Sewing: Know Your Feet

By Tiffany - Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I have figured out why my sewing machine has been giving me grief! As you might remember, I mentioned while sewing my blouse for the Ute Sew-Along that my sewing machine was refusing to sew through more than 4 layers of fabric.

My sewing machine was working fine with thicker fabric until I brought it in to a shop for cleaning and tuning. I quickly found out that I could not sew thicker fabric or many layers with my newly cleaned machine. The top thread would not pick up the bottom bobbin thread and almost no stitches would form. I was lucky when I got it to sew with just a few skipped stitches.

I tried many different needles, different tensions, and even different thread, but none of that seemed to work. It seemed like the thicker fabric was causing the presser foot and feed dogs to not hold the fabric properly.

Fed up, I brought the sewing machine back to the shop. The kind, elderly sewing machine repair man took one look and said "wrong foot". Duh! I thought to myself - that was the one thing I did not check.

Turns out I had been sewing (for years!) with "special purpose" foot and not a general purpose foot. That's my special purpose foot (for zig zag and decorative stitches, according to my manual) you see in the picture above. It looks like a general purpose foot, until you turn it over. The special purpose foot has grooves on the bottom, while a general purpose foot is completely flat. It was these grooves that were causing the fabric to not be held with the right pressure between the presser foot and feed dogs.

Singer 'B' General Purpose and 'J' Special Purpose Feet

I did not realize it wasn't a general purpose foot - that was the foot on there when I got the sewing machine from my aunt. I just assumed it was a see-through, plastic version of the metal general purpse foot. And don't ask me why it worked for so long with the wrong foot! I'm happy to say that, now that I've got the right foot, my sewing is going much better now.

Anyways, I hope this helps anyone else out there who is struggling with their sewing machine. So, the lesson is, know your feet.

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  1. Ha, I've often wondered if I'm using the wrong foot because the one that came on my machine doesn't look like ANY of the ones in my manual. Glad you figured it out though and I'm glad it's working a lot better!

    1. Thanks Kristen! It's funny how one little thing on a sewing machine can throw everything out of whack. And you can waste so much time trying to get it to work... sigh...

  2. Actually, that is a picture of my buttonholer foot. I was confusing that with my general purpose foot and here I go and confuse it with another!