Types of sewing-machine feet: a guide for the baffled

Learn about different types of sewing machine feet

How many presser feet do you own? Not sure? Is that because you shy away from everything but an all-purpose presser foot? Or is your sparkly, much beloved collection of specialty feet so vast it’s simply hard to keep track?

If everything but your all-purpose foot is gathering dust, now’s the time to learn what those mysterious other feet can do. Just check out the quick guide to presser feet below. In no time, you’ll be able to identify sewing-machine feet like an expert. And you’ll be matching the right foot to the right task with confidence.

Sewing-Machine Foot Types Explained

From A to Z of Sewing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginning to Advanced Sewing

Most machines come with a few standard, interchangeable presser feet. An all-purpose sewing foot, a zipper foot, an embroidery foot, and a buttonhole foot are the most basic. You can invest in others designed for specific purposes. Having the right foot on the machine makes it easier to achieve the best result for the task.

All-purpose sewing foot
This is the standard foot for all basic, forward-feed sewing. The sole of this foot is flat, providing control as the fabric passes over the feed dogs.

All-purpose presser foot - from A to Z of Sewing

Blind-hem foot/edgestitch foot
These feet have a bar running through the center of the feet in front of the needle. Use the bar as a guide for instances when a line of stitching is required close to a ridge or fold, such as for hemming, edgestitching, or joining two pieces of lace with the edges butted together.

Blind-hem foot - from A to Z of Sewing

Buttonhole foot
Two grooves under the sole of a buttonhole foot (below left) allow the fabric to move freely as the thread builds up to form the end bars of the buttonhole. The guide between the grooves helps keep the side bars parallel and slightly apart.

If your machine has a fully automatic buttonhole presser foot (below right), a button is placed in the back of the foot and the machine gauges the correct buttonhole length to fit.

buttonhole presser feet - from A to Z of Sewing

Cording, piping, or beading foot
A large groove in the sole of these feet allows heavier threads, cording, and other high-relief decorative trims to pass freely under the foot after being stitched.

Cording presser foot- from A to Z of Sewing

Darning foot
A darning foot is spring loaded, hopping over the surface while you move the fabric from side to side or backward and forward. This foot requires the feed dogs to be covered with a special stitch plate or to be lowered under the normal sole plate.

Darning foot- from A to Z of Sewing

Embroidery foot
This foot is completely open in front of the needle, making the work clearly visible. There is also a wedge-shaped indentation under the foot, which allows dense satin (zigzag) stitching to glide through without becoming jammed. The angle in the indentation makes it possible to follow curves easily.

Embroidery foot - from A to Z of Sewing

Pintuck foot
This is used with a twin needle to stitch pintucks, spacing the tucks by positioning the previous tuck in one of the grooves under the foot.

Pintuck presser foot- from A to Z of Sewing

Rolled-hem foot
The raw edge of the fabric is guided through a tunnel in this foot in front of the needle; it produces a perfectly folded and stitched narrow hem.

Rolled-hem foot- from A to Z of Sewing

Walking foot
A walking foot is the perfect tool for machine-quilting straight lines across the three layers—top, batting, and backing—of a quilt. The walking foot works in unison with the lower feed dogs, passing upper layers of fabric under the foot at the same rate as the lower layers. Its name comes from the way the foot moves up and down, "walking" across the uppermost layer of fabric rather than pressing against it.

Walking foot- from A to Z of Sewing

Zipper foot
This is a narrow, one-toed foot with notches on both sides for the needle positions. Adjust the foot or the needle position to stitch with the required side against the teeth of the zipper. A broad foot with rollers that uncurl the zipper coils is available for inserting invisible zippers.

Zipper foot - from A to Z of Sewing

A to Z of Sewing - The Ultimate Guide for Beginning to Advanced Sewing

Have fun with your feet! You’ll find step-by-step photo tutorials showing how to use a zipper foot, pintuck foot, cording foot, and more in A to Z of Sewing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginning to Advanced Sewing.

Which types of sewing-machine feet do you enjoy using? Is there a specialty foot you couldn’t stitch without? Tell us about your favorite presser feet in the comments!

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