Do you remember the story of “The Ugly Duckling?” It started with a nest of duck eggs. Somehow, another egg ended up in the nest…a much bigger egg. Once they hatched, the lucky new mom had some cute yellow ducklings and a not so cute big brown…duck? As they grew, those yellow ducklings were quite mean to the brown duck because he looked so different. Time passed and that ugly little duckling turned into a gorgeous, white swan. Imagine their surprise when something not too attractive turned into something beautiful.
When I bought my sewing machine a few years ago, it came with a bag of attachments. Most of them resembled the 1/4″ foot I was familiar with. I couldn’t imagine why I’d need so many attachments or what most of them were for. I certainly couldn’t fathom why I’d need the big clumsy looking one. I took out the 1/4″ foot and put the bag in the drawer with the owners manual. And there it stayed.
About a month ago, I was chatting with a customer as I rang up his purchase. We were both in the process of attaching binding to a project, and he was raving about something called a “walking foot.” Hmmm…sounds interesting…pretty sure I don’t have one. A few days later, I happened to be talking to my mom about the small projects I quilt on my machine…and she mentioned a “walking foot.” After two years, I decided it was probably time to pull out the sewing machine manual and find out exactly what a walking foot looked like, if I had one, and what it did.
After a quick read of the manual and a desperate phone call to my mom (who has the same machine), I finally had the walking foot installed. The walking foot doesn’t attach quite as easily as the others, but it sure is worth the extra work. I noticed a difference in my quilting right away.
When I piece a small project, like a baby or lap quilt, I usually strip quilt it on my home machine. Sometimes I quilt in nice, evenly spaced lines, and sometimes I prefer wavy, random-width quilting (see above). Before I discovered the walking foot, I had to be very careful to alternate the side from which I started each line of quilting. If I started each line of quilting on the same edge of the quilt, I’d end up with a skewed quilt. To avoid this, I’d quilt a line from the left to the right side of the quilt and the next line would start on the right and end on the left. However, as you can see in the photo above, I always ended up with a bit of a wave between the quilted lines. This was due to the fact that the top and back of my quilt were not moving through the machine at the same speed. Oh, but now…
…now the top and the bottom move through the machine at the same pace, resulting in beautiful straight lines without any shifting or wavy fabric between the quilting lines. With any other foot, only the feed dog underneath the fabric is being used. The walking foot creates an upper feed dog, which moves the top of your quilt through the machine right along with the back of your quilt.
Since I already had the foot attached, I decided to try sewing binding on with the walking foot. It worked perfectly! On my machine, I move my needle to the right one notch and run the right edge of the foot along the edge of the binding…resulting in a perfect 3/8″ seam. (I personally prefer using a 3/8″ seam allowance…but you can move your needle over another notch if you prefer using 1/4″ seam allowance.)
If you have a walking foot and haven’t used it, I highly recommend pulling it out and giving it a try. It’ll be the big, bulky, odd-looking attachment in your collection. Don’t judge it by it’s looks, though! Sew a few straight lines on a practice piece, and you’ll discover why it is, indeed, a beauty.