Sewing Machine Presser Feet Guide – Which Foot Does What?

Last updated on December 24th, 2020 at 09:53 am

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This guide will help you know the presser feet that came with your sewing machine and what you can do with them. I would also show you how you can determine the shank size and type for your presser feet.

After reading this guide, you will also learn which extra presser feet you need to purchase additionally to make your sewing task easier.

What is a presser foot?
A presser foot is that changeable part of any sewing machine that allows you tackle specific tasks with ease.

Read on!

Some Basic Sewing Machine Presser Feet’s

Our first point of call will be those basic feet that came with your sewing machine. It is important to note that you’ll use these basic presser feet more often.

Standard/Universal Foot

Every sewing machine you buy come with a standard or universal foot. These are basic presser foot that usually come packaged with your sewing machine.

For most of your sewing, you’ll make use of this presser feet. Universal presser foot may vary between different brands and models.

If you have two different brand and models of sewing machine, they may have a different universal foot and looks.

In the image below, at the far left is the Husqvarna standard foot, and just on the right of it is the Brother standard foot.

sewing machine standard presser-foot
sewing machine standard presser-foot

The Husqvarna foot is most suitable for accurate stitching, top-stitching, and edge stitching.  The brother foot on the order hand has some form of transparent plastic to see through your foot.

If your sewing machine standard foot resembles that on the image below (a straight stitch only universal presser foot), it is made just for straight stitching – nothing else.

straight stitch only standard presser foot
straight stitch only standard presser foot

Observe the difference with others; the straight stitch only presser foot has a hole in-between (just a hole).

This type of standard foot cannot be used for zigzag, or decorative stitch. It is necessary and a must not to use it for other type of stitching with flexible stitch length. If you do this, you will damage your sewing needle or your sewing machine.

As you can see, depending on the standard or universal foot with your sewing machine, you need to consider the stitch type before choosing the most appropriate foot to use.

Zipper Foot

Most sewing machines often come with a zipper sewing foot. Regardless of how basic your sewing machine is, there will always be a zipper foot.

zipper foot sewing machine presser feet
sewing machine – zipper foot

Zipper presser foot can be used for sewing of zippers, piping, cording, and sewing close to an edge. Zipper foots are never similar, it will be different based on sewing machine brands and models.

Irrespective of the sewing machine brands or models, they have a distinct bulldozer look. I recommend a zipper foot with allowance on the edges.

In case zipper foot was not supplied with your sewing machine, it is highly recommended that you get one. It will help you through most sewing projects.

Buttonhole Foot

sewing machine buttonhole foot
sewing machine buttonhole foot

Rarely can there be a sewing machine without a supply of buttonhole foot. What makes it different is the ability of the sewing machine and also the nature of the machine (automatic for computerize and manual buttonholes for manual sewing machine).

Those two on the left are automatic buttonhole foot. All you’ll do is position your button and the machine will do the job.

In an event that your sewing machine isn’t capable of automatic buttonholing, don’t be worried as you have a buttonhole foot that permits making buttonhole like the unique one on the right.

Button Foot

sewing machine button foot
sewing machine button foot

You should consider this one useful but not important. Often times, there is usually confusion as to what it does. As little as it looks, they are used in sewing buttons.

Don’t worry if you don’t have this, I don’t find it much useful either. As useful as this might appears, fixing buttons by hand is often the real deal for me.

Non-Stick Glide Foot

sewing machine nonsticky glide foot
sewing machine nonsticky glide foot

Having one of these in your accessory box is also pertinent. The usefulness of this foot comes into play when working on difficult and thick fabrics (like leather and plastic like fabric) that stick to the common metal foot.

Blind Hem Foot

sewing machine blind hem foot
sewing machine blind hem foot

All these three feet on the image below looks the same and perform similar jobs. But what are they used for?

Simply, they are used for blind hemming and blind stitching. The two to the left are adjustable, while the right one isn’t.

These feet are indispensable if the sewing machine does blind hemming since not all machine does.

These three feet are just extras and not totally important or included in some basic sewing machine. Don’t go out of your means to buy these as blind hemming is quite simple to do manually.

Overcast Foot

sewing machine overcast foot
sewing machine overcast foot

Also called the edging or overcast foot, it’s one of those sewing accessories that could come with your sewing machine. Usually, it often comes with a sewing machine that allows overcast stitching.

Overcast or edging foot is necessary when stitching on the edge of the fabrics or close to the edge. The overcast stitch does what a serger or overlock sewing machine does.

That’s it with the basic sewing foot that are often packaged with a sewing machine.

But there is more!

Specialty Sewing Feet – Not Always Included

Next will be the sewing foot you need to buy that is most likely to be needed during sewing.

Due to their uniqueness, they are not always included as accessories. Who knows anyway, you may be lucky to have them included.

Walking Foot

sewing machine walking-foot
sewing machine walking-foot

If you find yourself dealing a lot with quilting, dressmaking or often stitching multiple layers of fabrics, then you must have a walking foot.

With this foot, you can conveniently walk over fabrics to create an even feed. The walking foot helps the sewing machine create a better stitch and to perform much better.

Invisible Zipper Foot

sewing machine invisible-zipper foot
sewing machine invisible-zipper foot

The invisible zipper foot is most ideal for dressmaking. Let’s assume you will be doing a lot of dressmaking in the future, never do so without having an invisible zipper foot. Most dress needs an invisible zipper, and this is the right foot to make this happen.  

Don’t even attempt to insert an invisible zipper with the standard zipper foot.

Likewise, you will always need a standard zipper foot to work with or use an invisible zipper foot.

Darning Foot

sewing machine darning foot
sewing machine darning foot

Darning foot cannot qualify as a necessity. That’s why it may come as an extra with your sewing machine. It features a spring mechanism that is used for free motion embroidery.

Most users use it for darning, but free motion embroidery is where it is most applicable.

One final point:

How do you determine the shank size or type of your presser feet? The following point would help  you undertanstands the diffferent  and common shanks

How to determine presser feet shank size

As we have seen ealier, the variety of feet available for sewing machines is STAGGERING.  These accessories can mean all the difference when it comes to getting the best results on your project.  But what will fit your sewing machine?

With the exception of Bernina machines and the old “rotary” machines (some older Whties, Kenmores, etc,..), most sewing machines, especially classic vintage machines,  use either high shank, slant shank or low shank feet. 

“Shank” refers to the part onto which the feet fasten.

If you machine has a default needle postion other than center, you will need to take that into consideration when buying certain feet. 

Some newer machines use snap-on feet that , well, snap-on to an ankle which in turn screws onto the shank.  These are usually low shank machines with a snap-on ankle/adapter. 

By the way,  snap-on adapters in low, high and slant shank models are sold by many vendors and sewing machine shops. 

Here are a  few images to help you determine what shank you have on your machine and what type of feet you need.

Sewing Machine Feet available at

how to determine shank size

Vintage WhiteKenmmore Top clamping rotary attachments
Vintage White/Kenmmore Top clamping (”rotary”) attachments
shank sizes
different shank sizes

 Final Words

In summary, there are two presser feet that you must invest in if it’s not packaged with your sewing machine:

  • A walking foot and
  • An invisible zipper

You already have a clue about what you have and what you need for specific task.

Buying a sewing foot is an investment, give thorough consideration to your sewing machine brand and model before making the commitment. 

Sewing foot has different width and size for fitting into your sewing machine. Brand specificity in some application is not that important.

However, to buy a generic foot, just ensure it works or will fit with your sewing machine.