How and When to Use the Walking Foot on Your Sewing Machine
Do you use a walking foot attachment when you sew? The walking foot is a versatile attachment that may not come with your sewing machine but it is one you will want to have. I LOVE to use the walking foot (also known as an even feed or dual feed foot) on my sewing machine. I’ve gotten questions over the years about why I am using it for one project or another. So here’s the long version where I share all… Then, I’ll list the situations where I like to use it most.
The walking foot attachment is a specialty sewing machine foot that doesn’t look like any of the other presser feet. It can be bulky and attach from the back of the machine rather than from the front or side. It can also cost more than other feet and can take some fiddling to put on – but don’t let that prevent you from trying one! Trust me, it’s worth it.
There is a little bar or hook that usually fits over the needle tightening screw. If you don’t put it on correctly, it makes a terrible noise and you’ll know immediately that something’s wrong. It is important to take the time to practice attaching and removing the walking foot. Once you do get comfortable with this process, you will wonder how you ever got along without using one. Check the owners manual included with your sewing machine for instructions written for your specific machine.
I wouldn’t go to all the effort of using the walking foot if I didn’t think it would be worth it (i.e. solve a sewing problem that arises because of layers of fabric or the type of fabric used). In general, a walking foot makes sewing thick layers easier because the presser foot on top of your fabric moves (or walks) along with the feed dogs underneath. In theory, this means that the top layer will move at the same speed as the bottom layer of fabric eliminating puckering or shifting of the fabric layers.
Here are examples of situations where I like to put on the walking foot before sewing:
1. Quilting with a walking foot.
The walking foot is a must-have accessory for straight line quilting because it keeps the layers together and prevents the top layer from getting pushed ahead of the middle and bottom layers. This prevents puckering and tiny pleats from occurring, for example when you change the direction of your quilted lines. I use the walking foot whenever I am straight line quilting, whether for a quilt, mini-quilt, tote bag, basket, or anything else. It works when stitching in the ditch (SID), a machine quilting technique in which stitching is done either in the seam or very close to the seam line. It also works for gently curves such as wavy line quilting. The trick is to take your time and move at a consistent speed.
2. Sewing on quilt binding.
Use a walking foot when sewing on quilt binding (or mini-quilt binding) to keep the top layer of the binding from shifting ahead of the bottom layer, which causes puckers and wonky binding. This is an easy fix for a common problem.
3. Sewing straps with a walking foot.
Have you ever had strange ripples down your handbag straps? This can happen because you switched the direction of stitching. The walking foot keeps the layers of fabric feeding through the machine at the same speed. This eliminates those annoying ripples.
4. Other multi-layer projects.
These include tote bags, wallets, purses and handbags, or attaching thick sew-in interfacing (such as ByAnnies Soft and Stable). Making handmade quilted soft luggage is an other example of a project that will be easier and look more professional when you use a walking foot. If my regular presser foot seems to be pushing the top layer instead of moving smoothly over it, I’ll often switch to my walking foot.
5. Sewing on stretch fabrics.
Some people swear by using a walking foot when sewing with stretch fabrics. I think it depends on the sewing machine you are using. When I used my old Bernina 1530, I never felt like it made enough of a difference for me. Then I bought a Janome Memory Craft 14,000 that came with 2 different walking feet (a regular one and a narrow walking foot). It sews stretch fabrics beautifully with a walking foot – so I use it! If you have a walking foot and you use it when sewing with knits, let us know what you think! To learn more about sewing with stretch fabrics, read my other post ‘How to Sew Stretch Fabrics.’
6. Specialty Fabrics
There are other times when you will find the walking foot is the attachment you need. It is perfect for sewing with leather, vinyl, and heavier fabrics like upholstery or waterproof canvas. If you sew awnings (awning covers) or cushions for outdoor furniture, you will want to use a walking foot. Any project using heavy fabric, like tents or teepees, will look more professionally made with the use of the waking foot attachment. Hemming sail cloth or sun screens are other projects that will look better if you change out the normal presser foot for the walking foot. Many bag makers use the walking foot as their primary foot.
If you sew with plaids or stripes, you know that matching seams can pose a real challenge. Many sewists find stripes that don’t come together exactly at the seam a serious problem. Use of a walking foot eliminates the shifting of fabric during sewing which causes this misalignment at the seam. This happens with solid and random prints but is not noticeable like it is when sewing with plaids or stripes. Put on your walking foot and stop avoiding the use of gorgeous plaid and stripes.
Did a walking foot come with your sewing machine? If not, you can likely find one on Amazon. When ordering a walking foot attachment, you will need to know whether your machine has a high shank or low shank. I like to purchase specialty feet from stores that have knowledgeable sales people to ensure that I am making the correct choice for my machine. These don’t have to be local stores but can be found by searching online for sewing machine accessories sellers. Most websites post the phone number for the store so you can call and talk with a person who will help you make the best choice for your machine. Some manufacturers’ attachments are interchangeable and you might not know which to choose without help. In other words, your Juki might be able to use a Janome foot.
Sewing machine features evolve over time. Older machines probably require a walking foot attachment whereas some newer and specialty machines have an integrated walking foot or even feed system that can be engaged and disengaged. Some people love the integrated feature while others prefer to use an attachment. Search online for walking foot sewing machine and you will get lists of machines to research. Some of these are industrial style machines and others are feature rich domestics. If a new machine is in your future, look for this feature. Once you get comfortable using a walking foot, you will use it for most of your sewing projects.
What do you think of your sewing machine’s walking foot? Is it one of your must-have accessories or does it gather dust in the drawer? Let us know in the comments.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂
I would be lost without my walking foot, use it all the time when quilting
Thanks Caroline for the very informative post. I’d never thought about using my walking foot for straps. That’s brilliant. I usually just press and press until they straighten. Have a wonderful week.
I love my walking foot and use it often. I love that on my Bernina it has a changeable foot to add in the middle divider so that it can be used for putting binding on and hemming. I am curious if they ever wear out? I have adjusted my machines pressure on the foot but I noticed I have to push or pull the fabric through and my stitches are uneven because of it. We both know the walking foot for Berninas are expensive so I am wondering if you have ever heard of them wearing out or losing their grip?
Yes, I have heard of a walking foot wearing out before. If it’s not working the way that you know it should, then maybe it needs to be replaced. Good luck!
I almost never take my walking foot off and highly recommend it for these uses and general sewing. Great post.
My walking foot does not collect dust. I have added several to my collection especially at yard sales where people get rid of them because they don’t know how to use them.
I use my walking foot in the same situations as you do, I wish I had one for my Bernina 630, too (I mostly use the Janome MC11000SE). I don’t sew with knits, so I’m no help there. 🙂
I love my walking foot! I use it for all my current projects, fabric bowls!!! Also, I start with a new needle if I sewed all day yesterday.
Thanks for sharing!!!
After hearing about walking feet (sounds funny) for years and sewing for 40+, I finally purchased one, and am so happy I did! I’m not a big knit sewer but was amazed at how smooth things go with the walking foot. It saves me some of the steps I had to take to get a decent stretch seam. I’m looking forward to using it for quilting now.
So glad to hear of someone who was working when "stretch and sew" came in. I am trying to catch up with sewing, after retirement. Love the ideas, thanks. Take care
I use my walking foot all the time, I have almost forgotten how to sew without it. It is also a must for sewing on vinyl.
Love, love, love my walking foot and my Bernina’s! I use mine for all the things you mentioned! The third attachment foot is really great for stitching in the ditch! I just would like a walking foot that will sew a 9mm stitch as well as the usual 5.5mm.
My Pfaff has built-in dual feed, so I don’t have to use one!
I use my walking foot for almost everything. My walking foot is a leaver on my machine that works with most of my feet quick and easy to use.
My very inexpensive Brother CS-6000i came with a walking foot. It’s turned out to be one of the best investments ever. It does a phenomenal job on multi-layered projects, something my very expensive Husqvarna does not. I’ve just completed a project that was Four layers of fabric and two layers of Insul-Bright with not a single funky wrinkle. Highly recommend making an investment in a walking foot and saving yourself a lot of frustration.
I purchased a walking foot and now it is pieces. I don’t have an instruction sheet or diagram to assemble it properly Can anyone email me?
Why does my walking foot slip of the screw. I’ve used it for years and only recently have had this issue.
If it has worked for years but now slips off the screw, it sounds broken. Sorry!
I never take mine off—–should I?????
If you like using it, there’s no reason to switch to another foot except that walking feet do wear out eventually so you might have to replace it sooner rather than later.
I love my walking foot and have used it quite often. One problem I do have though is when I back stitch it makes a horrible pop sound and sometimes the little claw that goes over the the needle screw will completely pop out of place. Does anyone else have this issue. I have a big Brother and it has the option for a Muvit foot which is amazing but it costs $300+!! Not ready for that jump.
Oops… Walking feet are never for sewing in reverse! Now you know. 🙂
I use mine with elastic…it works great. Also with my plastic projects, such as storage bowl covers. I get good results with the plastic/elastic combo.
Great tips… thanks for sharing!
When I put a walking foot on my machine(a 15 year old portable Kenmore), the machine wouldn’t work. I couldn’t even pull up the bobbin thread. I thought I’d installed the needle incorrectly, and fiddled with that for an hour. Finally, I removed the walking foot and reinstalled the old presser foot. Now, the machine works fine. The manual mentions several presser foots, but not the walking foot. Are there some machines that won’t take a walking foot? Can I quilt without one? This is my first quilt.
I use my walking foot often for the examples you gave and sometime just for straight stitching. I think it is a must have. Worth the extra money you pay for it,
I use my walking foot for all the examples you gave and sometimes when just straight stitching. A lady in the quilt guild I belong to says she uses it for everything. I think it’s the only foot she uses. I think it a must-have & well worth the extra money it costs.
From Betty 7/18/17
I am a beginner at walking foot quilting. I can’t seem to get even stitches. I have to practically pull fabric to avoid the tiny clustered stitches. Unfortunately I don’t have an even surface around my machine. It just sits up on a table. Is there a tension adjustment I need to be doing? I have done small projects like pot holders without any problems. I now have a small quilt that I will have to pick out quilting and either start over or abandon project. I want to be able to do this but am so frustrated. I just may revert to hand stitching . Oh, my walking foot is a Brother, as is my machine.
Hi – it sounds like your walking foot is not installed correctly on the machine. Is the little movable ‘arm’ on the walking foot hooked onto the needle bar so that it moves up and down when the needle goes up and down? The second picture above shows that. If the walking foot is installed properly, fabric should move smoothly through the machine with a gentle ‘clickety clack’ sound.
Also, if your quilt is very large, make sure none if it is hanging down – you’ll need to hold it up so it doesn’t pull backwards.
I hope you figure out the problem – walking foot quilting can be very fun!
I’m new to sewing, but diving in full throttle.
I read the post you replied to for Calie, about the walking foot not meant for back stitching. So…what do you do in place of back stitching at the start and end of the stitching?
I have found that my walking feet (on both my Janome and Juki machines) can handle 2-3 stitches backwards in order to backstitch at the start of a seam. If your walking foot is not able to do that, you could start with a stitch length of 0, take a few stitches in place, and then adjust to the stitch length that you prefer.
That said, when I am straight line quilting, I start and stop on the batting so no backstitching is needed.
Thanks for the info. I just bought a walking foot but haven’t used it yet. I see I can get more use out of it than I thought.
I just discovered that my old walking foot that I had for one of my old machines a brother fits my brand new machine baby lock jazz
What a happy surprise!
My Pfaff machines are born with a walking foot. This is machine no 3, and one of the reasons I hold on to these machines. They are solid, reliable and easy to work with.
Thanks for the tip. I’ve heard those things before!
Is it really worth it to spend the extra money to buy an ‘original’ branded walking foot over the ones that can be found relatively cheap on amazon or ebay being shipped from China?
That’s a really good question. When I bought a ‘no-name’ walking foot for my Bernina, I paid nearly $100 for a piece of junk. It was a terrible mistake and made me feel like there was something wrong with my machine when really it was just the ‘cheap’ walking foot (the Bernina brand at the time was $200).
However, I have been told that for sewing machines in the under $500 range, all of the accessories (including extra feet) are made by separate companies in China anyway. So in that case you are probably getting the same thing when you buy the off-brand accessory.
I wonder if anyone else has experience with this?
i once left my walking foot on the my sewing machine overnight, the next morning i discovered it had walked away…never to be seen again ( sew humor 🙂
Inn have a Husqvarna Viking and the walking foot is an absolute pain to put on.However, it’s great and I use it for most of my sewing, I can even use it to guide my 1/4 inch seam, the inside of the foot is exactly right for this.Thank you for sharing your tips.
I love using a walking foot with thick or dense fabrics like denim, and I find it indispensable for making bags.
You are right about walking feet not lasting forever. I had one « explode » while sewing, once. Now I keep a spare.
Hi Caroline – Have been sewing for many years and only "discovered" a walking foot in the last 4. Why? I decided to take on sewing some stretch fabrics and was not pleased with the results using a regular foot and stretch stitches. So I invested in a walking foot and it seems to stay on my machine for most all of my sewing these days. Haven’t done stretch fabric sewing in a while but have been enjoying making some bags (which can get bulky at the seam intersections, zippers, etc). And it makes that part of the sewing so much less stressful! And yes I even made myself a hump jumper to get over those bulky spots smoothly and evenly! Thank you for your tips and techniques because you can teach an "old" dog some new tricks! : )
I just discovered a new use for my walking foot when I was making a laptop sleeve for my husband for Father’s Day. I don’t have a Teflon foot which I’ve read is recommended for sewing leather. Since I was adding a little leather accent, I tried my walking foot, and it worked great on all the layers (denim fabric, lining, and thin batting, in addition to the leather piece)! No stretching or marks on the leather.
I’m new to sewing…teaching myself. I just purchased a walking foot for my Singer Heavy Duty 4432. I tested it out and it sews beautifully. I can even back stitch on it. I’m excited to see what all I can do with it! I made a scarf recently and I wish I had this foot then because the fabric was made of polyester satin and it slipped back and forth a lot. It was a headache to work with without a walking foot.
I just started using my walking foot on my quilts. Can’t afford a long arm person, so I took the on. I love the way it sewed, but I started braking needles. What should I do to prevent this??
A walking foot should not cause the needle to break. Make sure that your needle is the correct size for your project, that the walking foot is not broken, and that both the walking foot and needle are installed correctly. 🙂
If you have any questions about installing the walking foot, I suggest searching YouTube for how to install a walking foot on your particular machine.
Thanks for the write up. What is the EXACT brand and model of the walking foot attachment featured in the images at the top of this article? I’m looking for one just like that, that will accommodate a bias folder, attachment, but cannot find one. That looks like the exact attachment I’m looking for. Do you have the info for that exact attachment in the above images at the top of the article? Thanks.
Hi there. That is the walking foot that came with my Juki TL2010Q. I don’t know if it is available separately.
Thank you for the explanation for the use of the walking foot. I have one and use it quite often. I quilt. Say no more. I really didn’t understand why it worked but, I loved that it did. I was trying to quilt with my regular foot and my friend at our quilting group said "why the devil aren’t you using your walking foot. It is right there in front of you?" Well, I said that I didn’t know what it was for. Now I know and I know why and when to use it. Thanks Again
I have a Pfaff. There is an integrated walking system. It’s the only type i know. When i try touse a different machine i don’t like
I have a walking foot, but bought a Janome that came with an even feed feature that is permanently attached to the machine, sitting up and behind the foot. To use it, you pull it forward and attach it to the regular foot. I have used it for Wavy line quilting on some small pieces. Do you know if that is the same thing, or do I have a need for the actual walking foot?
I have been doing quilting and General sewing for years and leave my walking foot on 95% of the time. Mine has many helpful marking on them so make sure and read the instructions on yours to learn how to optimize the use of these subtle tools. My quilting is always more accurate with the stability it creates with the layers. Easier sewing is more enjoyable!
I have used my walking foot when sewing really long seams/hems like window valances for a wide window. Before I did this, no matter how much I pinned, the hem would be wonky at the end. With the walking foot, no more problem.
I WISH that one of the many walking feet that I have performed as you have described. I understand the principle, but each of mine STILL push the top fabric ahead, causing those tucks that you spoke of, when crossing a previously stitched cross line of quilting.
I quilt with my Singer 15-91 or my BabyLock Melody, and have tried atleast 4 different walking feet on each of them.
I have been reduced to straight pinning every inch ahead of a stitching line, quilting over the pins, and then repinning.
Any suggestions of a better walking foot than the standard generic walking foot, even if expensive, would be appreciated.
A walking foot came with my Brother SQ 9000. I never knew what it was for. When I was having trouble with quilting my first quilt, I went to my instructor and asked what was wrong. She told me about the walking foot. Tried to sell me one, but I told her that I had one and didn’t know what it did. Once I used it, I was amazed. I love using my walking foot for my quilting and sewing with more than 2 layers of fabric. Thank you for the refresher course.
Finally I get the answer what this foot was usefull to. Going to test this when sewing my next quilt. Wondering why my teacher in my quilt-group didn´t tell me about this…. Well anyway a big thank you for letting me undestand this and have to check my other foots is usefull to.
Thanks Caroline, I don’t use mine as much as I’d like because I have to see very slow with it on on order to get even stitches. Going fast is my norm and with the walking foot on it seems to kinda jump around.
However I always use it on knits! I didn’t know until 2 years ago about using walking foot on knits. GAME CHANGER!!!
I can only say that I wish I had known what a good investment a walking foot was much much earlier than when I decided to purchase one. It made such a big difference to sewing knit fabrics, eliminating the puckering or stretching of the top layer completely! Then when I tackled some smaller quilting projects, it fed all the layers through much better making my finished items look much more professional. Thank you for sharing your tips to help others see just how useful this foot can be. Sorry I waited so long as I was reluctant to spend the money on it – it’s been one of the best and most frequently used tools for my old Singer!