If you’ve ever sat at a sewing machine and stitched anything, you know that you need a presser foot. But, have you ever stopped to think about what the presser feet does and why you can’t sew without one? Have you ever wondered, just what does a presser foot do?

Keeping the Fabric from Traveling

First, it holds the fabric down as the needle pulls out of the fabric. When you don’t use a foot, the fabric travels up the needle (also called flagging), and makes it difficult for you to control your project as it is being stitched. Even feet designed for free-motion stitching do this. These spring-loaded feet don’t sit on the fabric, giving you room to move your project under the needle. But, when the needle pulls out of the fabric, the foot lowers momentarily to hold the fabric in place, then raises so the fabric can continue to be moved. This happens quickly and is part of the rhythm learned by beginning free-motion stitchers.

free-motion presser foot

Moving the Fabric Along

Secondly, the foot helps to move the fabric under the needle. The foot holds the fabric down on the feed teeth. As the teeth rotate to the back and then return to the front, the fabric moves under the needle for stitching.

decorative stitches

Controlling the Needle Tension

A third purpose of the foot is to work with the tension of the machine, so the thread can form stitches. When you raise the foot, you release the tension, and the machine does not form stitches. You lower the foot to engage the tension and sew stitches. When you thread your machine, the foot should be raised. The tension discs of your machine then open and the thread can get between them. When you lower the foot, the tension engages, and you are ready to sew.presser foot in the up position

Explore Your Creative Options

These are the basic functions of all presser feet but there are many specialty presser feet that have additional functions – holding cord for couching, making pintucks, sewing on buttons, stitching applique and dozens of other techniques. Exploring these additional feet can improve your sewing skills and open up a world of creative options for your sewing!

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