March 6, 2019, Susan Beck
Most quilters know what a walking foot is, and they usually own one. It’s a specialty foot that is larger than regular presser feet and it costs more, too, but it is so worth it. Quilters know that this foot is invaluable for stitching a quilt together without any shifting of the layers. But today I’d like to tell you about 3 reasons to own a walking foot that have nothing to do with quilting. The BERNINA Walking Foot #50 comes with three interchangeable soles and a right and left guide. I use the walking foot on my B 790 PLUS but it works on all BERNINA models.
First, let’s talk about how your sewing machine feeds the fabric under the needle. Typically, you place two layers of fabric under the needle on top of the feed teeth. The presser foot sits down on the fabric and when the machine starts, the feed dog moves the teeth to the back, taking the fabric with them. The teeth continue to move, returning to the front and then repeating the cycle, moving the fabric until you stop your machine. The arrows show how the feed teeth rotate from the front to the back.
All-Purpose Foot vs. Walking Foot
What happens is that the piece of fabric touching the feed teeth is being held by the presser foot and the second piece is just along for the ride. The top layer of fabric doesn’t move at the same rate and when you finish the seam, the two layers of fabric are slightly mismatched (left photo). How much depends on the type of fabric being sewn. Sometimes this is not a problem but other times, it causes issues with your finished project. Using a walking foot eliminates this problem because the walking foot acts like a second set of feed teeth for the upper layer of fabric. By pinching the two fabrics layers together, the walking foot moves them at the same speed (right photo).
It’s pretty obvious why this is important for quilting. Not only do you have two layers of fabric, there is also batting in the layers, causing it to be heavier and more prone to shifting and sliding. This can cause distorted stitches and puckering as you sew. But, if you’re not a quilter, a walking foot is still very useful. Let’s look at three other reasons you may want to own a walking foot.
Matching Plaids and Stripes
I struggled for years trying to match plaids. I tried every technique I could find (including hand basting), not knowing it was a feeding problem. This is a case where a little is a lot. Even if the fabric only shifts slightly, it is obvious, and the mismatched plaids give a homemade look to your project. Using a walking foot takes care of this problem.
Sewing Leather and Plastics
Materials that are “sticky” are hard to sew because the presser foot does not glide over the surface. The walking foot easily feeds the material under the needle. Plastics, vinyl, oilcloth, leather and similar materials are much easier to manage when use a walking foot.
Heavy Fabrics and Thick Seams
Because of their thicknesses, bulky fabrics such as heavy wool, multiple layers of terrycloth, and upholstery fabric don’t feed well. The walking foot can provide that help and make it easy to sew any weight fabric.
For more information on Walking Foot #50, see The Big Book of Feet at your local BERNINA store.