Feed dogs up or down for free machining, and bouncing feet.

My new sewing machine has 3 feet options for free machining, which made me wonder what the difference between them all was. I’ve tried them of course and they all work fine, but I’m perplexed at which is the best option to choose so did some investigating.

Here’s what my collection looks like.

blog photos-001

Whilst most of the differences are to do with fitting the machine and visibility, those with springs on them are designed to bounce!  In other words the foot moves up and down in sync with the needle – when the needle is down the foot is flat on the fabric, and when the needle is up, the foot is raised too. This allows the quilt or thick fabrics to move under the machine easily.  So if you have a spring, you probably bounce!

The last two feet in my collage above, don’t have springs, and are designed to skim the surface of the fabric as you stitch.  The needle goes up and down as normal, but the foot remains at a fixed height (which you can normally adjust ) You don’t get the distraction of the foot bouncing up and down so it’s a little easier to see. My new machine sets this height automatically which stops something called “flagging” (poor stitching caused by the quilt not being held properly by the foot, and moving whilst the machine is stitching)  The automatic adjustment by the machine means that you can skim over lumps where the seams meet.

To be honest, both work well, and it must be down to personal preference I think. It’s more important to be able to see properly.  Some have open “c” shaped feet, others clear plastic with or without markings which are there to help with things like echo quilting.  Personally, I don’t find the clear plastic feet that helpful. The plastic isn’t really clear, so these days I’ve opted for the one marked “6d” above.

Feed dogs down?

Most classes, manufacturers of machines and machine feet, magazines and articles, will tell you to put the feed dogs down when you sew. This is so the quilt can move freely under the needle.  You’ll need to practice with your machine of course, but if you want to do straight lines, try it with the feed dogs up. It works well on my machine and is a sort of “half-way” between normal feet and free machining, and gives you extra control.  You turn the way you would do normally, with the needle down and foot up. It might not work well on your machine – I can’t say – but do give it a try.

Again, mostly out of habit, I always have the feed dogs down, even with straight lines, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re free machining away happily, and suddenly need a very straight line across your quilt.  Doing something like filling a big empty space on a dark quilt, with straight lines, whilst using white thread, is bound to bring on the wobbles in most people!!