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I have to confess that even though I sew garments and quilt regularly, a good percentage of the presser feet that came with my machine have lingered, lonely and unused, in my storage compartment. They look like weird torture devices or appear like they’d be terribly difficult to use. I need only imagine the crunch of needle on metal, the result of careless stitch selection or insufficient attention paid to my sewing machine user manual, to deter me from getting too adventurous with my presser foot.
But as I’ve found (with very few exceptions), presser feet are designed to make our lives easier, believe it or not. Over the three to four years I’ve had my fancy machine, I’ve ventured out of my comfort zones with several patterns and techniques, and I’ve really started to feel, finally, that I’m using my machine to its best potential.
Curious about how to use your weird presser feet? See below for a quick guide to the ones you’re likely to encounter or need the most! (Note: all the feet featured here are Janome, because that’s how I roll).
Rolled Hem Foot (AKA “Superman”)
This baby really introduced me to the beauty of the specialized presser foot. See that little swirl there at the middle, not unlike the Man of Steel’s little curl on his forehead? It rolls the fabric into a tight little hem as it guides it through, and is perfect for really flimsy, delicate fabrics like silk and rayon. Ever wonder how they manage those teeny 1/8″ hems on your favorite blouses? Now you know.
Stitch-in-the-Ditch Foot (AKA “Ghost”)
You might have heard of this presser foot as an “edge joining” foot as well, but I like “ditch,” mostly so I can yell “where my ditch at?” when I need it. The ditch foot has a metal guide at the front to line up in the “ditch” of your seam. Adjusting your needle width, you can choose either to stitch directly in that seam line for invisibility (hence “ghost”), or on either side of the seam for an echo effect. Note the wide hole for the needle to give you that option. The openness of this hole is mostly what separates this foot from…
Blind Hem Foot (AKA “Go Shorty”)
If you look at a pair of non-cuffed dress pants, you’ll see the hem stitching on the inside, but you won’t on the outside. The blind hem foot has become my BFF since I started sewing; at 5’4″, I often need to hem pants and this little friend helps me do it professionally. It’s saved me tons in tailoring costs. You’ll notice that the metal guide goes all the way back, under the stitching hole; this helps make the little “catching” stitch that’s characteristic of the blind hem. You could technically use the BHF as a ditch foot, but you’d have to worry about that little piece in the middle. If you have both, it’s best to use them for their designed purposes.
Overedge/Overcast Feet (AKA “The Twinsies”)
Overcasting is an alternative way to seam and finish fabric edges all in one go, similar to how a serger works. Unless you’re a fellow Janome user, you probably just have one foot for making overcast stitches. The brush on the right foot is apparently supposed to add some sort of friction to compensate for the needle going off the edge of the fabric rather than passing through; the foot on the left is supposed to help you achieve Janome’s approximation to a professional overlock stitch. In any event, both presser feet are handy and I use at least one of them just about every time I sew a garment.
Open Toe Foot (AKA “Wall-E Arm”)
If we’re getting all technical here, this little attachment hooks up to the spring-loaded free-motion quilting foot (which is cool in itself), so it’s really like a shoe. One of the awesome things about the Janome is that the FMQ foot is convertible, so you can use the sort of attachment that you like. The round closed-toe attachment, similar to a traditional darning foot for those of you that do a lot of darning (anyone? Bueller?) keeps threads from snagging on the foot, while this one allows more visibility for free motion.
Clear View Foot (AKA “The Starship Enterprise”)
The clear view foot is bizarre, no doubt about it, but its odd shape actually fulfills quite a few purposes for free-motion quilting. The large base allows good contact with the quilt top, giving you more control, and it’s translucent so you can actually see what you’re doing. The markings allow for better positioning and accuracy as well for projects such as echo quilting. I know that some manufacturers have similar feet, but Janome is apparently no longer producing the Starship Enterprise. BOO, JANOME. MAKE IT SEW! However, there exist on the market many other clear quilting feet with more traditional shapes.
Cording Foot (AKA “Rough Rider”)
Ah, the cording foot. For all of your…cording needs. I’m really only including this one because the manufacturers really like throwing them in with the other presser feet. Full disclosure: I’ve never used it. The rough little bumps at the front of the foot are actually channels for tiny cording to fit through. Use it with strands of cording and the appropriate cording stitch on your machine and you’ll secure the cording to your fabric. RST challenge: find a modern use for cording and give me a reason to use this foot. Still pondering.
There were many, many other options for this post (let’s not even start with the crazy that is the buttonhole foot), but I decided to keep it down to the eight wackiest. Do you have a favorite sewing machine foot that’s not included here?
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