If you’re new to quilting, you may be confused by what tools you need to get started. Here are the most common feet used for machine quilting. I’ll explain what to buy, why, and when you would use each foot. I also have a list of quilting tools for beginners that you can check out.
- Walking / Even Feed foot – essential
- Quilting Guide for your walking foot – optional
- 1/4″ Piecing foot – essential
- Quilting / Free Motion Embroidery / Darning foot – essential for free motion quilting
- Stitch in the Ditch foot – optional
- Quick Q&A’s
Walking foot / Even Feed foot
What is it?
When quilting multiple layers of fabric, the layers shift about as you sew. A walking foot has ‘feed dogs’ (teeth) that make the top and bottom fabric layers move together at the same rate. This reduces how much the layers of fabric shift, and therefore reduces puckering and air bubbles in your quilts, creating a neater finished product.
Note: if you have a high-end sewing machine with a built-in walking foot, you don’t need to buy this foot separately. Brands sometimes call this feature a “dual feed system”.
- Quilting straight lines.
- Sewing through multiple layers of fabric without shifting, puckering, and air bubbles.
Is a walking foot essential?
Yes. While it is possible to quilt without it, you’ll struggle with puckered lines of quilting and an overall messier finish. To create neat lines of quilting, a walking foot (or a built-in “dual feed system”) is essential.
Which walking foot do you recommend?
Your sewing machine will work with specific walking feet made by the brand. The product code is listed in your manual. Some brands make multiple types of walking feet. Open toe vs Classic. 5mm vs 7mm. Normal walking feet vs Dynamic walking feet.
- Open toe feet give you more visibility over the stitching area. This is useful when doing stitch-in-the-ditch for quilting.
- 5mm feet can sew stitches that are 5mm wide. 7mm feet can sew stitches that are 7mm wide.
- The Dynamic walking foot can sew forward and backward, not just forward like normal walking feet. You can also sew decorative stitching with this foot, not just straight and zig zag stitches like normal walking feet.
How to install and use a walking foot:
Quilting guide for your walking foot
What is it?
This is a curved bar that slots into your walking foot (there’s a hole at the back for it). Rather than marking every single quilt line, you can just mark one, and then use the bar to sew evenly spaced lines. It saves time and effort when you’re machine quilting.
I don’t always use it. Sometimes the bar doesn’t stay still. It can gradually rise as you quilt which can be annoying, as it’s no longer touching the fabric and guiding you. But when it behaves, it’s very useful!
- Sew multiple rows of straight lines with even spacing.
Is a quilting guide essential?
No. You can draw your lines of quilting first and sew them without the guide, but the guide speeds up the process because you only have to draw one line, not all of them.
1/4″ piecing foot
What is it?
Most seams in quilting are sewn with 1/4″ seam allowances. It’s easier to sew these accurately using a 1/4″ foot. You just line up the edge of the fabric with the edge of the foot.
Some 1/4″ feet come with a metal guide on the side. I find these easier to use. The guide stops your seam allowance from accidentally becoming too big.
- Sewing your quilt blocks together with accurate 1/4″ seams.
Is a 1/4″ foot essential?
Yes. When you sew your quilt blocks together to form your quilt top, it’s very important that the seam allowances are consistently 1/4″. If the seam allowances are slightly different, your quilt blocks may not match up nicely. Having said that, if you’re new to quilting you may want to try a simple quilt design using your standard presser foot. You’ll just need to be extra careful making sure the seam allowance is 1/4″.
How to use a 1/4″ foot:
Quilting / Free Motion Embroidery / Darning foot
What is it?
A quilting foot (also known as a free motion foot or darning foot), lets you quilt curves, shapes, and intricate patterns, so you’re not just limited to sewing in straight lines using a walking foot. The foot jumps up after each stitch so you can easily move the fabric to create your design. I prefer the clear open toe version because it gives you more visibility over the stitches.
- Free motion quilting to sew curves and intricate designs
- Free hand monograms and embroidery
- Repair holes
Is a quilting / free motion foot essential?
Yes, if you want to quilt curves and shapes. If you just want to do straight line quilting then you don’t need a quilting/free motion foot, just a walking foot.
How to use a quilting / free motion foot:
What is it?
A foot with a long metal guide in the middle. You align the guide with the ditch in your fabric and it keeps the foot in there, making it very easy for you to sew a hidden line of stitching in the ditch. Quilters sometimes use this foot to sew their binding.
- For sewing quilt bindings without the stitching showing on the right side of the quilt.
- Top stitching.
- Concealed seams on clothes.
- Understitch a facing.
Is a Stitch-in-the-ditch foot essential?
No, you can stitch-in-the-ditch using a standard foot or walking foot and sewing slowly and carefully, but it is harder to sew accurately. The guide in the middle of the stitch-in-the-ditch foot delivers very neat results so I do recommend buying one.
How to use a Stitch-in-the-ditch foot:
Which sewing machine foot is best for quilting?
A walking foot is best for sewing straight lines of quilting that are neat and pucker-free. It feeds all the layers of fabric and batting evenly. (If you have a premium sewing machine with a built-in walking foot or “dual feed system” then you don’t need this). A 1/4″ piecing foot is best for sewing quilt blocks together with accurate 1/4″ seam allowances. The best foot for free motion quilting curves and intricate designs is a free motion / quilting / darning foot.
Do you need a special foot for machine quilting? Or can you just use a regular sewing foot for quilting?
You can machine quilt with a standard sewing foot but you’ll probably have issues with puckering and air bubbles in your quilt because the layers of fabric and batting will shift and move at different rates. It’s best to use a walking foot (aka. even feed foot) to avoid this issue and create neat, pucker-free lines of quilting.
Is a quilting foot the same as a walking foot?
No, a walking foot (aka. even feed foot) lets you quilt in straight lines. It has ‘feed dogs’ (teeth) so your layers of fabric and batting move through the sewing machine at the same rate, reducing puckers and air bubbles in your quilt. A quilting foot (aka. free motion or darning foot) lets you sew curves, shapes, and intricate designs into a quilt.
Is a quilting foot the same as a free motion or embroidery foot?
Yes, sewing machine manufacturers use the terms “quilting”, “free motion”, “embroidery” and “darning” foot to describe the same foot. They all let you quilt curves, shapes, and intricate designs. (Sources 1, 2, 3, 4).
What to read next:
- 32 Quilting Supplies for Beginners & Beyond (Tested)