the decorative stitching I do possible. There are tons more feet, it really depends upon what you want to do with it. And you know Jan, googling about your machine reminded me that although we'd like to think that we can find out ANYTHING on the internet, sometimes that info is HARD to find!

Over the years I have had awesome experiences with my local sewing machine shops (NOT the one that's part of a big chain, the folks that sell and service sewing machines - people like Don Kauffman's Sewing Machines & Steve's Sewing, Vacuum and Quilting, both located close to you). You should be able to walk in, tell them what you want to do, and they should be able tell you what you need, and whether you already have it - or sell it to you. If you bring in a sample, they'll probably let you try out the foot in the store (when deciding to buy my Juki, I designed a tote bag with a gazillion layers to sew through and constructed the WHOLE THING in the the shop to test it out - how awesome is that?)

I'm a big fan of learning by doing, and the folks at a good sewing machine shop are trained to help, so I would definitely stop by sometime and chat!

OK, I hope this answers your question Jan, and for the rest of you reading, I hope this was useful! Make sure to stop by Jan's blog to see what she's up to - I can't wait to see her new line of fabric, the designs of which she just unveiled yesterday:

Don't forget to send in your questions! I think I'm gonna settle in answering a question every other week, during the school year things get a little hectic - but please, ask away! Oh, and I'm having a celebratory giveaway this week, pop over and enter if you'd like.

[Candy lives in California with her husband, 2 boys, and dog. Aside from being wife, mom, teacher, crafter, web guru and all around doer extraordinaire she manages her own business,Candied Fabrics. You can read her blog here.]


  1. What I don't know about my sewing machine could fill the internet! Thanks for demystifying a bit of it :)

  2. Stupendous!!!! A sincere thank you on covering this question so thoroughly and personally!!!! Wowzers. I am marking it so I can use it as a reference!

  3. I am embarrassed to say that I only use two feet (not including the one attached to my body) when I sew: zipper and regular. Thanks for shedding some light on these. I'd like to give some of mine a try now.

    Another great post, Candy!

  4. Glad you all like it...I had no idea sewing machine feet could be such an interesting topic - but they are!


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