5 must-have presser feet to upgrade your sewing (machine) | Madam Sew

5 must-have presser feet to upgrade your sewing (machine)

First things first! What exactly is a presser foot? The sewing experts can definitely skip this answer but we included this in any case for beginners and sewing enthusiasts who might have come across this term several times but don’t really know what it means.

“A presser foot is the little metal piece that attaches to the sewing machine around the needle – they generally come with two toes, one to hold the fabric down on either side of the needle. There are various kinds of presser feet with each serving a different function.”

Why use specialty presser feet?

Those beautiful accurate seams, hems and bindings aren’t due to someone with super-human steady hands. Nope, they’re just using specialist feet. Now, not all of us have presser feet for every task (although our 32 pieces presser foot set gives you exactly that), that is why I have made this list of 5 must-have sewing machine presser feet that will transform a lot of common but tricky techniques into something much more manageable.

Are you one of those who think that the accessories you got with your machine were all you'd ever need? Well, it’s time to re-think! I have selected 5 specialty presser feet that will definitely make your life easier and your quilting/sewing projects more beautiful. Once you have them, you will wonder why they aren’t standard items on all sewing machines.

On To the presser feet!

1. 1/4” Quilting Foot {With or without guide}: it's not only for quilters!

This foot can help you make your 1/4 inch seams easily & quickly! The right-hand edge of the foot measures exactly one quarter inch, so you can use it as a guide for your seams. The perfect foot for all projects that use ¼” seam allowances: piecing quilt fabrics together, making doll clothes, baby clothes, .... It’s a great foot to keep your seam lines straight and accurate! 

When you look closely you see there is only a small, center position hole in the presser foot for the needle. Most other presser feet, like the other ones in this blog post have a 5, 7 or even 9 mm wide needle hole so you can adjust the needle position and use zig-zag stitches. For piecing you only want a straight stitch and the ¼ inch is measured from center needle position to the side of the presser foot. So you always use this presser foot with your needle in center position. The small hole provides excellent fabric control and prevents fabrics from sinking into the feed dogs.

Once you have this presser foot, you will find all kinds of uses for it. People are using it for a variety of projects: binding bias tape, topstitching, garment construction, … every project that needs an accurate straight stitch line can benefit from using this foot!

The marks on the foot

The right-hand edge of the foot is at an exact ¼” inch from your needle in center position. Align your fabric with this edge and you will get accurate ¼” seams.

The marks on the left-hand side are there to help you with turning corners. You will especially love the ¼” pivot mark. Stitch until the edge of the fabric aligns with the mark; leave needle in down position, lift up presser foot and pivot.  

Then, return the presser foot to down position and continue stitching with the fabric aligned with the right-hand side of the foot. This technique works for both quilting and topstitching.

See The Video Here!

With or without guide?

There are two versions of this presser foot: with or without a guide at the right-hand edge of the foot. The guide helps you align your fabric perfectly and is a true asset for the beginner. Some more experienced sewers however prefer the foot without guide as it gets in the way sometimes.

Some tips for using this presser foot: 

  • The best way to use this foot is to raise your presser foot, align the raw edge of two fabric layers against the guide at the right side. Then lower the foot and start stitching. 
  • The narrow toe on the left side can be used as a guide for small piece work or mini quilts. 
  • Turning a corner? Stitch until the edge of fabric aligns with the mark on the narrowest part of the foot; leave needle in the down position, lift up pressure foot and pivot. Then, return the presser foot to down position and continue stitching with the fabric against the guide. This technique works for both quilting and topstitching.
2. Adjustable Guide Foot

Yearning for perfect topstitching and even seams? Then this foot is for you! You can place the adjustable guide (the white part) at distances of 3/8" to 1 1/2" from the needle! This foot is a boon for anyone who struggles with keeping a perfect line without a distinct guide. 

Each click of the plastic guide is 1/16 of an inch and each red mark is 1/8 of an inch, which will allow you to stitch a variety of different seam allowances.

See the video here!

You use this foot in a similar fashion as the ¼ quilting foot but for various other, bigger widths.
The guide and markings on this presser foot make it very easy to use. This is definitely a step in the right direction for beginners and intermediate seamstresses who want their projects to look more pro!

Place the guide along an already stitched seam or against any edge to achieve beautiful topstitching. You can use both straight and decorative stitches with this foot.

This little tool is definitely a game changer!

Tip: It’s best to practice with your sewing machine settings and the needle position options {right, center and left} on a dummy project to determine how to create the exact seam width you want!

3. Edge Joining Foot / Stitch in the Ditch Foot

While this foot is most commonly named an edge joining foot, it can do much more common sewing tasks, making it a must-have presser foot. As it is very popular with quilters to stitch in the ditch it is also often called a Stitch-in-the-ditch foot.

The difference between this foot and a basic zig-zag foot is the small blade that protrudes under the foot and is aligned with the machine needle when positioned in the center. 

This blade is used as a guide and makes it easy to follow a seam line or fabric edge. This lets you create straight and even lines of stitching exactly at the position you want. Positioning the machine needle at either the center or to any width to the right or left of center will determine the line’s distance from this guide.

This foot makes a lot of stitching techniques easier, faster and more accurate. These include:

  • Stitch in the ditch, a line of stitching that is done on the right side of a project and is sewn precisely on top of a seam line. This makes the stitch almost invisible. This technique is popular with quilters when securing the quilt sandwich and also with garment sewers to secure facing to a waistband seam of skirts and trousers. Use the guide blade to run through the existing seam and the stitches will automatically land into the ditch. 
  • Topstitching, mostly edge stitching, which means nothing more than topstitching very close to the edge of fabric. Use the guide blade to run along the edge, place your needle the desired distance to the left and the stitches will be placed on a perfect straight line at the wanted distance from the edge.
  • Joining two edges of fabric together side by side with a zig-zag stitch, known as edge joining. Place the two fabrics you want to join at each side of the guide blade and the zig-zag stitch (or decorative stitch) will easily catch both fabrics and sew them together symmetrically. Most people prefer to first create a clean folded edge on each piece before joining them.

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  • Adding trim to the edge of a project, which is actually also edge joining 
  • Finish a seam with double top-stitching like you see in ready-to-wear garments. Use a double needle and run the guide blade along the seam and stitch away to give your garments and home decor projects a nice and clean finish.
  • Understitching, a technique used by garment sewers to keep the facing or lining firmly on the inside of the garment without any stitches showing. It is the secret to a beautiful neckline or armhole edge. Use the blade guide to run within the seam line and place you needle a small distance (like 1/16”) to the right of center position. This will create an understitching line that is evenly positioned along the facing. 
  • Sewing pintucks. Fold your fabric, position the needle the wanted distance to the left and slide the folded edge against the blade guide of the presser foot. Repeat this for as many pintucks you want to create. 
  • Applique onto fabric. Run the guide blade against the edge of your applique piece and use a tight zig-zag stitch. You will easily attach it to your project and the stitches will perfectly follow the edge of your applique piece without missing a single stitch. 

4. Presser Foot with Ruler

This presser foot is like a standard foot, but with a ruler added at the right. Because the ruler floats just above the moving fabric, it is always clearly in view, unlike the markings on the throat plate. As it is a simple, non-bulky foot, chances are this tool will take its place as your standard go-to presser foot once you start using it.

The presser foot with ruler is great for all kinds of projects that require accurate stitches such as garments, topstitching or piecing while quilting, and is perfect for achieving flawless top sewing around the neck and sleeve of a garment.

The many marks on the ruler range from 1/8” up to 13/16” and the outer edge of the foot itself is exactly at 1”. To keep the foot and ruler as small as possible, there is no indication of which mark is at what distance from the needle. A nice hack is to highlight the marks that you use most commonly in different colors.

Use the marks to sew straight stitches at a precise distance from an edge or seam or use it to create precise equidistant parallel lines while topstitching.

This foot also makes for easy precise seam allowances on curved seams. When sewing a curve, keep the edge and the presser foot scale at a right angle in order to get a good curve.

5. Adjustable Bias Binder Foot

A binding foot helps to achieve a bias binding, a ribbon binding or even a straight-grain binding to finish the edges of any project.The normal steps that you might follow in case of binding are: pin, sew, fold and sew again to get the binding in place! Well, this tool can make you forget all that hassle!

With it, you can feed the binding into the binding foot as you feed in the fabric! Isn’t it Sew Easy? 😃

This binding foot works best for sewing projects with 1-2 layers of lightweight or medium-weight cotton fabric. It can be used for binding thin quilts with low-loft battings which are flatter and thinner (and NOT with battings with high loft, which are thick and fluffy). 

This foot is adjustable in that it has a screw to allow for different binding sizes up to 1 inch wide. After feeding the fabric and binding in the foot you can adjust the position of the foot relative to the needle so your stitches land exactly where you want them.

Tips for bias binding: 

  • Use a zigzag or decorative stitch to help keep things together 
  • Don’t cut the binding if you need to stop sewing (ex: when you run out of thread). Just slide the whole thing out from the back of the foot, leaving the needle all the way up. When you want to start sewing again, just slip the fabric sandwich into the foot and adjust the binding until it goes back in place inside both guides. 
  • As I mentioned before, there’s no need to use pins when attaching the bias binding. All you need to do is to make sure that the edge sits next to the center fold of the binding and the binding’s folded edges stay inside the guides. It’s like magic!

Do you agree with our selection of 5 must-have presser feet? Is your most-used presser foot not in our list? Tell us in the comment section below!

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ty for the information vwry good discretion for each one, i have your (32) piece set along with the (5) menchend above i luv them , this is the best purches I’ve made for my sewing yet. i look forward to ordering more from you again in the future .
thank – you madam sew.
yvonne mccain
very satisfied customer . i recommend to other friend .

yvonne mccain

I have presser feet I bought and set aside. I now don’t know what some of them are for. Is there a chart that describes different feet


Wow…..thanks for sharing…..I have 4 out of the 5 presser feet…..I consider myself an intermediate sewer…..I guess…..yes, these are very helpful


@Nelda, the 5 presser feet are now available in a bundle: https://madamsew.com/products/5-must-have-presser-feet-bundle-promotion – this bundle promotion will only be available this week.
@Anne Marie, for a Pfaff machine you need the low shank snap-on adapter: https://madamsew.com/products/low-shank-snap-on-adapter
@Carol Evans 4 of these 5 feet are in the set, the fifth one is one of our new presser feet: the adjustable guide presser foot


Very informative for a sewer who hasn’t touched a sewing machine in years. Thank you :)

Heather Beechey

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