Friday, October 22, 2010

Darning Feet--In Depth part 1

Before I begin this post, let's define what a darning foot is. A darning foot is an attachment for the sewing machine that is usually mounted on a spring or a hinge. It is meant to be used when the feed dogs are lowered, and allows the sewer to move the fabric under it, freely in any direction.  It is also called a quilting foot, hopping foot, or a free-motion foot, and may be called something else depending on your brand of sewing machine. I use this type of foot exclusively for all my embroidery on quilt tops and all my free-motion quilting. It doesn't restrict the sewer to any specific direction, it is very freeing when you learn to sew in this manner.

It is always amazing that I still make discoveries, even after I've been quilting for soooooo many years.  In my book Dancing with Thread I mention that I prefer to use a closed toe darning foot when quilting on the border or outside edge of a quilt. This is because it is less likely to catch in the edge of the border.

This particular day, I had finished the edge of the quilt, and was moving on to a different project. Too lazy to put the open toed foot back on, I just began to machine quilt with the enclosed foot.  To my surprise, it gave me more control and a better free-motion stitch quality than the open foot, which came with my machine.
Plastic closed toe darning foot for Janome machine
 Little discoveries like this continue to help make my work better. How could this be? The open toe style gives the quilter more visibility for quilting or embroidering around appliques or in the seams. It is easier to see, so I have always used this one for general quilting.

Because the closed toe above, does limit the visibility slightly, I think the improved stitch quality outweighs the visual adjustment I've had to make. Why does it improve the stitch? I think because it lightly holds the fabric down near where the needle pierces the fabric. There seems to be less pulling and stress on the top of the quilt; hence a better stitch. The opening of foot measures about 3/8 ths of an inch.
Open toed darning foot, original equipment for Janome machines
You can see in the above picture how much easier it is to see where the needle will pierce the cloth for the next stitch. So of course, I used to always use this foot!

Janome offers another darning foot.  Read about it in the next post, darning feet part 2

Ann Fahl


Karen said...

I've discovered the same thing.....I want to use my open-toed foot, but the other one just holds the fabric so much better. Love your work, btw!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info. I've just started to use a darning foot on my machine after being a hand-sewer for years... always interested in the little tricks of the trade... :)
Much appreciated.