What presser feet do you need to make a quilt
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Sewing machine feet needed to make a quilt

If you are a beginner sewer and want to make a quilt, you have likely seen references to needing special presser feet to make a quilt. And when you went looking at the store or online there were so so many. Do you really need all those special feet to make a quilt?

Which presser feet are most important in quilting

There are three major sewing steps in making a quilt – piecing, quilting and binding.

Piecing

Piecing is when you sew all those little pieces of fabric together to make a pretty design on the quilt top. These seams are just like any other simple seam so you can use the regular general purpose foot that came with your machine.

However, it is really important that the seam allowance be a very accurate and even quarter inch wide if you want your quilt blocks to all fit together nicely. There are two ways to do this:

Mark your machine

A very easy and inexpensive way to sew an accurate quarter inch seam is just to use masking or washi tape to mark a line on the bed of your sewing machine 1/4 inch away from the needle. You can then just use a regular general purpose presser foot and line up the edge of your fabric with the edge of the tape.

Use washi tape to make a quarter inch seam
Use washi or masking tape to mark where edge of fabric should be to make a 1/4 inch seam

Use a piecing foot

Many manufacturers make special presser feet just for piecing called piecing or quarter inch feet. Often they are just exactly 1/4 inch wide so you can just line the edge of your fabric with the edge of the foot. If you are a beginner sewer you might want to find one that has a special guide at the front to help guide the fabric in evenly as you learn to sew straight seams.

But with a little practice and some washi tape, you certainly can learn to sew an accurate 1/4 inch seam with the regular general purpose presser foot.

So a piecing foot is nice, but optional.

Quilting

Quilting is when you sew through the three layers of the quilt (top, batting, back) to hold it all together. Because of the thickness and all the layers if you use a regular foot you will get ripples and tucks. So you do have to have a special foot to make sure that doesn’t happen in your quilt. Which foot you use depends on how you plan to quilt your quilt.

Straight lines or gentle curves

Choosing a quilting pattern that is just straight lines or very gentle curves is the easiest way to quilt your quilt, and definitely what I recommend for beginners.

To sew these quilting lines, you can use walking foot. A walking foot ‘walks’ across the layers of the quilt instead of sliding. The walking action prevents ripples and tucks from forming. (see this post to see how it does that and for links to purchase feet for different brands of machines).

Walking foot. What is it? How does it work? When to use it.
More walking foot info at this special post!

With a walking foot you can sew the same kinds of lines you would sew in regular sewing. You can do straight lines, corners, and gentle curves. There are lots of cool quilting designs you can create with a walking foot if you do a little creative thinking.

Use a walking foot to quilt
Walking foot used for quilting

Squiggles and curves

If you’ve seen some fancier quilting on quilts, you’ve probably seen all sorts of meandering squiggles, pebbling and feathers. These are done with free motion quilting.

Free motion quilting means to move the quilt under the needle yourself rather than the machine moving the fabric under the needle – you move it ‘free of the machine’.

This is much more difficult than it appears in videos. Many quilts done with free motion quilts are done on long arm machines rather than a regular household sewing machine. This doesn’t mean it is impossible, just that you will want to practice before you charge ahead on your quilt.

To do free motion quilting you drop or cover your feed dogs (see this post is you don’t know what a feed dog is), and use a special foot that hops up and down with every stitch. This allows you to move the fabric in all directions while still holding the fabric down enough to allow the needle to come up. These feet are often called free motion, darning or hopping feet. They are often circles like the one below, but some are open on one side of the circle for visibility.

Free motion or hopping foot for quilting

Binding

The very last step of the quilting process is to put the binding on around the edge of the quilt. If you’ve heard the term ‘hand finished’ binding you may think that you don’t use the sewing machine at all to do the binding. But actually hand finishing just refers to the second step of binding a quilt.

To bind a quilt you first sew the binding to one side of the quilt (usually the front) and then fold the binding back around the edge and sew it to the other side of the quilt.

In hand finished binding a sewing machine is used to sew it to the front of the quilt, and then hand stitching is used to sew it to the back. But you can also use your machine to do this second step as well.

When sewing the binding to the quilt, you again will be sewing through many layers, so a walking foot is necessary to avoid tucks and gathers.

Use a walking foot to sew on quilt binding
Use a walking foot to sew binding on your quilt

Which presser feet will you use for making a quilt?

  • Walking foot – for binding and quilting – absolutely necessary!
  • Piecing or 1/4 inch foot – helpful
  • Free motion foot – only when you are ready to try free motion quilting.

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