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Can I machine quilt without a walking foot?

Kathy wants to machine quilt, but can’t get a walking foot for her old machine. Yvonne tells her how to proceed.

Answered by Yvonne Porcella

I have been unable to find a workable walking foot for my 25-year-old sewing machine, and I would like to be able to machine quilt. Is it possible to machine quilt without a walking foot?

I can drop the feed dogs on my machine, and I do have a small darning foot for this machine. I would really appreciate any tips or help you could offer.

- Kathy G.

Yvonne Porcella

If you do not have a walking foot and can use a darning foot, you should still be able to do machine quilting.

Some quilters like to safety-pin baste the layers together when they machine quilt. I prefer a new technique: use a spray mount adhesive to keep the layers together for machine quilting.

I do not like to use safety pins. I personally like 3M Spray Mount. I lay a protective cover on a flat surface outdoors. Layer the three elements of the quilt on the protected surface. Fold back the top layer of the quilt, spray the batting, smooth out the top over the batting, and repeat until the whole top is sprayed.

Turn the quilt over, repeat the spraying for the backing, then machine quilt.

If you try the spray mounting technique, use a good product as some basting sprays gum up the sewing machine needle.

Learn more in our review of Quilt Basting Spray

If you have any technical questions about moving the quilt to make decorative machine quilting patterns, refer to the many books that are available on machine quilting.

Books about machine quilting at Amazon.com

A new product is a batting that can be ironed to release a sticky surface to join the three layers together. I have not used this product.

Learn more in our review of fusible batting

Read questions that Yvonne Porcella answered

Meet Yvonne Porcella

Readers’ Comments:

June 10, 2001
Judy K. writes:

Walking feet are available that are “generic” depending on if your machine has a short shank or a long shank.

I have used a walking foot for years on my Singer 201-2 (built in 1948), so the age of the machine is not a problem when it comes to walking feet.

Check catalogs from Clotilde, Nancy’s Notions and other such places. They will offer a diagram for you to figure out which kind of shank you have.

A walking foot is as important to me as my iron or my rotary cutter, so I encourage you to hunt for one that will work on your machine.

June 11, 2001
Janell B. writes:

Kathy, you might try posting to the Featherweight Fanatics online group of old sewing machine collectors. You’ll need to give the brand name and model number of your machine and ask if anyone has a walking foot for your particular model for sale.

The list members are very helpful collectors of various brands of older sewing machines, and if anyone needs a copy of an older sewing machine manual, someone usually will offer them one. Also, people ask for parts for their older machines. Singer Featherweights are, of course, the topic of many posts.

You’ll find the site here. I hope these suggestions will be helpful.

June 14, 2001
A Quilter’s Review reader writes:

If you use a walking foot, then you are not doing free-motion quilting, which is what the darning foot allows you to do with the feed dogs lowered.

If you want straight stitching with machine control, try this:

Use your regular foot and every ten stitches put your needle down into the fabric and lift the presser foot. This allows the bottom, batting, and top layer to re-align with each other.

The problem otherwise is that the feed dogs pull the backing fabric back while the presser foot tends to push the quilt top toward you. You have to stop (with the needle down to preserve stitch spacing and position), lift the presser foot to release all the built-up pressures on the quilt sandwich, and then put the presser foot down again.

It is time consuming, but it does help. I would only try this after practice and only on a smallish quilt. Also, give yourself a margin of extra backing and batting so if there is any sliding of the quilt top, you won’t run out of layers!

Good luck.

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