How Do I Know If My Sewing Machine Is High Or Low Shank

Sewing machines are built differently. Some machines are high shank while others are low shank. When you know whether your machine is a high or a low shank, you can use your sewing machine properly and as required. 

A sewing machine can either be a high, low, or slanted shank. The higher the shank, the bulkier the tasks your sewing machine can handle. 

The shank is a metal rod on a sewing machine onto which the presser foot attaches.

How Do I Know If My Sewing Machine Is High Or Low Shank?

To determine whether your sewing machine is a low or high shank, make sure that your presser foot is lowered completely. Measure from the sewing machine needle bed to the center of the thumbscrew.

If the length measured is ½ inch your sewing machine is a low shank. Between ½ inch and 1 inch, you have a slant shank. Above 1 inch, your sewing machine is a high shank. 

Method 1. Using A Ruler

Step 1. You need a small ruler that can measure the small distance you intend to measure accurately. You can make one for yourself from cardboard and a ruler. You only need the ruler to measure slightly below 2 inches. 

Step 2. Make sure that your presser foot is completely lowered and is in the down position. This helps you to get the bearing of your measurement. Different shank machines use different sizes and types of presser feet. When the presser foot is completely lowered, you increase your chances of making an accurate measurement. 

Step 3. Place your ruler and measure from the needle bed to the center of the thumbscrew. This is the screw that holds the presser foot in place. If your measurement is ½ inches, your sewing machine is a low shank. If your measurement is over 1 inch, you have a high shank. 

Rarely, you will get a slant shank sewing machine. This is a machine whose measurement is over ½ inches but less than 1 inch. 

Step 4. A low shank machine is mostly used at home. While a high shank machine will be a commercial sewing machine. The higher the shank on your sewing machine, the bulkier the tasks it can handle. If your sewing machine is a low shank, you only have enough space for thin and light fabrics. High-shank sewing machines can sew heavy and bulky projects and fabrics with ease. 

Method 2. Check For Dual Feed Foot

Step 1. You need to know how sewing machine presser feet look like. Most times, both high and low shank sewing machines have or use similar feet. Although a high shank sewing machine presser foot will not suit a low shank sewing machine, the feet look similar.

Step 2. Now that you know that presser feet look similar, the best way to use sewing machine presser feet to determine the shank is to check that your sewing machine has a dual-feed foot.

If it does, then your sewing machine is a high shank.

Method 3. Using A Low Shank Adapter

Step 1. Another way you can determine whether your sewing machine is a low or high shank is by the use of a low shank adapter. A low shank adapter is a piece of metal inserted into a sewing machine. It allows you to convert your sewing machine into a low shaft sewing machine. 

Step 2. If your sewing machine uses a low shank adapter, then it is a high shank sewing machine. It needs the adapter so that it can carry out low shank tasks and also get the right presser feet for low shank sewing machines. 

Method 4. What Your Sewing Machine Sews

Step 1. You can know if your machine is a low or high shank depending on what you can sew with it. A high shank machine is a commercial sewing machine. You can use it to embroider, sew bulky items easily. You can use it for tasks that are difficult with domestic sewing machines such as sewing leather.

A high shank sewing machine is also more expensive than a low shank sewing machine. 

Step 2. A low shank sewing machine is a domestic sewing machine. Most of its tasks include sewing light fabrics. The distance between the needle and the presser foot is slim. This means it can only work on light and thin fabrics, unlike a high shank sewing machine.

Domestic sewing machines are also affordable and easily available in stores near you. Most sewing machines are low shank and different brands have different types of low shank sewing machines. 

Method 5. Types Of Presser Feet Your Sewing Machine Uses

Step 1. Sewing machine presser feet are an integral part of the sewing machine. They hold the fabric in place as sewing is taking place. Thus, due to the different types of fabrics and sewing tasks they handle, low and high shank sewing machines will use different types of presser feet.

Low shank sewing machine presser feet will measure up to ½ inches. While high shank pressure feet will measure at least 1 inch or more. Thus enabling you to differentiate between the two for the type of sewing machine you are using. 

Step 2. There are different types of presser feet. Snap-on presser feet as the name suggest are snapped on or off on the sewing machine presser foot holder. Both the low and high shank sewing machines can use the snap-on presser foot. Most sewing machines use a similar snap-on presser foot.

The screw-on presser foot is the other type of presser foot you can use to determine if your sewing machine is a low or high shank. Low shank screw-on presser foot cannot be used by high shank sewing machines. 

Step 3. When you use the right presser for the shank of your sewing machine, you will not need to use a presser foot adapter. High shank sewing machines will need an adapter to convert it to a low shank sewing machine. An adapter makes your sewing machine versatile enough to work on commercial and domestic sewing tasks at the switch of a component. 

Are All Sewing Machines Either Low Or High Shank?

No, they are not.

From the information above, it is easy to think that every sewing machine you find is either a low or high shank. This is not the case. 

There are different categories of sewing machines. There is the slant shack sewing machine. This used to be a common sewing machine in the early days. Over the years manufacturers have perfected the art of making their sewing machines.

The slant shank sewing machine is now a rare sewing machine to find. You will have to buy an old sewing machine to get a slant shank. 

Other sewing machine manufacturers have their products away from this categorization. They use their unique systems on how to determine the shank of their sewing machines. 

Their sewing machines are neither low nor high shank. They have come up with their system on how to categorize their sewing machine away from the ordinary. 

Why Is A Low Shank Sewing Machine Suitable For Beginners?

Like with everything else, beginners don’t need advanced equipment or rules to learn how to use an item. If you’re a beginner sewer, you don’t want to be learning with a commercial sewing machine. It is highly advanced and can carry out higher-level tasks than most people will ever do.

If your goal is to use an advanced sewing machine as a beginner, you will have to start at the beginner-friendly sewing machine. The beginner-friendly sewing machine is a low-shank sewing machine. 

A sewing machine that you can easily load and work with. A sewing machine that is easy to learn to use and how to work with it. A low shank sewing machine carries out easy tasks that you can learn fast and become comfortable using a sewing machine. 

A low shank sewing machine provides you with the opportunity to make and rectify several mistakes in your sewing world. Make these mistakes so that you can easily overcome them when you start working with a commercial sewing machine.

A high shank sewing machine may have the appearance of a low shank sewing machine. However, these two sewing machines are quite different. They are different in the tasks that they can handle.

High shank sewing machines, thanks to their shank can easily handle bulk fabrics for bulk projects. You can easily place a thick fabric on the sewing machine to sew without problems. IF you place a bulky project on a low shank sewing machine, you will have your needle and thread breaking after you have made a few stitches.

Low shank machines are good with beginners as they offer them the confidence they need to become professional or advanced level sewers.



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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