What are the Different Types of Sewing Machine Feet & What They Do

Eleven Types of Sewing Machine Every Sewer Should Know When you work on various sewing projects, having the right sewing machine feet helps you sew more efficiently and quickly. Basically, different sewing machine feet make sewing certain patterns easier and more productive than having to do them by hand without the help of your sewing machine.

In this article, we are going to discuss many of the popular and useful sewing machine feet that you can purchase to help in your various sewing projects. We’ll also delve more into what each foot does.

Snap-On vs Screw-On Sewing Feet

First, let’s briefly cover the snap-on and screw-on sewing feet. The brand of sewing machine that you have will determine if you have a snap-on or screw-on foot. Most modern and newer sewing machines have the snap-on foot, which makes for easier and faster switches between feet. A screw-on sewing foot is typically found in older mechanical sewing machines, and while it is relatively easy to switch, takes a bit more time since it requires a screw to be removed and screwed back in place. Knowing how your feet attach to your sewing machine is also useful when doing regular sewing machine maintenance.

How to Use an All-Purpose Foot To determine if a presser foot will fit, you’ll want to see if you have a high or low shank sewing machine. Most domestic machines are low shank, while more expensive and “fancier” machines are high shank. To determine which shank yours is, put your presser foot in the down position, and measure from the bed of the machine to the center of the thumb screw (presser foot holder screw). If this is a half an inch, then you have a low shank machine. A measurement of one inch or more indicates a high shank sewing machine.

Types of Sewing Machine Feet

While many types of sewing machine feet exist, let’s look at eleven of the top feet that you can get for your sewing machine. We are certain that you’ll use all of these different sewing machine feet on a regular basis, so they are great to keep in your supplies.

All-Purpose Foot

The all-purpose foot, as its name suggests, is a general foot to use for many different sewing projects. This foot should have a wide enough opening that you can do zig-zag sewing as well as other types of decorative sewing. This is the foot that comes standard with just about every sewing machine, from sewing machines for kids to sewing machines for advanced sewers.

Additionally, most all-purpose feet will have a center marking to help you sew straight to create nice straight stitches. You should be able to easily fit most fabrics under this foot, with the foot being wide enough to hold a decent amount of fabric underneath. Its capabilities for decorative stitches with ease make this a popular foot for all sewers.

Rolled Hem Foot

A rolled hem foot, sometimes also called a rolled hemming foot or hemmer sewing machine feet, is used for sewing a narrow rolled hem on fine or sheer fabrics, such as scarves or blouses. This foot turns the hem and sews it in place as you sew, which saves a lot of time pressing. The curved edge on the front is what works to turn the hem.

This foot provides a decorative finish to these more lightweight, beautiful fabrics that need a bit of a nicer finish for the hem.

Zipper Foot

Having a zipper foot for your sewing machine is a must if you ever plan to sew articles with zippers. This foot is adjustable, so it can go on the right or left side of the sewing machine needle, which allows you to sew the zipper without a presser foot, while still applying pressure to the zipper teeth so that they do not get caught in the feed. Whether you are sewing a centered zipper or lapped zipper, the zipper foot moves side to side so that you can sew on whatever side of the zipper teeth are not. Make sure your needle can clear the foot, and feel free to experiment with your needle position to get it precisely where you want it.

How to Use a Zipper Foot But zipper feet aren’t only useful for zippers—you can use them on projects without zippers, too! A zipper foot is also commonly used to sew trim that will not fit under the regular all-purpose foot, such as piping that is beaded or with thicker fabrics.

A zipper foot typically comes standard with a new sewing machine, even more affordable sewing machine options, but if you do not have one or need a new one for some reason, you can always find this type of foot at your nearest sewing and crafts store.

Blind Hem Foot

The blind hem foot creates a blind hem stitch, which has an almost invisible finish that is great as a hem used on trousers, skirts, and jackets. This hem gets easier to do with practice, and having a blind hem foot to help it will make it even more of a breeze!

When doing this hem, you want to ensure that you have a thread similar to the color of fabric you’re using so that it is even less noticeable. For this stitch for the hem, it is a few straight stitches to the right and then a jump to the left, where the “nibble” is taken from your hem fabric. You can adjust where these nibbles will be with your blind hem foot, so that it jumps as much or as little as you want it to.

Overlock Foot

The overlock foot, also known as an overcast foot or overlocking foot, basically allows thread to wrap around the edge of the fabric to prevent unraveling. This sewing machine foot can give a similar edging to that of an overlocker. The overlock stitch is a combination of straight and zigzag that sews backward and forward in a straight line while sewing a zigzag in between each set of stitches. It resembles serging, which is how most store-bought clothes are sewn, therefore leaving your project with a more professional finish.

By having a bar in the center that wraps the thread around the edge of the fabric as you stitch, the overlock foot prevents the fabric from curling. You can even use the overlock foot as a guide when top stitching, or even to make a rolled hem with a zigzag stitch finish. You can press the edge to curl up and over, and then feed the fabric to curl around the center bar for this hem.

Teflon Foot

How to Use a Teflon Foot The Teflon foot is one of the strongest sewing feet that will be your best friend when you sew with thicker and more traditionally “difficult” fabrics to work with such as leather, vinyl, and suede. No one wants to put holes in their fabric, have it get stuck or chewed up by their sewing machine, or have difficulty pinning the fabric in place. The Teflon covered foot can be used for both straight and decorative stitching on leather, vinyl, suede, or other fabrics that would stick to a regular presser foot. Having the Teflon material on the foot helps it to glide easier without getting stuck.

When using the Teflon foot, you should probably use a thicker, heavier weight thread to go along with the fabric you are using with this foot. Using a heavy-duty sewing machine can also be a good idea so you don’t damage one that is more delicate or will cost a lot to repair if it breaks, like a computerized sewing machine. You should also ensure to use a specialty type needle made for the specific type of fabric that you are sewing. Paper clips and binder clips also are suggested instead of pinning.

Gathering Foot

If you often sew ruffles or gather fabric in your sewing projects, then a gathering foot is a must for your sewing foot collection. Basically, this foot helps you gather fabric evenly with ease.

With the gathering foot, you can gather and ruffle fabric alone, or gather and ruffle fabric as you sew it to another piece of flat, non-ruffled fabric at the same time. When you first start to use your fathering foot, you want to increase your stitch length depending on how you want your gathers to look. The higher the stitch length, the more gathers.

Once you set the gathering foot down and start to sew, it’ll collect the gathers automatically. Once you’re finished, simply trim your fabric. You can easily sew a skirt onto a bodice to create your dress with this sewing foot.

Buttonhole Foot

A buttonhole foot is a necessary foot for your collection of sewing feet if you plan to make clothing or other projects that will have buttons on them. This foot helps create the hole in the fabric that you’ll use for buttons. Until you are more experienced, it’s always a good idea to practice your buttonhole on a piece of extra fabric to ensure that your button will fit through the hole size that you measured. Keep in mind that more decorative buttons always require a bit of a larger hole!

How to Use a Buttonhole Foot Whether you have a snap-on or screw-on sewing foot, the buttonhole foot simply clips onto your sewing machine once you remove the previous foot from it. You can make a buttonhole with a 1 step or 4 step buttonhole setting on your machine, it all depends on how big you want or need your buttonhole to be. A 1 step buttonhole will create the entire buttonhole for you, while a 4 step buttonhole foot requires a bit of extra work, as you will need to manually change stitches.

Once you have your buttonhole, it is time to attach the button. You will have to either lower or cover your feed dogs depending on your machine type and then select a zigzag type stitch. A minimum of 6 times to go through the stitch is ideal to ensure that it stays in place.

Quarter-Inch Foot

The quarter-inch foot, which is mostly used on quilting sewing machines, helps you sew and create ¼ inch seam allowances. This foot is also helpful in sewing projects that require smaller seam allowances, such as doll clothes and other crafts.

This foot is used only for straight sewing, as it creates perfect ¼ inch seams. The quarter-inch foot is able to achieve such accurate quarter-inch seam allowances since the distance from the center needle opening to the right hand is ¼ inch.

When using this foot, you want to make sure that your sewing machine is set to straight stitch and the needle position is centered. Next, ensure that the needle clears the small opening in the foot, and then place your fabric under the foot, aligning the raw edge with the right-hand side of the presser foot for an accurate ¼ inch seamline. Hold the thread tails at the back of the foot to keep them secure and to prevent thread tangling as you sew.

Ruffler Foot

A ruffler foot is a great time-saving attachment for your sewing machine, as it makes perfectly spaced pleats and gathers that would otherwise take a lot of extra effort and time to do on your own. You can make a lot of adjustments with this foot to create the exact look you are going for, including varying the size and depth of the pleats that you are sewing. This sewing foot works best with light and medium weight fabrics.

How to Use a Ruffler Foot Attaching a ruffler foot can take some practice at first, but once you get it down, this foot will be your best friend. First, remove your regular presser foot. To attach the ruffler foot, it has an arm that slides around the needle clamp. This will move up and down with the movement of the needle, and causes the ruffler to tuck in the fabric as you sew. If you have a screw-on foot, make sure to tighten the screw tightly to get the foot in the proper place.

The ruffle regulator near the top of the foot determines the frequency of tucks, which you can set to tuck at every stitch, every sixth stitch, or every twelfth stitch. You can also set it to zero if you do not want it to tuck at all. In addition to this personalization, you can choose the depth of tucks as well. The adjusting screw near the front or side of your machine will adjust the amount of fabric pushed into the foot each time it makes a tuck into the fabric. Turn right for deeper tucks or left for more shallow tucks.

This sewing foot is perfect for creating beautiful tulle petticoats or underskirts, creating an interesting pleated band for a sleeve or skirt, or pleating pieces of fabric to attach to embellish towels, pillows, and other garments.

Walking Foot

If you’r a quilter, a walking foot is a must-have. Walking feet help keep all the layers of your project together, and for quilting, that can mean three or more layers getting sewn at once. If you are sewing multiple layers of material at the same time, a walking foot will help avoid puckers in your fabric that will take away from the finished product.

A walking foot can also be useful for sewing stretchy materials that risk deforming as they get sewn, such as knits and Spandex. Using a walking foot will help keep your seams even so there aren’t any unsightly ripples in your leotard or beanie.

So why do walking feet keep the layers together better than any of the other ten feet we’ve covered? The key to their success lies in the extra feed dogs a walking foot supplies. When you’re using a different kind of foot, the only feed dogs making contact with your fabric are the ones built into your sewing machine, which grip onto the bottom of the fabric to move it forward or backward. With a walking foot, there are additional feed dogs gripping the top of the fabric, which sandwiches all the layers together and helps prevent the layers from sliding out of place.

While walking feet are typically more expensive than other feet, they’re well-worth the money if you work with thick layers. You can even get walking foot sewing machines that are specifically designed with these projects in mind.

Try Your New Sewing Machine Feet

How to Use Different Sewing Machine Feet With these wonderful sewing machine feet, you’ll be able to branch out of your regular sewing projects to create new pieces with more pizazz and flair. Not only do these feet make your life easier when sewing since it takes a lot of guesswork and manual labor out of these details, but it also creates some embellishments you may not have been able to do on your own. Every sewer should have some of these sewing feet in their collection to use at any time. Enjoy creating your beautiful new pieces with these sewing machine feet!