Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sewing Machine Feet: What I Use and How I Use Them


A recent Instagram post about a new foot I picked up for my Janome Horizon 7700 and a resulting conversation at a guild meeting has me thinking that a post might be in order about what feet I use on my machine, and specifically how I use them. Because, like many things in life, I don't always use them in the prescribed manner. : ) So let's take a look, shall we?

My machine had the fabulous selling feature of coming with about a gajillion feet—so it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I spend 99% of my time using the same four feet. And two of them weren't even included in the package that came with the machine. : ) Figures, right?

For piecing:


Acufeed 1/4-Inch Foot 
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
I use this foot more than any in the drawer. This is my machine's version of a walking foot, but I don't use it for quilting! I use it for piecing. Why? Because when you're using a standard presser foot, it can push the top and bottom layers of fabric at different rates of speed, which of course can bump your seams out of alignment. This is especially true on long seams, such as those between sashing and rows of blocks—the longer the seam, the more out-of-whack it gets. By using your walking foot (or a dual-feed system if your machine has one), you don't have that problem. In fact, you can even sometimes compensate for slight piecing problems by forcing seams to align when they wouldn't on their own. It's a beautiful thing. : )

Just be aware that on some machines your seams might get a little wavy, especially when you try to force seams to line up when they are just too mis-aligned. I've had slightly wavy seams in the past, but they always seem to quilt up just fine, so I don't worry about it. Another problem you might run into is that some walking feet tend to be big and bulky, making it difficult to achieve a 1/4-inch seam, and many machines don't have a compatible 1/4-inch walking foot (I don't understand why more machines don't have this option available). This is just one of many reasons I love my 7700—Janome's Acufeed dual-feed system works like a charm, and there are a wide variety of feet available for it.

1/4-Inch Piecing (O2) Foot
Works with most Janome models and other brands with low-shank snap-on feet, such as Brother, Baby Lock, Elna, and Kenmore
This is my secondary piecing foot. For short seams or blocks that don't require a lot of accuracy, I sometimes use this foot. But mostly I stick with the Acufeed 1/4-inch foot.

For straight-line quilting:


Basic Acufeed Foot
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700
This is the standard Acufeed foot that comes with the 7700 and 6600. Combined with the quilting guide bar, it does the job, but this is the one machine foot I'm not completely happy with. For one thing, the guide bar is way too loose when inserted into the Acufeed foot. It's the only serious design flaw in the 7700, in my opinion. I actually have to tape the guide onto the foot with masking tape before I start quilting, or it can get bumped out of place much too easily.

Also, this foot doesn't make it easy if you're trying to quilt straight lines a certain distance away from a seam. There's no perfect place on the foot with which to line up the seam. And the 1/4" Acufeed foot that I use for piecing isn't helpful here either—it's just too difficult to quilt with that pointy 1/4" metal guide on the foot. I'm thinking about trying the Acufeed Open Toe Foot for straight-line quilting—I'll let you know what I think if I eventually pick that one up.

For free-motion quilting:

Darning foot
This little beauty works perfectly for me. This is a pretty standard foot as far as FMQ goes, and it's the one that came with my machine. If you want to do free-motion quilting, this is what you need (or the equivalent for your machine). The spring-loaded ones are generally best, given the option.

For binding:


Acufeed 1/4-Inch Foot 
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
And my hardest working foot is back on duty when it's time to bind. : ) In addition to piecing, this foot is indispensable for stitching the binding onto the front of your quilt. An accurate 1/4-inch seam on your binding is crucial, especially if you plan to machine-stitch the binding onto the other side of the quilt as well. (Although, once again, walking feet for most machines aren't designed with 1/4-inch piecing in mind.)

Acufeed Ditch Quilting Foot
Works with Janome 6600 and 7700; a slightly different version is available for the 8900 and 12000
If you want to machine-bind your quilts, you must spring for this foot! This foot was the subject of the Instagram post that got this whole discussion rolling. I don't do much ditch quilting, but I do stitch in the ditch when I'm machine-binding (I stitch in the ditch on the front of the quilt in order to catch the binding around the back). So it occurred to me that the Acufeed Ditch Quilting foot might be perfect for that purpose—and sure enough, it was.

Just position the metal guide in the ditch between the quilt and the binding, and your needle will follow along and stay nicely in the ditch. I was able to sew much faster than I have in the past with machine binding, and it was more accurate too. (Edited to add: I use Clover Wonder Clips to clip my binding down for ditch-stitching. They work great!)

Bonus tip:

Are the snap-on feet on your Janome getting too loose? See that little screw on the front of the shank? You can adjust that screw to tighten things up again. Mine got so loose that the snap-on feet were literally falling off the shank before I finally looked closely and realized I could adjust the screw.

Of course, if tightening the screw a little bit helps, then tightening it more must be even better, right? Wrong! Ask me how I know. : ) Yep, I stripped that little bugger. And rather than go to the trouble of finding another tiny set-screw, I ended up just ordering a whole new shank. Lesson learned. A quarter-turn or half-turn is probably all you need to tighten up those feet.

I hope these tips help! Happy sewing.

33 comments:

knottygnome said...

i have the accufeed open toe and i much prefer it over the walking foot that comes with the machine. i use the 1/4" accufeed for piecing but for almost any other kind of sewing i use the open toe. it's great for topstitching bags and garments b/c you can see where you're going.

Jennifer said...

I have a 7700 and could have written this post. I use all these feet in these ways for these reasons. I also have the open toe Accufeed foot and it is great for straight line quilting. I also use the blind hem foot for top stitching all the time, indispensable!

Heather said...

I'm really interested in getting a ditch foot for my pfaff. This may be a dumb question, but I want to make sure I understand how you're doing the binding. Are you first stitching the binding onto the front of the quilt, then wrap it around (and clip in place, I assume), but then you're stitching AGAIN from the front (in the ditch) to catch the loose binding with the bobbin thread on the back? As opposed to stitching the loose binding from the back? It seems it would make me so nervous to not be able to see for sure that I was catching the binding on the back, but does the increased accuracy of the ditch foot eliminate that worry? If so, I'm buying this foot immediately! Thanks so much for your help.

And by the way, I use the 1/4" quilting foot on my pfaff with the dual-feed system engaged, and it has made my accuracy so, so much better! I kept wondering why I couldn't get perfectly matched seams before. Having the right equipment makes a huge difference.

Leanne said...

It is time for me to order some more feet for my Horizon, thank you for the post. I did not realize there was a 1/4" foot for the acufeed.

The Cozy Pumpkin said...

I have the same machine and do the exact same! It changed my piecing and I only wish I had done it sooner. Wonderful post!!! :)

Lee said...

Yes, you're right, that's exactly how I'm using the ditch foot. It's true, you don't know for sure whether you're catching the binding on the back, and that's what makes machine binding so challenging. For "important" quilts, I still hand-stitch the binding on the back, because I'm just not good enough at machine-binding yet. But for quilts I know are just for me and my family, or for baby quilts for friends, etc., I'll machine stitch the binding. The ditch quilting foot really helps with not going out of the ditch—whenever you veer a little out of the ditch, the stitches are more visible, and that looks bad from the front. Plus, I was able to sew faster because it wasn't so difficult to stay in that ditch.

But the ditch foot doesn't necessarily help with catching all the binding on the back. To do a good job of catching the binding on the back, I think a really accurate 1/4" seam when you're sewing the binding onto the quilt the FIRST time around is what matters more! Because that's what creates the ditch you're sewing in during the second round of stitching. If that seam is always exactly 1/4" from the edge of the quilt, then theoretically, when the binding folds around, that ditch should always be in the same place compared to the binding on the back. Theoretically. : ) Hopefully that makes sense.

So that's why I use the 1/4" foot first and the ditch foot second when machine binding. Beyond that, I think it just takes lots of practice. Mine gets a little better each time I do it. Good luck!

Lee said...

Also I should say that there are lots of different ways to machine-bind a quilt. Some sew from the front, others from the back. Some intentionally miss the binding and the ditch on the front. I've tried many of these methods, and stitching in the ditch on the front happens to be the way I prefer. But you should google machine binding tutorials and try other methods and see which one works best for you.

Marilyn said...

I use an Elna 7300 (basically the same machine as the Janome 6600) and I have been thinking bout ordering the Accufeed Ditch quilting foot..now I really have the urge!!! Love the Accufeed system!!!

Mama Spark said...

Ok so now I wonder if anyone knows the corresponding feet using a Bernina? Thanks for the info!

Lee said...

I didn't know any Elnas had the Acufeed system! Good to know, thank you! : )

Irelle said...

I have been doing machine binding for ages but typically sew from the back and put thread in the bobbin that blends on the front. I like the idea of using my Ditch foot and trying it from the front. Do you pin or clip the binding in place all the way around before you start the ditch stitching? Thanks.

Anjeanette said...

Thanks so much! I did see the conversation on IG. I had forgotten to write it down. Now I have placed the two acufeed feet I don't own, on my wish list;)

Lee said...

Yes, I use Clover Wonder Clips to clip the binding in place! In fact, I've now added that to the post. Thanks for asking!

Erica said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have a 6600 and I essentially do the same thing, but I don't have the ditch foot (though I have never machine stitched binding) but that is one that I am going to have to add to my list. I used to use my accufeed 1/4" foot all of the time for piecing, but lately I use the O2 foot more often. The accufeed foot is so loud and I feel like I have a little more control over the fabric with the O2 foot. But I do use the accufeed foot any time that I have a seam that is even a little bit bulky.

Sara said...

I may try that ditch foot--if I have one for my Janome MC6500;)

~Diana said...

I have the same machine...need that ditch foot!

Lynne Tilley said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial. It answers lots of questions, and opens up the door for further exploring on what I need to try. We are all still learning, aren't we. It's an ongoing process.

jayne said...

This is a very informative post! I have the 6600 (which I love to pieces). I am so glad to hear I am not the only one with a wobbly guide bar...taping is what I do too! I thought I did something to mess it up, knowing you have the same issue lets me know I don't have to take the blame! Very interesting about the acufeed 1/4 foot! I didn't know about that one. I must get that and soon! Thank you for the bonus tip!
I'm so glad I saw this post!!! I know...It doesn't take much to excite me!

jan said...

Ok - thank you Lee! Thank you Lee! I have been wanting to stitch in the ditch binding from the front but I have never seen anyone say they did that! So I thought there must be a reason why they didn't and have always been too afraid to try. I always hand stitch to the back - I have an 84x84" quilt waiting on binding that I have been putting off, but now I can't wait to tackle it! Thank you for posting this!
xo jan@http://sewandsowfarm.blogspot.com/

Michele said...

Great post! Thanks for the tips.

I also have a 7700 and one thing that drives me NUTS is the large, low take up lever thing. When I'm quilting the bulk of the quilt raises it up and causes problems.

Does this happen to you or other 7700 owners? Do you know if there is a fix (like the screw tip you gave for wobbly feet)?

Barbara Beyun said...

Thanks for this post. I found it interesting because the sewing machine I have, the New Home Memory Craft 6500, is the 1989 version of your machine. Janome acquired New Home and I believe I could get versions of some of these feet to fit my machine. It looks like the darning foot is the same on my machine, but that adjusting screw is on the back of my machine.

Cher said...

super post! I have a 6600 as well and glad to hear about the 1/4 walking foot, will be looking into acquiring one now. Your photos were wonderful as well.
thanks so much for taking the time to put this on your blog!

cindi said...

great post... i also use the accufeed 1/4 inch foot for piecing. i just recently bought the 8900 and my dealer said it was a must have foot. i have so many feet for this machine and rarely use them. having been a babylock user for years, with a built in walking foot, i wasn't too sure about the accufeed feet. but they are great. highly recommend any janome user get the 1/4 accufeed walking foot

Pat said...

What a great post. I use the 1/4" and the regular accufeed feet. Sometimes, I'm tempted to rip that little metal guide off the 1/4" foot but I'm gradually getting used to it.

I had seen references to the open toe accufeed and the ditch foot and now I'm thinking I need to add to my collection of feet. :-)

Thanks so much for sharing.

Janet M said...

Lee this has been so helpful - your post & the comments. I immediately rushed to my sewing room with a small Phillips screwdriver and tightened the wobbly out! Unfortunately,I already removed the guide on my O2 foot because it kept getting caught when I sewed over thicker crossing seams. Maybe because it was loose! Oh well, too late on that one but I've had better results using it without the guide.

I have & LOVE the open toe Accufeed foot because of visibility but you have me considering both the 1/4" and ditch feet for machine sewing on binding which I've recently attempted to do. I had stayed away from these 2 feet with guides because of the trouble I had with the guide on the O2!

Thank you so much for the help,
Janet

Janine said...

Thanks for sharing this info. My Janome is too basic to use most of these (except the small 1/4 inch one, which my favourite foot) but when I upgrade I shall certainly revisit this post :)

sewtakeahike said...

Thank you for the info Lee!! I just bought a Horizon and this post helped immensely. I was having a difficult time figuring out what foot to use when but now I'm getting into the groove of it I think. I have one question. I am looking at purchasing the 1/4" accufeed foot and wonder if it requires changing the stitch plate to a special one every time you use it? Some of the feet online are sold with a stitch plate so I'm a but confused!

Lee said...

Hi Penny! Yeah, I don't know what the deal is with that stitch plate. My 1/4" Acufeed foot came with the stitch plate, but I've never used it. In fact, I didn't even look at it closely enough to know why it was included or what was different about it. I just knew I didn't want to mess around with changing it all the time. LOL. You do have to change the needle position to 5.5 when you use the 1/4" Acufeed foot, so I wonder if the stitch plate has different markings to reflect the different needle position? At any rate, I think the stitch plate is optional, and if you're able to find the foot sold without the stitch plate, I think it would be just fine for you to buy that. It's probably mostly just a money-maker for Janome, so buying the foot without it would bring down the price of the foot!

Good luck! I'm sure you'll love this machine once you get the hang of it! : ) Let me know if you have any other questions!

Lee said...

Hi Michele - that's true, the take-up lever is very large and low on this machine. I don't recall it ever causing problems for me during quilting though, since it's directly behind the shank and foot, which seems to keep it out of my way. But I guess it really depends on the type of quilting you're doing, the direction you're going, how you're moving the quilt through the machine, etc. So I'm not sure if there's a fix, but I suppose you could look at removing the take-up lever entirely, especially if you use the knee-bar (so you probably don't need the take-up lever very much anyway). Good luck!

Live a Colorful Life said...

Lee, thanks for this! I have the Elna eXcellence 740--I think they are like fraternal twin machines. Anyway, one of the problems I have had with piecing is that the pieces get a teensy out of alignment, so I will definitely switch to the Acufeed foot for that.

Question: What zipper foot do you use because I HATE the one that comes with the machine, the little fat one, so I just purchased a skinny zipper foot and we'll see if I like it any better...

Enid said...

Is your presser feet for your machine regular low shank? If so I could order these feet for my machine.

Holly Moore said...

What position do you set your needle at with the Accufeed 1/4 foot for 1/4 seams? I tried 4.5 like the manual said for the regular 1/4 foot and it seems a bit big. 5.0 seemed better just wondered about how you set it up.

teri zachary said...

Hi! I have the same machine you do.. i just got it a few months ago and now im having problems with the feed. Im about to pull my hair out. Your right i didnt get that foot with mine. I have GOT to get one. Im working on a quilt for a Christmas present and the way it looks it wont be done. Where did uou find your foot?

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