How and When to Use the Walking Foot on Your Sewing Machine

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walking foot 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.

closeup of sewing machine walking foot attached

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:

quilting parallel lines with a walking foot on pink floral fabric

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.

attaching grey binding to a quilt using a walking foot

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.

close up of using a walking foot to sew a long strap for a tote or a crossbody bag

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.

sewing a blue fabric strip to a pleated green fabric

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.

Happy Sewing!

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. 🙂