Do You Drop The Feed Dogs When Using A Walking Foot

All mechanical and electrical equipment are made of multiple parts that work together to serve a common purpose. The sewing machine is not an exception. For professional tailors and dressmakers, it is very important to learn every part of their machines. The parts of a sewing machine can be viewed as main and auxiliary.

The auxiliary parts of a sewing machine are those parts that don’t come with the equipment. They are purchased externally and later attached to the machine. An example of this is the walking foot. Sewing machines come with their own foot; usually a pressing foot. However, not all tailoring work can be done with this foot therefore the need for a walking foot.

Do You Drop The Feed Dogs When Using A Walking Foot?

drop the feed dogs

Whether or not you drop the feed dogs when you are using a walking foot is entirely dependent on the type of sewing job you are doing. Feed dogs are designed to help hold the back of the fabric and move it forward so stitching can go seamlessly. It operates in an up forward down and back sequence. The foot operates on the fabric from the top while the feed dogs do their jobs from beneath the fabric. 

When Do You Need To Use A Walking Foot?

walking foot sewing machine

Like we earlier said, a sewing machine comes with its own foot; usually a normal presser foot. However, this foot cannot perform all sewing functions and therefore you would need another foot for these particular jobs. A walking foot (also called a dual feed foot) is uniquely designed to perform the functions that a normal foot may not be able to do. You will need to use a walking foot when:

  1. You are making a quilt: Quilting is the process of making creative designs on a piece of fabric. When you are making a quilt on a piece of fabric, then you would need a walking foot to allow you to keep the fabric in place and prevent shifting which could damage the cloth as a whole. A normal foot might not be able to hold three layers of fabric together but a walking foot definitely can.
  2.   You are dealing with thick seams: Let us illustrate with a pair of sport joggers. When sewing something as thick this, using a normal foot might work for the side seams but when it comes to areas such as the waist of the joggers, navigating with a presser foot might leave threads intertwined and it could halt the entire process. It would be better to use a walking foot for this job. Thick materials more often than not will require a walking foot so you could sew without any stress.
  3. You are matching seam intersects: When you are sewing a shirt, seams will intersect at the arms and at the collar. When you are matching this seam intersects, if you use a normal foot, your seams might overlap and go out of formation. This will lead to you having to undo such seams with your hands which could take a lot of time. using a walking foot, however, saves you from this stress. Once the seams are perfectly pinned, a walking foot will make sure your layers are sewn perfectly.
  4. You are attaching other prints to your fabric: More often than not, beautiful clothes are made with multiple pieces of fabric sewn together in unique and complex ways. Professional tailors who handle jobs like this are very particular about how their seams will come out when they are done. Rough seams will take away the beauty of your dress and that is why you need a walking foot. If you use a normal foot for this sort of job, it does not mean it won’t have a good outlook but you would have to be extra careful. If you cut your pieces and align them perfectly with your seams, a walking foot will make sure it is sewn just right.
  5. You are sewing knits: Knit materials are naturally stretchy. When you sewing with this sort of fabric, you have to take note of its natural tendency to cluster and move along with the stitch especially if you are sewing towards the stretch. This means that your hem will most likely stretch out of shape if you use a normal presser foot. If you use a walking foot, it will move your knit fabrics evenly and seamlessly so that they don’t go out of shape.
  6. You are topstitching: Do you often see drag lines along your hem or button placket after you just topstitched it down? This not uncommon and it could be solved by pressing the hem and the fabric. Sometimes, the problem might persist and then you might be forced to undo the whole thing. No matter how well folded and pressed the hem is, a presser foot might still scoot layers of the fabric and cause the lines to appear. However, if you use a walking foot, the chances of this problem occurring are very low.  

What Is The Function Of Feed Dogs?

what is the function of feed dogs

Feed dogs are an important part of a sewing machine. Without it, sewing would be very difficult. Feed dogs are teeth like thin metal that move along back and forth in a sewing machine’s needle plate. Feed dogs pull the fabric through the machine and the needle to make stitches between them. The length of the stitches is the length between each tooth of the feed dogs. Feed dogs have what is called an elliptical locus movement. This means it operates and moves by sinking into the fabric, lifting the fabric up, moving it forward, leaving the fabric and lowering down, moving, and then repeating the process all over again. In summary, the feed dogs have two major functions. These functions are;

  1. To move the fabric forward – that is the main purpose of any feed dogs in a sewing machine. 
  2. To allow for even stitches – when hand sewing, stitches might be unevenly distributed but with a sewing machine, all stitches are evenly placed due to the teeth of the feed dogs.

When Do You Need To Drop Your Feed Dogs When Using A Walking Foot?

when do you need to drop your feed dogs when using a walking foot

Like we earlier established, a sewing machine is a very intricate piece of equipment and all its parts work together to make dressmaking possible. The feed dogs are important for stitching and are originally designed to stay up and function. A walking foot is also designed to solve unique tailoring problems that a normal presser foot might not be able to solve. When using a walking foot, feed dogs are still meant to stay up and keep functioning. However, when you are engaged in a particular tailoring work, you would have to drop your feed dogs and use your hand to manually align the fabric. This particular work is known as freehand quilting. When you are doing freehand quilting, your feed dogs should be down so as to allow you to maneuver your fabric however you want. Another reason for dropping your feed dogs is to prevent it from pulling against the back of your fabric and causing it to rumple. 

Related Questions

Will leaving my feed dogs up during freehand quilting damage my machine?

No, leaving your feed dogs up won’t damage your machine but it might have an effect on your fabric. Whether this effect is negative or positive depends entirely on the expertise of the tailor.

How much does a walking foot cost?

Walking foot for industrial machines cost about 260 dollars on amazon. However, it would be better to ask a professional for the exact type of walking foot that will work with your sewing machine.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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