These Feet Are Made for Quilting: How to Choose and Use a Walking Foot

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Meet the walking foot: Besides having one of the greatest names ever for a sewing-machine accessory, it's also your best friend when you're straight-line quilting or adding a binding.

If you're already using a walking foot and just need to troubleshoot, or want tips on which kind to buy, we've got you covered.

What Exactly is a Walking Foot?

A walking foot, also called a quilting foot, is an accessory with built-in feed dogs to guide two or more layers of fabric through your sewing machine . The foot evenly feeds the backing, batting and quilt top through the machine, and you can also use it to quilt gentle curves or to machine quilt in the ditch. A walking foot works well for:

What Should I Look for When I'm Buying a Walking Foot?

First of all, it needs to be compatible with your sewing machine. Make sure you know your machine's make and model. If you can't get the right foot from your manufacturer, a generic one might work (with some caveats; see the next tip below). First you'll want to know if your machine is a high-shank or low-shank, so check the manual. Some walking feet also come with a channel guide attachment, which fits on the side and helps quilters with parallel lines. Look for an open-toe walking foot if you do a lot of stitch-in-the-ditch , since it'll help you see exactly where the needle hits the fabric.

Does a Walking Foot Ever Wear Out or Break?

Yes, unfortunately. It's a mechanical part, so it won't last forever. Whether you're sewing with a plastic or metal walking foot, don't be surprised if the bottom part breaks off after a lot of use. You might end up with a chip in part of the plastic, or the foot itself can break if you try to sew in reverse (don't!).

Another thing that can break: the plastic housing. If you notice a crack in the housing that surrounds the walking foot, you may be able to contact your dealer and get a replacement for just the plastic case.

Now, here's the caveat about generic walking feet: Since they can be cheaply made, they tend to break more often than ones you get from your sewing machine manufacturer. Members of The Quilting Board recommend buying directly from your sewing machine dealer and avoiding generic versions.

How Do you Maintain Your Walking Foot?

You're already cleaning your sewing machine (right?). You should do that for your walking foot too. Cleaning the foot regularly keeps it free of fabric dust and other remnants, and you can use a vacuum and cotton swab, as Lilypad Quilting readers do . If you're having constant issues with your walking foot or sewing machine, it's probably time to call in the professionals. Take the machine or foot to your local sewing machine dealer or repair shop and have it cleaned and serviced. You'll be glad you did.

Any Tips for Straight-Line Quilting with a Walking Foot?

Check out Megan Bohr's favorite tips for straight-line quilting on a home machine. She starts with a spray-basted quilt and a new needle. She also recommends keeping a slow, steady pace and marking your quilt lines until you get comfortable with the technique.

Feel like you've got your feet under you now? Then start walking!

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These Feet Are Made for Quilting: How to Choose and Use a Walking Foot