This tip is on the subject of presser feet. I am not going to discuss all of the different types of feet available and their applications. That is the job of an instruction book. But I do want to discuss the sewing problems that are sometimes encountered when using the wrong presser foot for the job.

An obvious example would be: What happens if you try to sew a zig-zag stitch (or any pattern for that matter) while the straight stitch foot is attached? That's right, catastrophic needle failure. The only reason a sewing machine capable of patterns comes with a straight stitch foot is: (#1) To be able to sew a seam allowance close to the edge of the fabric, and (#2) To help eliminate puckering and skipping stitches on very shear fabrics. Because a straight stitch foot has a very small opening, the fabric has less of a tendency to flag up and down with the needle, reducing the possibility of skipped stitches.

Happily sewing along with a straight stitch   About to experience catastrophic needle failure

The zig-zag foot is usually considered the all purpose foot because you can sew a straight stitch as well as most patterns on normal weight fabrics without incident. Very shear fabrics will benefit from some sort of stabilizer or backing material to stiffen the fabric. This helps to reduce the flagging effect (caused by the extra size opening of the zig-zag foot) eliminating skipped stitches, as well as reduced puckering.

There is another presser foot that looks like a standard zig-zag foot made for special stitching called (what else?) a special purpose foot. Also known as a satin stitch foot. From the top it looks like a standard zig-zag foot, although some are made of clear plastic. The difference is on the bottom of the foot where it comes in contact with the fabric. As the name implies, it is specifically made for dense satin stitching. This foot is grooved out on the underside to allow the dense stitching to flow freely without stalling, or bogging down. The problem occurs when this foot is mistaken for the standard all purpose zig-zag foot. This tunneled out version allows the fabric to flag up and down quite a bit, causing the machine to skip stitches very easily, especially when sewing a straight stitch on lightweight fabrics.

Satin stitch on left - All purpose on right

Another version of this special purpose satin stitch foot is the open toe foot. I know a lot of you like using this foot (You know who you are!) because it allows for an unobstructed view of the needle entering the fabric. However, this foot is the least effective at properly holding down the fabric while stitching. Unless the fabric is stiff enough, the result is (you guessed it) plenty of skipped stitches and, usually, a great deal of puckering.

Open toe satin stitch foot

Sew, the next time your machine is skipping stitches or puckering up the fabric like crazy, don't be so quick to blame the tension or the timing or that lousy mechanic who supposedly fixed it the last time you brought it in for this problem. It could just be the wrong presser foot for the job. Then again, it could also be a dull, or over-sized needle. Or the wrong thread weight. Or maybe it really is time to find another mechanic. Or mabe the problem is being caused by a snagging thread supply. This is a good time to mention that The Universal Thread Holder is a snag free thread supply. You really should get yours today and at least eliminate one of these possibilities.

Happy Sewing,



RJS Designs Inc.   Saint Petersburg, Florida USA