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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Getting to grips with an unfamiliar sewing foot

Do you use more than a couple of the sewing feet that come with  your machine? I must admit that I didn't.

The walking foot on a Janome sewing machine

I swapped the standard foot with the walking foot (also known as a even feed foot or dual feed foot) for most of my straight stitching: preventing slippage of one fabric layer is a wonderful thing!  I don't miss the standard foot at all.

I also use my zip foot for sewing in zips, obviously, - this tends to be the only thing that I remove my walking foot for.

But I didn't use all these other sewing feet except for trying out the blind hem foot (which works fabulously!) - the other day I was thinking about why.  I have a feeling that I somehow thought that I should be able to do all kinds of things with just these two feet, almost as if that was some kind of challenge.  How silly!

The other reason is likely a fear of a bad experience, that trying would make me feel very dejected (yes, call me chicken).  Just ask me about my experiences sewing in invisible zips because I didn't realise that I had the wrong foot. Yah, that one.

But the thing is that a specialised sewing foot can make your sewing much easier, if you give yourself enough time to experiment with it and learn how to use it without wanting to throw your machine out of the window...  You know, when things go really badly.

It is very easy to get discouraged when sewing isn't going well and you don't know why.  One of the more horrible feelings that could make you feel so wretched that you stop sewing. Let's not do that!

So how can you get to grips with a different foot without feeling like a right fool?

Sewing machine feet come in two different kinds on the main: those you screw on and those that snap on. Your machine will only take one rather than the other.  Make sure that the manufacturer of the foot lists it as suitable for your specific machine model - if you're not sure that you want to spend the money on the genuine part, maybe you can borrow it from a friend or try it out at their place?  It'll give you the best idea of whether it's a good investment. A generic foot may sound good but if it doesn't work then it's wasted money.

But let's say that you have the right foot and you installed it - that alone can take quite a while!  I try to do something unfamiliar only when I have lots of time and there's no pressure.

My very best tip is to check that a) you picked the right machine setting for your purpose, and b) that the machine needle will not hit the foot itself.

To do this safely: hold on to the sewing thread at the back (or use a starter patch) and then move your machine needle by turning the wheel by hand.  If the foot or the setting is wrong then the needle could hit the foot itself on any downward motion that make up the stitch.

Some feet work with a straight stitch and others with a zigzag stitch - that's why it is important to manually move the needle through a whole repeat of the stitch.

Use a test patch of fabric because it is much easier to manoeuvre a small piece.  Check for tips for using your specific foot online and on YouTube - there may be a trick or hint that's not obvious, e.g. that the fabric needs to touch the guide's side of the narrow hem foot when you guide it into the roll-over bit.  A rolled hem foot may behave similarly, please check.

Use your slowest sewing speed if you can adjust it and then play around some. Use a different kind of fabric if your first sample fabric turns out as stubborn and non-userfriendly, see what works for you.  Once you get to grips with another fabric, you can go back to the one you'll want to use.

If the foot isn't doing what you thought it would - there is a chance that it is a different foot or that the fabric needs to lie a different way to feed under the needle. YouTube videos can be particularly helpful for that.

For example a blind hem foot works by catching just a couple of threads of a fabric fold - so the fabric has to lie the right way.  I find it quite counter-intuitive and tend to try it the wrong way round first. Ugh.

The way you pin a seam can make a difference: a narrow hem foot won't work with pins put in perpendicular to the edge, you need to start off with just the one pin placed parallel to the edge, - any additional pins are in the way because you need to hold the fabric to guide it. I think this probably applies to a rolled hem as well.

There is a good article on the Threads website about the narrow foot:

The start of the three page article, and here is the link to all the pages. I think the first link has a bit more information.

What sewing feet have you tried and do you have any advice on how best to use them? Please share!

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