How to Use a Walking Foot for All Sewing? (Experience Professional Results)

Do you think a walking foot is only used by quilters? Rethink that! The walking foot’s even-feed feature may help you produce professional results on all of your sewing jobs, whether you’re topstitching through several layers or attempting to match plaids across seams.

Here are some ways you can use a walking foot for sewing apparel!

Not only is a walking foot useful for quilting!

When stitching layers of fabric and bathing through the machine while quilting, the walking foot is sometimes defined as a sewing machine foot that feeds the fabric layers uniformly. The machine’s feed dogs move the bottom layer of fabric at a constant speed while the foot grabs hold of the top layer and assists in advancing it beneath the needle. This avoids shifting and puckering that could happen when using a regular presser foot. This characteristic makes the walking foot equally helpful for quilting and sewing clothing.

What is a walking foot?

First, let’s discuss the appearance and operation of a walking foot. Compared to other sewing machine feet, this one is large and intimidating-looking, yet its workings are actually fairly straightforward. Its set of teeth, which rotate in a circle above and below the foot’s surface depending on where the sidebar is positioned, serve as an identifying feature. Observe how the teeth shift upward when the bar is lowered and down when it is raised.

You must place this movable bar so it sits on top of your machine’s needle bar when you attach a walking foot to it. The walking foot’s teeth will move in time with your machine’s feed dogs underneath the fabric as the needle goes up and down while you sew.

Here is a simplified illustration showing how a walking foot and a standard presser foot move the fabric in different ways. A standard presser foot travels along the top of your fabric and presses down on it, which means it may occasionally push AGAINST the fabric, particularly bulky fabric, as the feed dogs attempt to move the cloth toward the machine’s back. The top layer is scooted at the same speed as the bottom layer by a walking foot, which eliminates the misalignment.

When to use a walking foot for garment sewing?

1. Navigating Thick Seams

One advantage of a walking foot is that it has an additional set of teeth that enable it to climb over bulky seams, like those where a waistband meets a skirt’s side seams or a fly opening meets a pair of pants’ crotch seams.

These difficult spots could cause a standard presser foot to become trapped, resulting in a wild bird’s nest of thread underneath. A walking foot makes it easier for the cloth to go “uphill” by improving its grip. This is excellent for topstitching thicker materials, like this canvas for home decor:

2. Alignment Of Seam Intersections

When sewing a garment with a waist seam or separate cuffs, it’s crucial to match those seam crossings to produce a continuous, aesthetically acceptable horizontal or vertical line. Even if everything is properly pinned, a standard presser foot may slightly nudge the top layer forward as you sew, resulting in seam lines that don’t exactly line up on the correct side of the garment. A discrepancy of even 1/8′′ might be ugly.

There is nothing more annoying than having to go back and undo a part of your stitching to correct such a small mistake, but there is also nothing more rewarding than getting flawless seam intersection lines the first time. The layers will be sewed equally as long as the seams are fastened firmly, which is where a walking foot comes in handy.

3. Coordinating Stripes, Plaids, And Other Prints.

A walking foot is also useful when sewing clothing with directional prints or patterns that must match across large seams. Using a walking foot guarantees that the prints will be sewn with perfect alignment if you take the time to cut and pin your pieces.

4. Bindings, Hems, or Plackets With Topstitching

Have you ever discovered enigmatic drag lines inside a hem or button placket after topstitching? A burst of steam can occasionally settle the cloth, but other times the issue still exists.

A typical presser foot may move the top layer of cloth faster than the bottom layer when a layer of fabric is folded under and topstitched, even with careful prepressing. When you stitch farther from the folded edge, such as on a deep hem, the likelihood of this happening increases. A walking foot aids in maintaining uniformity between all layers for beautiful, flat edges.

Look at the two bias binding-facing-finished necklines below and compare them. The samples on the left and right were stitched using standard presser feet and walking feet, respectively. The binding sewn with a regular presser foot has obvious draglines at the curves where the top layer was pushed ahead of the bottom layer, while the one sewn with a walking foot lays much flatter between the stitching and curved edge, all other factors being equal, including fabric, needle, pressing technique, and stitch length.

5. Sewing Knits

Knit fabrics tend to “expand” beneath the presser foot as you stitch because of how flexible they are. This is especially true when sewing with very flexible fabrics, like rib knit or stitching in the direction of stretch, such as on the hem of a T-shirt. Knit textiles are moved more uniformly by a walking foot, preventing them from stretching out of shape.

Below is a rib knit fabric that I hemmed using a walking foot first and then a conventional presser foot (bottom piece). The other factors remained unchanged. You’ll see that the hem was stretched out and wavy because of the usual presser foot. The second sample stayed flat.

What Stitch Do You Use With A Walking Foot?

Only forward stitching can be done with a walking foot since the top feed dogs will keep moving your top cloth forward. However, I’ve discovered that to backstitch at the beginning of a seam, my walking foot can manage up to three stitches backward.

Are Feed Dogs Fed Up Or Down When Using A Walking Foot?

Feed dogs must be up and active to sew evenly spaced stitches. The device is intended to be used in this manner. However, many quilters assume that changing this step will somehow damage their machine because they have been taught that they must drop their feed dog for free motion quilting. In fact, it helps your stitches to be evenly spaced stitches.


In conclusion, if you sew garments with a walking foot, be sure to use caution when threading the walking foot through the fabric. Do not over-stretch the fabric or insert the foot too deeply into the fabric. It is important to have a plan when Sewing garments as walking feet can be used in conjunction with a foot buffer and/or safety belt to help avoid any potential injuries.

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