Presser Feet Guide

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.

Types of Presser Foot

Types of Presser Foot

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.

Set of Snap on Presser Feet

Set of Snap on Presser Feet

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.

Foot Description Image
Straight Use for sewing straight stitches only. This presser foot is designed in such a way that attempting to use it for anything other than a simple straight stitch will result in broken needles. This presser foot is especially useful when working with heavy fabrics.
Zigzag The zigzag presser foot is wider than the straight stitch presser foot. It has a wider opening, designed to accommodate zigzag stitches of varying widths. Some people use the zigzag foot for multiple tasks – including straight stitching. Zigzag
Zipper The zipper foot has a screw that can be adjusted to allow the foot to slide to either side of the zipper for ideal placement and easier stitching. NOTE: The standard zipper foot is not compatible with invisible zippers.If you want to insert an invisible zipper, a special foot is required. Refer to the instructions on your zipper package and consult a sales representative at your local fabric store before attempting to insert an invisible zipper. Zipper
Buttonhole The buttonhole foot helps the sewer make rectangle buttonholes with ease and precision. Every buttonhole foot is clearly marked to help the user determine the proper buttonhole size before stitching.The addition of buttonhole templates, however, helps assure uniformity when making several identical buttonholes in a single garment – like a blouse, shirt, jacket or coat. NOTE: Very few sewing machines include buttonhole templates as standard accessories.

I purchased mine several years ago from. They last forever. Just make sure you keep up with them. These little gizmos are so small, they can very easily be lost or tossed out with the fabric scraps.

In fact, I did that very thing and had to purchase a second set. Needless to say, whenever I take my templates out, I’m very cautious about their whereabouts.

Buttonhole
Buttonhole
Button This rubber coated open toed foot makes it easy to attach any flat button. Simply drop your feed dogs, set the stitch length to ‘0’ and adjust your stitch width to correspond with the holes in the button and your work is done. Button
Appliqué The appliqué foot looks very much like the zigzag foot, but the clear plastic covering helps protect delicate appliqués as they are being attached. It also makes it possible for the user to see very clearly where each stitch is positioned. Appliqué
Piping The slightly elevated area on the underside of this presser foot guarantees proper placement of your piping and allows you to stitch as close to the piping as possible. Piping feet come in several different sizes to accommodate various sizes.Piping used on accessories, upholstery or home décor items, for example is often larger than that used on an item of clothing. NOTE: Try the zipper foot if you want to insert piping but do not have access to a piping foot. It works just as well. Piping
Rolled hem When sewing very delicate fabrics like tricot and voile a rolled hem is essential. The rolled hem foot makes it possible for you to get the perfect narrow rolled hem with little or no headaches. NOTE: I sometimes find it easier to put a tiny over cast stitch along the raw edge of my garment to prevent fraying before putting in a rolled hem. Rolled-hem
Cording This foot is ideal when you decide to add cording to a garment or accessory without revealing as single stitch. This foot is especially useful when making furniture slip covers and other home décor items. Cording
Blind hem This foot is useful when hemming slacks, skirts or dresses on a sewing machine in lieu of hemming by hand. NOTE: a universal zigzag presser foot can be used to perform this function. Blind hem
Walking This interesting looking presser foot makes working with very thick layers of fabric easier while maintaining total control of the upper and lower fabrics layers. Walking
Quilting The quilting foot is ideal for freehand and pattern quilting as well. It is specifically designed to help the user sew with multiple layers of fabric while simultaneously keeping the quilt batting in place. The strange looking bar attached to the quilting foot is a guide to help the user maintain the desired distance between rows of stitches. Quilting
Pintuck Yes… it is possible to put in pintucks without this one, but why go through the drudgery when this presser foot can take all the guesswork out of the task? All you need to get perfect pintucks is to use this presser foot and a twin needle. Pintuck
Darning This interesting presser foot with a built in spring is ideal for repairing small holes in just about anything. Lower the feed dogs, adjust the stitch length and width to your desired setting and when you’re done, no one would ever guess that a hole was ever there. Darning
Gathering/Ruffling The gathering foot is used to make ruffles and certain skirts collars and cuffs as well as other things. I admit that this is not one that is in my personal inventory. It’s not because I don’t think a gathering or ruffling foot is necessary.I simply do so few gathering tasks that I have no real need for one. If, however, you find yourself working on several projects that require gathering, then I encourage you to invest in a gathering or ruffling presser foot without hesitation. Gathering/Ruffling

Specialty Presser Feet

Teflon Presser Foot

Teflon Presser Foot

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.

Invisible Zipper Foot

Invisible Zipper Foot

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.

Pfaff IDT [Integrated Dual Transportation]

Pfaff IDT [Integrated Dual Transportation]

Bernina Stitch Regulator and Dual feed

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.

Buttonhole maker

Buttonhole maker

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.

Conclusion

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.

Happy Stitching.


9 Comments

  1. I have a pfaff 130, which I have used for years. It was my mothers, I have many feet for it but would like to acquire a 1/4″ quilting foot, a darning foot, a walking foot (if possible).

    Hard to find presser feet for it, when I put pfaff 130 presser feet in the search bar of different supplier web sites, it always pops up as unavailable. Any suggestions?

  2. Hello, Gail -

    Try looking through the accessories catalog on the Pfaff website. There you will find several pages of presser feet. I cannot guarantee that they list accessories for your 130, but it is worth a try. You may also want to consider your local Pfaff dealer. If all else fails, why not try sites like e-bay?

  3. Are button hole makers machine specific? For example, will a Singer buttonhole maker work with an Elna machine?

  4. Hello, William -

    Thank you for visiting Sewing Insight. Some machines are compatible with Singer buttonhole makers; others are not.

    The Singer Professional buttonhole maker is the least likely to fit many of the older machines.

    The regular Singer buttonhole maker, on the other hand, is probably your best choice. If at all possible, I suggest you try one first to make sure it fits your Elna before making the investment. I have a Geist buttonhole maker that was given to me. Because it did not have a 1/2 inch template, I purchased a Singer buttonhole maker on ebay. Before doing that, however, I went to the message board at patternreviewer.com to find out if anyone could suggest an alternative. That’s where I learned that Singer and Geist templates are interchangeable. To be honest, I have not attempted to attach the Singer buttonhole maker to my vintage Fleetwood sewing machine, but the templates work just fine.

    One more thing – I am not aware of any other brand of buttonhole maker, and it seems as though Geist is almost impossible to find. With that in mind, a Singer buttonhole maker might be just the answer for you. Before buying it, however, make sure it works with your Elna shank. This is the problem I discovered with the Singer Professional buttonhole maker.

    Happy stitching.

  5. Hello;

    I have singer multistitch sewing machine which i got with hem rolled foot and button hole foot;but now I want to add pressure foot such as ; :

    Gathering foot; cording foot;pin tuck foot ; twin needle ; darning foot
    Can u plz tell me that will all these foot be suitable and work on my machine.
    Please help need some suggestions

  6. I have a white model 81524. Most of the feet I have, have bars across them, presumably for snap on. What do they snap on to.

  7. I have been using a pfaff for about 20 years, and just got a Quilt expression. Can you tell me if the ‘snap-on’ feet for other machines will clip onto the pfaff? I wondered if there might be a difference in thickness – but don’t want to experiment and run the risk of upsetting the machine! Generic feet are so much more inexpensive than Pfaff feet!

  8. Hi – I am trying to identify a few presser feet that may be from an old Bernette I used to have. I have a Pfaff 1022 Hobby but I don’t thiink these feet go with it. Any ideas on where I can get info to help me identify them? I tried to post them on the Bernina facebook page and they deleted the post immediately.

  9. What kind of presser foot, (walking foot), do I get for a singer one plus 2013. It has snap on feet.
    Thanks for your help.

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