Walking foot quilting is just for straight lines, isn’t it? But I want to do some curved lines and squiggles. So I need to do free motion quilting, right?
Using a walking foot is easier than doing free motion quilting if you have problems controlling your quilt. You don’t have to push the quilt around. The foot helps to pull the quilt sandwich through the machine. This helps to keep the back from puckering due to the layers separating.
Let’s look at what a walking foot is, how it works and how to use it in quilting.
How A Walking Foot Works
When you are using a regular foot, you have the feed dogs up so it pulls the fabric through. If it is just two layers of material, like sewing clothing, both layers move together fairly easily. But you add a third layer of thicker batting, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This type of foot has a series of links on top that are moved by the up and down motion of the shaft at the same time as the needle goes up and down. These links are attached to a foot on top of the material that work like the feed dogs do. It pulls the top fabric along in time to the feed dogs. So you have all layers in between the moving foot and the feed dogs.
Because a walking foot pulls the top material along with the bottom material, it helps to prevent those little puckers that cause you to have to rip out some stitches. Even when you have your quilt sandwich pinned well, puckers can happen.
The fact that the feed dogs and the foot are pulling the fabric, the stitching will be even. This gives a more commercial feel to the stitching, but is better for those visual perfectionists. Free motion stitches are not always the same length. The length depends on how fast you move your hands and the speed of the needle.
Leah Day is one of the first quilters that I followed because she has a pleasant voice and doesn’t try to rush through the video. I will be linking to some of her articles and videos for further instruction for you.
A Walking Foot Is Great For Straight Lines
A walking foot also pulls the fabric straight through when it is in correct working order. So that makes it easier to follow straight lines. This is excellent for ‘stitching in the ditch’ since the ditch is normally a straight line.
If you want to quilt in a grid, there is no better foot to use. All you need to do is follow your lines that you put on the fabric.
One of my favorite quilters that has instructional videos is Leah Day. She teaches both walking foot and free motion quilting on your home machine. She has an article and video here about quilting gridlines.
If you want to do a zigzag pattern, you can either follow lines you have drawn or you can eyeball it. And echoing doesn’t get much easier as we will talk about in the next section. Leah also has a great article and video on her blog about zigzagging.
Echo Quilting Is Another Good Use
Because of the design of the walking foot, it is excellent for using to echo quilt. If you use the inside edge of the moving foot to follow your last stitching, you will get a ¼” spacing. Using the outside edge to follow the last stitching you will get ½” spacing.
The main thing to remember about using this type of foot is the fact that it won’t turn a tight curve without stopping and moving the fabric with the pressure off of the foot.
The direction that you do the echoing in can make a difference. If you do your stitching in a clockwise fashion starting from the inside, you will have less fabric between the foot needle and the machine throat.
Of course I have another article and video for you to read and watch from Leah on echoing.
Making Flowing Curves With A Walking Foot
Flowing curves are easier to make with a walking foot than by free motion, in my opinion. Partly because you get a more even stitch and speed control is not as critical. The quilt will slow down or speed up in conjunction with the speed of the needle. So if you have an area that you want to be careful about, like an applique that doesn’t have the edge sown down, you can do what you need to do.
If you sew shirts and blouses, you will know how tight of a circle you can sew with your machine. That will give you an idea of the tightness of the curves you can do with a walking foot.
And again, I am going to send you to an article and video that Leah has to show you what she calls ‘wiggles’.
OK Now That You Have The Basics Go And Quilt
Now that I have given you the basics of using a walking foot to quilt and sent you to watch some videos, it’s time to break out that walking foot. If you don’t have one, go to your local sewing machine dealer that carries your brand of machine and get one.
Quilting in any form can be and is fun. And using a walking foot is one of the easiest to learn and use. It doesn’t require as great hand and eye coordination as free motion quilting does.
But don’t think that free motion is beyond your capabilities. After you get going with this foot, it gets easier to transition to free motion. You will have learned what it takes to keep the quilt sandwich together better and learned some simpler designs for a basis to move to more complex designs
I know that a lot of people are wondering why a man is doing quilting. First off, it has nothing to do with my gender preferences. I happen to know many of the fabric, thread and yarn crafts because I watched my Mother do them.
As an only child, I decided to learn how to do them so I could take care of myself if I didn’t get married. Before the industrial revolution, the men did the sewing (tailoring) and the tapestries. It was an honorable profession and the only place women did any of them was at home.
Next Friday there will be an article on Free Motion Quilting. So come back to check it out.
Please leave me a comment below to let me know if this article was helpful. And let me know if there are any other crafting subjects that you would like me to write about.