Understanding Sewing Machine Shanks & Presser Feet

"Will This Presser Foot Fit My Sewing Machine?

Depending on the way a sewing machine is built, the shank can be high, low, or slanted, and is equipped to use snap-on, screw-on, or clip-on presser feet. Some brands, like Bernina, also have their very own presser foot system. Let’s clarify this for you so you know whether or not Madam Sew’s presser feet will fit your machine. Maybe you just need an adapter to use our wonderful sewing aids.

We’ll go over the following questions in this blog post:

  1. Do You Have a High Shank or a Low Shank Machine?

  2. What Kind of Presser Feet Fit on What Type of Sewing Machine?

  3. Do You Need an Adapter to Use Universal Snap-On Presser Feet?

  4. On What Sewing Machines Can You Use Universal Low Shank Screw-On Presser Feet?

  5. How to Attach the Different Presser Foot Adapters

Most sewing machines come with a few basic presser feet for different sewing tasks. You can also purchase additional specialty feet to make some sewing and quilting tasks even easier. Our online sewing and quilting tools webstore "Madam Sew sells a 32 Pc Ultimate Presser Foot Set, as well as a range of additional specialty feet, such as the very popular walking foot. Our feet are designed to fit as many types of home sewing machines as possible. We also have three types of adapters to make the sewing machine attachments fit even more sewing machines.

Some sewing terminology used in this blog post might be new to you. In the image below, you can see the different parts of a sewing machine around the shank, the presser foot, and the needle, to help you understand what I am talking about later.

Standard Low Shank Sewing Machine with Snap-on Foot

If you want more information about how a sewing machine works, we have another blog that focuses on this subject and explains all the parts of a sewing machine plus the way it moves the fabric forward.

1. Do You Have a High Shank or a Low Shank Machine?

Most domestic machines are LOW shank. If you don’t know what kind of shank your machine is, chances are it’s LOW shank. HIGH Shank machines are generally more “fancy” and expensive, embroidery models or industrial machines. I think most people who have these, know that they have a HIGH shank. But there’s an easy way to know for sure. Here we go...

You need to measure.

Grab a small ruler.

I made a little cardboard 2” ruler to show you.

  1. Put the presser foot on your sewing machine in the down position.

  2. Measure from the bed of the sewing machine to the center of the thumb screw (presser foot holder screw).

  3. If the length from the bottom of the presser foot to the center of the screw is half an inch, you have a LOW shank machine. In the pictures below, you see a Pfaff machine (green plastic) and a Brother Innovis Anniversary (the bigger image). They are both low shank.

If you measure 1 inch or longer, you have a HIGH shank sewing machine.

Lenght to Screw Shank

1/2 inch

1/2 inch

Low shank machine

more than 1 inch

High shank machine

High Shank on Sewing Machine
Low Shank on Sewing Machine

If you have an old Singer sewing machine and the length is ¾ to 1 inch, you might own a SLANT shank, but these are rare.

Bernina sewing machines have a completely exclusive presser foot system. They are not high or low shank; they are just… Bernina.

2. What Kind of Presser Feet Fit on What Type of Sewing Machine?

Snap-on Presser Feet

Snap-On Presser Feet

In the picture above, you can see some of Madam Sew’s snap-on presser feet:

What they have in common is the small bar at the back of the presser foot. That is where your sewing machine’s presser foot holder snaps on to. The presser foot holder is a part of your sewing machine that is attached to the shank of your machine with a screw.

Snap-On Presser Foot

You snap the presser foot on and off your presser foot holder by pushing a little button at the back of the presser foot holder or just pull the presser foot down and it will let go.

The good news: Snap-on presser feet work on both HIGH and LOW shank sewing machines with a snap-on system. So, in order to use snap-on feet, the height of your shank is not important.  

Most brands use the same universal snap-on system and that is the snap-on system Madam Sew uses on our universal snap-on presser feet. Some brands, like Pfaff have a different snap-on system, though. The bar isn’t the same width or the thickness is different. However, with a suitable adapter, you can use all universal snap-on presser feet on a Pfaff sewing machine as well.

Snap-on presser feet work on both high and low shank sewing machines with a snap-on system. So to use snap-on feet it is not important to know if your machine has a high or low shank.

Screw-On Presser Feet

Screw-on Presser Feet

In the picture above, you can see three screw-on presser feet. You need a little screwdriver to remove and attach these feet to your sewing machine.

The screw-on presser feet in the image are

If your sewing machine uses snap-on presser feet, you can also use screw-on presser feet. You just remove the presser foot holder and attach the screw on foot. If your machine doesn't use snap on feet and you always have to use a screw to remove a presser foot. Your presser foot and presser foot holder are in one piece. In this case, you have a screw-on sewing machine and you will need the low shank snap-on adapter to use snap-on feet. But this adapter will only fit your machine if it is low shank. I'll explain this further on…

As you can see in the GIF below, you first remove the regular screw-on foot or your machine’s presser foot holder, plus snap-on foot, and then you screw on the new presser foot on the shank.

Our most popular screw-on foot is the walking foot. We have different blog posts about this great versatile presser foot:

Bernina Presser Feet: Clip-On

Bernina is one of those brands that has a specific clip-on system that no other brand uses. To use universal presser feet on a Bernina sewing machine, you need a Bernina adapter.

Bernina Presser Foot

3. Do You Need an Adapter to Use Madam Sew’s Universal Snap-On Presser Feet?

The Madam Sew universal snap-on presser feet can be used on many sewing machines. Most people will be able to use them without the need for an adapter, some will need one. Read on to find out if you need an adapter, and if so, which one.

From what you read above, you now know:

  • whether you have a high or low shank machine and,

  • if your machine is made for both snap-on and screw-on feet or just uses screw-on presser feet.

Your machine will probably be one of the five types I listed here for you. I will explain them one by one below.

  1. low shank snap-on sewing machine
  2. low shank screw-on sewing machine
  3. high shank snap-on sewing machine
  4. high shank screw-on sewing machine
  5. Bernina sewing machine
Low shank High shank

Snap-on

A

C

Screw-on

B

D

Bernina

E

E

A. Low Shank, Snap-On Sewing Machines

Most sewing machine brands use the same, universal snap-on system for their presser feet. The Madam Sew presser feet also have that universal snap-on system that is widely used. That means the MadamSew presser feet snap on easily on most sewing machines. So in this situation you do not need an adapter.

Some brands, most notably PFAFF, have a different snap-on system. Their snap on bar has a different length. Some HUSQVARNA VIKING owners also let us know their snap-on feet don't fit.

Universal snap-on presser feet can be used with these sewing machines when using a universal low shank snap-on adapter. In fact, you just replace the presser foot holder with the adapter and the presser feet will fit.

low shank Snap-On Adapter

This low-shank snap-on adapter is included in our big presser foot sets, like the Big Five Presser Foot Set, the Ultimate 32 Pieces Presser Foot Set, and the Sew Straight Set.

B. Low Shank, Screw-On Sewing Machines

If your sewing machine uses screw-on presser feet, you need the universal low shank snap-on adapter to be able to use our universal snap-on presser feet. This adapter attaches to your sewing machine in exactly the same way as your screw-on presser feet.

Low Shank, Screw-on Presser Foot

C. High Shank, Snap-On Sewing Machines

Most brands use the same, universal snap-on system for their presser feet. The Madam Sew presser feet also have that universal snap-on system. That means the Madam Sew presser feet snap-on easily to most sewing machines. So in this situation you do not need an adapter.

Some brands, most notably PFAFF, have a different snap-on system. Universal snap-on presser feet can be used with Pfaff sewing machines if you use a universal high shank snap-on adapter.

High Shank Snap-On Adapter

If you want to use a certain screw-on presser foot on a high shank machine, you need to look for presser feet that are specifically made for high shank machines. The universal low shank presser feet will unfortunately not fit.

High Shank Snap-On Presser Feet

D. High Shank, Screw-On Sewing Machines

If your sewing machine uses screw-on presser feet, you need the universal high shank snap-on adapter to be able to use our universal snap-on presser feet. This adapter attaches to your sewing machine in exactly the same way as your screw-on presser feet.

High Shank Screw-On Presser Foot

E. Bernina Sewing Machines

If you have a Bernina sewing machine, you need a specific Bernina adapter + a low shank snap-on adapter to use our universal snap-on presser feet.

4. Universal Screw-On Presser Feet Fit On What Sewing Machine Type ?

This one is very easy… Universal low-shank screw-on presser feet can be used on

  • a low shank sewing machine? YES!

  • a high shank sewing machine? NO (and there is no adapter to fix this)

  • a Bernina sewing machine? YES, but you will need a specific Bernina adapter

5. How to Attach the Different Presser Foot Adapters

Above, you learned if you need an adapter and if so, what adapter you need. Here I explain how to use the different adapters.

A. The Low Shank Snap-on Adapter

In the GIF below, you can see how to put the low shank snap on adapter on your machine. You screw off the presser foot holder, or your screw-on presser foot, and screw on the adapter. Now you can snap on our feet. If you want more detailed instructions, go to our online manual page for the low shank adapter.

low shank Adapter for Pfaff
low shank Adapter for Pfaff Installed on a Sewing Machine

B. The High Shank Snap-On Adapter

You just screw the high shank snap-on adapter on to your presser bar after you've taken off your regular presser foot and you can snap our universal presser feet on and off.

            Picture from Madamsew website

C. The Bernina Adapters

Bernina Presser Foot Adapter
Bernina Adapter Side View

There are two types of Bernina adapters—one for the machines before 1996 and one for the models after 1996. To use the snap on presser feet, you need the low shank snap on adapter as well. For our screw on feet, you don’t. To choose the right Bernina adapter, we listed the models for you:

Old style = before 1996 Models

OLD STYLE: 530, 532, 534, 540, 600, 610, 640, 642, 644, 700, 707, 708, 709, 717, 718, 719, 730, 731, 732, 740, 741, 742, 744, 800, 801, 802, 803, 807, 808, 809, 810, 811, 817, 818, 819, 830, 831, 832, 840, 841, 842, 850, 900, 910, 930, 931, 932, 940, 950, 1000, 1001, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1008, 1010, 1011, 1015, 1020, 1030, 1031, 1080, 1090, 1120, 1130, 1230, 1260, 1530, 1630

New style = from 1996 Models

NEW STYLE: 215, 330, 350, 380, 530, 550, 560, 570, 580, 710, 720, 740, 750, 765, 770, 780, 790, 820, 880, Activa 240, 230, 220, 210, 145, 140, 135, 131, 130, 125, Artista 730, 640, 635, 630, 200, 185, 180, 170, 165 Aurora 450, 440, 435, 430 Virtuosa 163, 160, 155, 153, 150

Bernina Adapter 1
Bernina Adapter 2

In Summary

Click Here For Low Shank Snap-On Adapters

Click Here For High Shank Adapters

Click Here For Bernina Adapters

When you change a foot, always put the needle in the down position and back up to test if the needle doesn’t touch the metal of the foot.

Overview of Madam Sew’s Presser Feet

Madam Sew sells universal presser feet. We have a wide range of presser feet and adapters in the webstore and the collection is still growing so be sure to check the collection page from time to time.

The chart below shows some of the most common presser feet you may be interested in. All are included in our Ultimate 32pc Presser Foot Set or the Big Five Presser Foot Set. For every presser foot Madam Sew has online user instructions and a video that explains how to attach it, how to use and maintain the sewing machine attachment. You can find all presser feet user manuals on the webstore.

Big Five Presser Foot Set

Presser Foot Type

Flower stitch foot

screw-on, only on low-shank

Border guide foot

snap-on

Wide rolled hem foot

snap-on

Walking foot (open toe)

screw-on, only on low-shank

Ultimate 32 Pieces Presser Foot Set

Presser Foot Type Ultimate Presser Foot Set Number

Presser foot with ruler

snap-on

#24

Stitch-in-the-ditch foot

snap-on

#27

Adjustable bias binder foot

snap-on

#32

¼” quilting foot with guide

snap-on

#17

Darning foot

screw-on, only for low shank

#23

Madam Sew’s Ultimate Presser Foot Set comes with the low shank adapter included. This makes it compatible with most low shank sewing machines. High shank sewing machines can use the snap-on pieces from the set but not the four screw-on presser feet (two darning feet, gathering foot, and adjustable zipper foot).

Type of sewing machine Do you need the included adapter ? Do you need an additional adapter ?

A low shank machine with snap on feet (not Pfaff)

No

No

A low shank machine with screw-on presser foot

Yes

But you won’t need the adapter for feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet. You can just screw them on.

No

A low shank Pfaff machine

Yes

But you won’t need the adapter for feet number 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet. You can just screw them on.

No

A Bernina old style (before 1996)

Yes

But you won’t need the low shank snap on adapter for feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet. You can just screw them on.

Yes, the Bernina Old Style Adapter

A Bernina new style (after 1996)

 

Yes

But you won’t need the low shank snap on adapter for feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet. You can just screw them on.

Yes, the Bernina New Style Adapter

A high shank machine with snap-on feet

No

No

But you will not be able to use the feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet

A high shank machine with screw on feet

Yes

Yes, the High shank adapter,

!! You will not be able to use the feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet

* If you notice that your needle touches the presser foot, then try it with the included adapter. In some cases it works perfectly with a certain machine type and for some reason with the same type, the needle touches the foot. So always test with your hand wheel before you stitch. If the set or a presser foot doesn't fit your machine, we will issue you a full refund, no questions asked

Type of sewing machine Do you need an additional adapter ? Do you need an additional adapter ?

A high shank machine with screw on feet

No

Yes, the High shank adapter,

You will not be able to use the feet numbers 14, 18, 20 and 23 because these are screw-on feet

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Conclusion

Wow, congratulations! You made it all the way to the end of this technical post. Technical stuff is not my favorite. I would rather write about creating beautiful things. But I actually enjoyed making this overview. As we get a lot of questions asking if a foot fits a specific machine, I know it will help a lot of our customers to get a better idea of what they need (or don’t need) to start using our oh so useful universal presser feet.

And I remember very well how I felt when I discovered all the amazing things I could do with specialty presser feet.

If you have any more questions or hesitations about this, don’t hesitate to send me an email an@madamsew.com.

Have fun sewing and discovering how easy it is to use specialty presser feet! We have clear tutorials, manuals, and instruction videos for every single presser foot we have in our store. Check out all the videos on YouTube, our sewing blog with a lot of sewing and quilting inspiration, and all the online manuals on our webstore. All free for you to use and have more sewing fun!

Have fun sewing and discovering how easy it is to use specialty presser feet! We have clear tutorials, manuals, and instruction videos for every single presser foot we have in our store. Check out all the videos on YouTube, our sewing blog with a lot of sewing and quilting inspiration, and all the online manuals on our webstore. All free for you to use and have more sewing fun!


An
Blogging for MadamSew.com

Madam Sew is an online sewing and quilting store. It carries Tools, Notions, Presser Feet, Essentials, Handy Helpers, Organization/Storage Items, and more for sewers and quilters. Plus, it has many manuals and free tutorial blogs to help increase your skills

Visit us at www.madamsew.com and discover all we have to offer you.

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