Presser feet come in three basic types… long or high shank, short or low shank, and the slanted shank.
In short, the type of presser foot your sewing machine needs is dictated entirely by the needle bar.
Depending upon the way a sewing machine is built, the needle bar can be either long, short or slightly slanted. Then there are the machines that are built to use snap on presser feet.
A presser foot that is built for a machine with a long shank will not fit a machine with a slanted or short shank.
If your sewing machine was designed to work with snap on presser feet, it will not work with feet designed for use on sewing machines with long, short or slanted shanks.
Therefore, it is important that you know which type of presser foot your machine is built to accommodate before investing in any additional feet.
If after inspecting your sewing machine, you are not clear about the style or type of presser foot your machine uses, this information is readily available in the accessories section of your owner’s manual.
If you are like many home sewers, you have at least one sewing machine and a serger. Many people have more than one sewing machine, a serger and sometimes even another type of specialty machine.
Having such an arsenal of machines often means that you have a different type of presser foot for each machine. That is the situation in my sewing room.
I have two sewing machines and one serger. The serger uses snap on presser feet. Thankfully, both my sewing machines are built with long shanks.
Therefore, I need only two sets of presser feet. I simplify things by using the serger only for certain tasks. My sewing machines, however, get a good workout on a regular basis.
A Presser Foot for Every Function
Early sewing machine models had a single presser foot that was permanently mounted at the base of the needle bar.
With the advent of zigzag and decorative stitches on home sewing machines, however, it became necessary for the presser foot to evolve.
Before long, presser feet were developed for specific tasks. Today, however, it seems as though we have a different presser foot for each and every sewing task we perform on a sewing machine or serger.
The following presser feet guide describes the most frequently used feet types and their functions. NOTE: All of the models shown in this table are in my personal collection unless otherwise noted.
Specialty Presser Feet
The presser feet described in the above table represent a small number of all of the available options.
They are, however, the most frequently used in the average home sewing room.
While most of the presser feet described are made of metal, nearly every presser foot is also available with a Teflon coating.
I generally use my Teflon presser feet when working with vinyl, leather, suede and fur.
The Teflon coating helps the fabric move more easily than traditional metal feet.
Many new sewing machines and sergers offer a differential feed option which assists in feeding thick fabrics or several layers of fabric.
Depending upon the manufacturer, the differential feed option is available as a built in or as an added optional feature.
In most cases, the differential feed is a built in serger feature and an add-on for sewing machines.
For instance, the Pfaff IDT [Integrated Dual Transportation] system and the Bernina Stitch Regulator and Dual feed.
These optional features are additional accessories that are attached to the needle bar to work with the presser foot to make machine quilting easier by eliminating slippage while working with thick layers of fabric.
Other presser feet are available as well. Some of the other specialty presser feet in this category include:
- Bias tape binding foot – used for attaching bias tape with ease.
- Braiding foot – simplifies attaching brading, cords, ribbon
- Stitch in the ditch/edge joining foot – designed to help make edge joining and stitching in the ditch as easy as possible.
A Little Bit of Presser Foot History
Back when home sewing machines produced straight stitches only, it was impossible to make a buttonhole without a buttonhole maker. The buttonhole maker was a gadget that was purchased separately.
It came with a set of templates which allowed the user to make an infinite number of uniform buttonholes. Once it was attached to the sewing machine all you had to do was place the fabric in the proper position and press the foot pedal.
Although both my sewing machines are capable of making buttonholes with the buttonhole foot, I use a buttonhole maker because the process is not only easier, it is more precise.
With my buttonhole foot, I get beautiful rectangle shape buttonholes of all sizes, but that’s all I can do. With the buttonhole maker, however, I can make keyhole buttonholes for jackets and coats, eyelets, as well as oval shaped buttonholes for blouses and shirts when I don’t want a row of rectangle shaped buttonholes.
These buttonhole options are available on many new sewing machine models. However, for all of those who own and continue to use the many older machines out there, the buttonhole maker is an ideal accessory.
The downside is that buttonhole makers are no longer being manufactured. You can, however, find them online and at local dealers who specialize in refurbished and used sewing machines.
Caring for a buttonhole maker is as simple as wiping away dust and lint and lubricating it from time to time.
For my money, you cannot have too many presser feet… not because they break but because they are so useful in making your time at the sewing machine or serger so much easier.
The truth of the matter is presser feet are quite durable and almost impossible to break. In all honesty, presser feet, when properly cared for, will outlast most sewing machines and sergers.
In most cases, the presser feet that were included in the accessories case when you purchased your sewing machine or serger should be enough for you to perform practically every basic sewing and serging task you could imagine.
As your sewing repertoire expands, however, you may find a need to purchase some of the specialty models.
If you misplace or lose a presser foot or if you acquired your sewing machine as a gift handed down from a friend or inherited it from relative, you may find that you need to replace a lost button hole or zipper foot.
Once you ascertain the type of presser foot you need – high, low or slant shank or snap on – you will be able to easily find what you need at your local fabric store or sewing machine dealer or online at sites like.
Unlike some sewing machine accessories, presser feet are interchangeable between various brands. The only thing you need to be concerned with is the type of shank you are working with.
If you are in the market for a new machine, and have already invested in several additional units, such as a gathering foot or an invisible zipper foot for example, you should consider the type of shank available on the machines you are thinking of buying.
Otherwise, you will find yourself shopping for additional presser feet to fit your new sewing machine or serger. This may limit your choices, but with so many great machines on the market, you are certain to find the perfect machine in little or no time.