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!


38 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I switch pretty regularly from my standard foot, my 1/4″ foot (with a guide on the side so my fabric remains 1/4″ from the needle), my zig-zag foot (helpful for doing machine applique), my walking foot (straight, or even curved, quilting) and my darning foot/FMQ foot (for free motion quilting). That rolled hem foot looks intriguing though! Putting that on my must-have list….

    The Reader on April 17, 2014
  • Thank you. I need the open embroide foot. May have it but don’t recognize.

    —B. A. on April 17, 2014
  • I couldn’t do without my 1/4 inch foot. It keeps my quilting seams right on target. I like the even feed foot as well for binding quilts.

    —Debbie Wilson on April 17, 2014
  • Just a couple of clarifications, Please.
    Not all Blind Hem feet have a bar at the center. And not all feet with a bar at the center are Blind Hem feet. It depends on the brand and how the bar is made and positioned.
    And while the Open Toe Applique foot is great for some embroidery, there is another foot that looks like a standard zigzag foot on top, but has an angled wide groove on the bottom (like the applique foot) that is an embroidery foot. Having the wider bar in front of the needle helps keep some fabrics from puckering when doing embroidery/decorative stitching.
    But in general a great introduction to various pressure feet.

    —Pati Cook on April 17, 2014
  • Thanks for the helpful observations, Pati!

    —Tina on April 17, 2014
  • When I got a new sewing machine 2 years ago, after sewing for almost 50 years, I thought I would NEVER use the quarter inch foot with the guide. Now I don’ remember how I pieced my quilts without it!

    —Karen on April 17, 2014
  • My favorite is a ‘stitch in the ditch’ foot. I never realized I couldn’t sew a straight line, until I started using that foot.

    —Mary on April 17, 2014
  • My 1/4″ foot with the guide almost never leaves my machine.

    —Carolyn Cavanaugh on April 17, 2014
  • I am a quilter so the 1/4″ foot, walking foot and darning foot are indispensable to me. Another foot I love is my stitch in the ditch walking foot. I wouldn’t even want to attempt machine applique without my clear open toe embroidery foot. I have played with my rolled hem foot a few times and enjoy the finish but just don’t seem to have enough use for it to keep myself practised well enough with it.

    —Audrey on April 17, 2014
  • Great explanations and pictures to go with them!

    —Nancy on April 17, 2014
  • I’m surprised there is no mention of a 1/4″ foot. I use that, the open-toe, and the "regular" zig-zag foot (1A) the most.

    —Nann on April 17, 2014
  • The 1/4 inch with the guide is essential when quilting. I am not sure how I managed before to have even seams. If my pattern specifies a scant 1/4 inch I just move the needle over a bit. I also use the open toe foot a lot. I sew fleece scraps together with a 9mm stitch to make blankets for charity and with the open toe I push the fabric towards the center and it make a strong seam to hold the pieces together.

    —Donna Olson on April 17, 2014
  • I have a quilting foot that makes it easy to sew a good 1/4 inch seam. I could not do without that foot when piecing my quilts. I use it many times just because I can see where the needle goes into the fabric.

    —Wanda Holbrook on April 17, 2014
  • I have most of these feet but seldom use them as I now devote most of my time to quilting. There I couldn’t live without my 1/4″ piecing foot, my 1/4″ piecing foot with a guide, and my open toe free motion quilting foot.

    —Whiskers on April 17, 2014
  • Well you have listed 7 of my go- tos! I would add my 1/4 inch foot and that’s my list. When I started sewing eons ago my mom had me explore all the feet in her box. I loved having the right foot for the job. It was easier and things turned out so nice!

    —Kathy on April 17, 2014
  • I love my "stitch in the ditch" foot because I can use it to sewing quilt bindings on by machine instead of having to sew them by hand. Not only does it save time, it saves my hand!

    —Rosemary on April 17, 2014
  • When I am piecing my quilt I use the ¼" foot. I use the embroidery foot when I want to see the stitches.. I also use the standard foot, the free motion foot and the cording foot. It really makes sewing easier to use the appropriate foot.

    —LindaH on April 17, 2014
  • there are two feet l can’t live without; quarter inch and walking foot. I use these two feet all the time. Love the information on feet as there are so many feet in the market, it’s great to know what each foot is capable of doing, to ensure what you buy, you will use.

    —Anne on April 17, 2014
  • I love my quarter inch foot and my walking foot!

    —Marianne on April 17, 2014
  • I use my 1/4 inch foot in all my quilting and couldn’t do without it!!

    —Wilma on April 17, 2014
  • You LOCAL sewing machine dealer for YOUR sewing machine model is more than willing to help you learn about operating your machine! Of course they’d love to tell you about not only HOW to use the feet that come with your machine, but ALSO all the many wonderful feet that are available to add to your sewing toolkit to make your machine even more useful – for whatever sewing project you have in mind. Shop LOCAL, Sew LOCAL… if you don’t , there’s won’t be a LOCAL sewing dealer for you in the future!! My fav just happens to be Husqvarna Viking… what’s yours?
    – Karen
    PS: Did you attend the FREE machine classes offered by YOUR local machine dealer where you bought your machine?! Ditch the big box, and go down the street to sew where you GO already!

    Karen Alexander on April 17, 2014
  • My edge foot is by far myfavorite go to foot, I’ve a 9mm machine so I even sew zippers with it. It’s a nice scant 1/4″. I zig zag batting together with it. Oh yeah, I even edge stitch with it, who knew?!?

    —Mo Bonner on April 18, 2014
  • 1/4″ and walking foot

    —Cindy S on April 18, 2014
  • I have finally found a 1/4″ foot that I really like and so I bought 4, so I would never be without. I cannot sew a darn 1/4″ seam without one.

    —CindyM on April 18, 2014
  • I seem to use my 1/4″ foot and Walking foot the most when I am sewing, I use the Embroidery feet to do embroidery.

    —Louise Buker on April 19, 2014
  • My favorite new foot is the scant 1/4″ (did not come w/machine). Lots of times I just keep going with the same foot when I should really change to a foot better suited to the project. I like this info. thanks.
    Cheers
    Carol

    —Carol on April 21, 2014
  • Thank You ..I’m a Newby so this is going to come in so handy for me to learn what have and need…

    Cindy Rhodes on May 19, 2014
  • Thank You ..I’m a Newby so this is going to come in so handy for me to learn what have and need…★☆★

    Cindy Rhodes on May 19, 2014
  • The right foot sure makes the work easier and look so much nicer. I love my piping foot, 1/4 foot, embroidery foot, stitch in ditch foot, etc. I would tell every one to use the feet for the job they are made for. You will love them.

    —Marsha Nelson on August 13, 2014
  • I use my 1/4 inch foot all the time since I do a lot of quilting. I am however doing a lot more craft sewing lately. There is a little female chihuahua in the house, for whom I am making cute harnesses for, so I am thinking that a ruffling foot would make sewing a lot easier for me. 🙂

    —Jennifer N. on August 14, 2014
  • I am in love with the Leather Roller Foot Bernina #55. Once I saw how and used it, I was hooked. Easy to use to quilting!

    —Kimberly on March 9, 2015
  • I am trying to source a presser foot for stitching the ripple pleat/fold tape.

    —Margaret on May 4, 2016
  • Where did you find that adorable accessory cabinet in the picture?

    Hi Mandi, we don’t have information on that particular accessory box, but several companies do make them – here’s a link to a Google search for them. Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Mandi on May 15, 2016
  • thankyou

    —what foot to use when sewing around a line that you have drawn round eg; a foot or hand for a doll on October 18, 2017
  • Thank you, I didn’t know the one must change the feet on my sewing Machine, I am still learning, even at my age!

    —Cynthia medeiros on August 8, 2018
  • Thank you for the help, and use of the different feet for sewing machine, what does the 1/4 inch foot look like? Y MORAM

    Hi Yvonne, this is a good example of what a 1/4″ sewing foot looks like. It has a guide that butts up against your fabric so the seam allowance stays at 1/4″ as you sew. Hope this is helpful, thanks for your question! –Jenny

    yyvonne moram on December 5, 2018
  • I’m looking to purchase the Bernina accessory case shown in this post, the one that holds the feet and bobbins. Do you sell them? Thank you!

    I’m afraid we don’t, Barbara, but you may want to try Bernina’s website – thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Barbara Rubin on December 16, 2018
  • Where is this tutorial? You have this URL on your site,
    but there’s nothing there. ?? thanks

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

    Hi Emilie, the sewing-machine-feet information is above; if you’re looking for the book, unfortunately it’s out of print, although you may still be able to find it wherever you buy books online. Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    Emilie D LaFave on May 30, 2019

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