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Quilting With A Walking Foot with Guide Bar

Using a walking for for quilting on a domestic machine makes the sewing go so much smoother and easier than a regular foot. Newer quilters may have been told they should have one, but not really know why.   In quilting, the walking foot will move thick layers of top, batting and backing evenly so you don’t get puckers or pleats in the quilt, particularly on the backside. It can be used not only to quilt the layers in the body of the quilt, but also to attach the binding smoothly.

For sewing projects, the walking foot is indispensable for sewing clothing when using stretchy fabrics like knits or thicker fabrics that tend to shift like corduroy if you don’t have a serger. Crafters who sew thicker projects like tote bags with handles, or precise projects like stuffed animals or doll clothes with tiny pieces will be amazed at how much easier it is to get the pieces aligned correctly with a walking foot.

If you want to learn more about the use of a walking foot for garment sewing, you can read all about it in An’s blog post.

Another application for the walking foot is paper piecing. The paper tends to slip, making it difficult to get a straight line, and to keep the fabric underneath the paper in place without using a lot of pins which can distort the pieces.

In order to show how a walking foot is used in quilting, I made this little candle mat using a paper pieced teacup. But first, let’s look at the walking foot in action so you can see what all the fuss is about.

A walking foot has actually two sets of toes, one plastic with gripper teeth, and the other a metal base. In the picture below, you can see the gripper set is lifting up, as the presser bar raises for the needle’s upstroke.

Then, as the needle rises out of the fabric, the gripper teeth move down to grab the fabric and pull it toward the back, as the feed dogs are doing the same underneath.

The metal foot rises slightly to advance while the grippers move to the rear, keeping the layers together.

At the end of that stitch, as the needle enters the fabric again, the grippers shift forward to begin the next stitch.

Biting down to grab the fabric and smoothly advance the stitching. So, it “walks” along, taking the top layer of fabric with it.

To begin quilting a small project, first start by stitching around the edge to stabilize the piece, and keep the edges straight.

Then, stitch in the ditch around your piecing and the border.

For this candle mat, the teacup is the focus, so next stitch around the outside of the teacup, again in the ditch.

In the borders, and in other areas as desired, stitch straight lines to accent the border. For this one, I crossed the lines in the corners to add a ‘frame’ style of stitching.

The walking foot is best for stitch in the ditch, and straight lines as in modern quilting techniques.   Using the bar included with the foot will keep the lines straight and an even distance from each other. Here’s how to do that.   Insert the bar into the holes at the back of the foot with the guide bar on the left.

Set the desired distance between rows by using a seam guide. In this case, I am setting the bar for 1-inch between rows. Place the seam guide slider (the little blue bit) on the one inch line, and place it on the machine in line with the needle. Move the guide bar until it lines up with the left edge of the seam guide.

Sew the first line. Then, guiding the fabric sandwich under the guide bar along the first seam line, sew the next line.

Continue in this manner until all the lines are completed as you wish.

The guide bar will cover intervals of about 3/4-inch up to 2-1/2-inches. For intervals smaller than 3/4-inch, use the openings on the toes as a guide.

Have fun with your walking foot, and enjoy the ease of sewing with it!

If you would like to make a teacup candle mat or mug rug, see my blog post Paper Pieced Teacup , with more detail on the quilting at Quilting The Teacup.

My blog is a variety of subjects, quilting and sewing, tablescapes and recipes, book reviews and hand stitching, crafting and mountain living. I love to have new followers, too! Visit me at From My Carolina Home.


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  • Joan Warner on

    Walking foot is a must have for multiple quilting and sewing projects. It reduces the errors in measurements and improves the finished appearance. Used it faithfully for 15 to 20 yrs.

  • Theresa Peters on

    I really enjoyed your presentation. Many years of hand quilting is being replaced with machine quilting. I have recently picked up this foot to use. Thanks for the simplicity.


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