What is a Walking Foot Sewing Machine & How Does It Work

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On quilts, knit fabrics, leather, and when sewing through multiple layers of fabric, a walking foot sewing machine helps create even stitches.

Do you use a walking foot attachment when you sew? The walking foot is a useful accessory that might not be included with your sewing machine but that you should still have. On my sewing machine, I ADORE using the walking foot, also referred to as an even feed or dual feed foot. Over the years, I’ve been asked why I’m using it for a particular project.

What is a Walking Foot Sewing Machine

1. Quilting With a Walking Foot

The walking foot is a must-have accessory for straight line quilting because it keeps the layers together and prevents the top layer from getting pushed ahead of the middle and bottom layers. For instance, when you reverse the direction of your quilted lines, this stops puckering and tiny pleats from forming. Whether I’m straight line quilting a quilt, a mini-quilt, a tote bag, a basket, or anything else, I always use the walking foot. It functions when machine quilting with the stitch-in-the-ditch (SID) technique, in which the stitching is placed either in the seam or very near the seam line. Additionally, it works for gently curved shapes like wavy line quilting. It’s important to move slowly and steadily throughout.

2. Sewing on Quilt Binding

When sewing on quilt binding (or mini-quilt binding), use a walking foot to prevent the top layer from shifting ahead of the bottom layer, which leads to puckers and wonky binding. This is an easy fix for a common problem.

3. Sewing Straps With a Walking Foot

Have the straps of your handbag ever developed strange ripples? Due to your altered stitching direction, this may have occurred. Layers of fabric feed through the machine at the same rate thanks to the walking foot. This gets rid of the irksome ripples.

4. Other Multi-layer Projects

These include adding substantial sew-in interfacing (like ByAnnies Soft and Stable) to tote bags, wallets, purses, and handbags. Another project that will be simpler and appear more professional when you use a walking foot is creating handmade quilted soft luggage. I frequently change to my walking foot if my regular presser foot appears to be pushing the top layer rather than gliding over it.

5. Sewing on Stretch Fabrics

When sewing with stretch fabrics, some people swear by using a walking foot. The sewing machine you use, in my opinion, makes a difference. I never thought my old Bernina 1530 made a significant enough difference for me. Then I purchased a Janome Memory Craft 14,000 that had two different walking feet (a regular walking foot and a narrow walking foot). It sews stretch fabrics beautifully with a walking foot – so I use it! Let us know what you think if you have a walking foot and use it when sewing with knits. To learn more about sewing with stretch fabrics, read my other post ‘How to Sew Stretch Fabrics.’

6. Specialty Fabrics

What is a Walking Foot Sewing Machine & How Does It Work

Other times, you may discover that the walking foot is the attachment you require. With leather, vinyl, and heavier materials like upholstery or waterproof canvas, it works beautifully for sewing. You should use a walking foot when sewing cushions for outdoor furniture or awnings (awning covers). With the use of the waking foot attachment, any project involving thick fabric, such as tents or teepees, will appear more expertly made. Another project that will look better if the walking foot is substituted for the standard presser foot is hemming sail cloth or sun screens. Many bag makers use the walking foot as their primary foot.

Matching seams can be extremely difficult if you sew with plaids or stripes. Stripes that don’t perfectly converge at the seam are a major issue for many sewers. Use of a walking foot eliminates the shifting of fabric during sewing which causes this misalignment at the seam. Though it is not as obvious as when sewing with plaids or stripes, this occurs when using solid colors and unrelated prints. Stop avoiding using beautiful plaid and striped clothing and put on your walking shoe.

With your sewing machine, did a walking foot come? If not, you’re probably able to find one on Amazon. You must know whether your machine has a high shank or a low shank before ordering a walking foot attachment. I prefer to buy specialty feet from shops with knowledgeable salespeople so that I can be sure I am picking the right item for my machine. You can find these by searching online for sewing machine accessory sellers; these don’t have to be nearby establishments. Most websites list the store’s phone number so you can call and speak with someone who can advise you on the best option for your machine. Some manufacturers’ attachments are interchangeable, so without assistance you might not know which to pick. In other words, a Janome foot might work with your Juki.

Over time, sewing machine features change. Older machines probably require a walking foot attachment whereas some newer and specialty machines have an integrated walking foot or even feed system that can be engaged and disengaged. Some people love the integrated feature while others prefer to use an attachment. You can find lists of machines to research by searching for “walking foot sewing machine” online. Some of these are domestic appliances with lots of features, while others are industrial-style machines. Be on the lookout for this feature if you plan to purchase a new machine. Once you get comfortable using a walking foot, you will use it for most of your sewing projects.

How Does a Walking Foot Work?

A walking foot has its own set of feed dogs. You can see how the presser foot has openings if you look at the illustration of a walking foot below. In time with the machine’s feed dogs, the white ridged parts pass through those openings and pull the top fabric. Teeth that grip the fabric are also on the feed dogs on the presser foot. To keep the foot in sync with the feed dogs and stitches, the lobster claw-shaped piece on the side of the foot fits over the needle bar and moves up and down with it.

When to Use a Walking Foot?

Think a walking foot is a quilters-only sewing tool? Don’t be fooled; it is unquestionably a great tool to assist a quilter with all types of machine sewing, including stitch-in-the-ditch stitching, straight-line quilting, adding a quilt binding, and quilting with minky or other slick or knit fabrics. The walking foot’s even feed function can help you achieve professional results, though, whenever you are topstitching through multiple layers or attempting to match plaids across seams! Below I have listed the most important uses for the walking foot.

Matching Plaids, Stripes and Other Prints

When sewing a garment with a directional print or pattern that needs to match across major seams, a walking foot is helpful. The walking foot will ensure that the pieces move through your sewing machine without shifting if you take the time to cut and pin your pieces so the prints will align nicely across seams.

Sewing Knits

Knit fabrics tend to, well, stretch under the presser foot as you sew because of their stretchy nature. This is especially true when you’re sewing along the direction of stretch, such as on the hem of a T-shirt, or sewing with very stretchy fabrics, such as rib knit. To prevent knit fabrics from stretching out of shape, a walking foot aids in moving them evenly.

Sewing Slippery Fabric

When working with slippery fabrics, the walking foot eliminates the need for excessive pining. This is particularly helpful because the majority of those slippery fabrics, like satin, are easily harmed by pins.

Topstitching Bindings and Hems

Ever after you topstitched a hem or button placket down, did you discover some enigmatic drag lines? A burst of steam can occasionally help the fabric settle, but occasionally the issue still exists.

A typical presser foot may scoot the top layer of fabric more quickly than the bottom layer when a layer of fabric is folded under and topstitched, even with careful prepressing. The risk for this is higher when you’re stitching farther away from the folded edge, such as on a deep hem. A walking foot assists in maintaining uniformity between all layers for nice, flat edges.

Stitch in the Ditch Machine Quilting

When two quilting fabrics are joined, the “well of the seam” is where the stitch-in-the-ditch is placed. Ideally, this quilting will not show. There is no need to mark; simply adhere to the piecing lines. When sewing thicker fabrics, you have greater control over the fabric and a clear view of your path when using an open-toe walking foot.

Machine Quilting

Layers of fabric and batting are kept together while quilting with the walking foot. When machine quilting large, gently curved lines and straight lines, it is your best friend.

When Not to Use a Walking Foot

  • The sewing foot is not intended to be used in reverse. The fabric will be moved forward and backward by the machine feed dogs and the top feed dogs of the walking foot.
  • Walking foot assistance for free-motion quilting prevents side-to-side movement of the fabric.
  • Wide decorative stitches: The walking foot prevents wide decorative stitches from being used because they require side-to-side fabric motion.

How to Set Up a Walking Foot

You should refer to your machine’s manual to set up the walking foot. But here’s how it works for a manual foot like mine. Some walking feet need to be plugged into the machine. I must first unscrew the presser foot shank that is attached by a snap. I have these tiny screwdrivers for this purpose in my machine storage box.

The walking foot’s claw should be placed on the needle bar after the shank has been removed, and the foot should then be screwed onto the machine. Make sure the shank screw is tightened as well as the needle clamp screw. The lobster claw on the needle bar can cause the screw to come loose and the needle to fall out, which is one issue with this kind of foot.

How to Feed Your Fabric Evenly

Once the walking foot is attached to the machine, it should coordinate with the feed dogs to feed your fabric evenly. I suggest starting out by stitching more slowly due to the motion that this presser foot involves. This will enable all the components to operate without difficulty and feed your fabric for lovely, even stitches. On small pieces of fabric that closely resemble your finished project, try moving more quickly. In other words, if you want to see how it will work when quilting, you’ll have to use scraps of all the quilt layers. Pins or clips holding your fabric together will also help make sure they feed evenly.

All-Purpose Foot Vs. Walking Foot

What happens is that the piece of fabric touching the feed teeth is being held by the presser foot and the second piece is just along for the ride. The top layer of fabric doesn’t move at the same rate and when you finish the seam, the two layers of fabric are slightly mismatched. Depending on the fabric being sewn, how much. This can occasionally not be an issue, but it can also have negative effects on the final product. This issue can be solved by using a walking foot because it serves as an additional set of feed teeth for the top layer of fabric. The walking foot presses the two layers of fabric together and moves them at the same speed.

Why this is significant for quilting is fairly obvious. The fabric is heavier and more prone to shifting and sliding because it has batting between two layers of fabric, in addition to two layers of fabric. The stitches may pucker and become distorted as a result. However, a walking foot is still very helpful even if you are not a quilter.


The walking foot can be used for any project where fabrics are likely to slip, and is most commonly used for:

  • Lighter weight knit fabrics, to prevent stretching
  • ideal pattern matching, such as on plaid fabrics
  • When a quilt is stitched together, it helps to prevent the layers from shifting.