Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Presser Feet

Mary Jo asks, "A friend has a White 999 and wants a walking foot…I've tried to explain to her about checking the alignment of the feed dogs and checking the shank, anything else she should check?". While I don't intend to use the blog to answer individual questions, this might be an opportune time to start a thread about presser feet, because they cause a good deal of stress for new users of vintage machines. I am certainly not a fountain of presser foot knowledge, I'll just spout out what I know and invite anyone else to jump in and add more info or correct any misstatements I might make.
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While there are quite a number of different sizes, shapes, and styles of presser feet out there, the vast majority manufactured since the turn of the 20th Century fall into 3 1/2 categories:



- High Shank - Used on most industrial sewing machines and on Japanese zig zag machines of the 60's and 70's. Necchi machines of that era used high shank attachments on zig zag models and low shank attachments on straight-stitch models. If you have a high shank machine and are having problems locating suitable and economical presser feet, check with an industrial machine vendor. You'll be amazed at the huge variety of feet available.

- Slant Shank - Used on Singer machines made in the USA, Germany, and Japan in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Singer introduced the slant shank on the model 301 in 1950 and continued through all of the Slant-O-Matics, Touch 'n' Sew series and beyond. Interestingly, the Singers manufactured in Great Britain during the same time period continued using low shank accessories.

- Low Shank - probably the most common.

- Snap-On - I call this the 1/2 category because the snap-on adapters I have seen are low shank.
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Berninas use exclusive Bernina style attachments that will not interchange with anything else. This keeps the price of Bernina accessories high and is reason enough for me to stay away from Berninas unless they come with a full complement of presser feet and other attachments.

For a short time, Sears used a "Super High Shank" style presser foot on their Kenmores, probably for the same reason that Bernina uses exclusive feet - to stifle competition.

For a few years, Singer used back-clamping feet on the model 66, but later switched to low shank feet. Back-clamping feet are a bit scarce, but it is a simple job to swap the presser bar from a later model 66 and begin using low shank attachments.
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The general wisdom is that you may swap feet between different machines as long as they are the same style (High Shank, Slant Shank, etc.). While this is basically true, there are some considerations:

- The feed dog on a zig zag machine is wider than the feed dog on a straight stitch machine. If you try to swap a straight stitch foot to a zig zag machine, or vice-versa, the feed dog might not align properly with the underside of the foot and fabric will not feed properly.

- The needles on early zig zag machines were not centered, as they are today, they rested in the left side of the needle hole in the throat plate. If you try to swap a straight stitch foot between center-needle machines and left-needle machines, the needle will hit the foot and break. Usually the zig zag feet are still swappable because the hole in the foot is wide enough to accept the needle all the way from full left to full right throw.

The Clotilde catalog has a chart crossing machines to the style of presser foot at:
http://www.clotilde.com/cl/shank_chart1.asp
I spotted at least one error in the Necchi section, but it might help somewhat.

There you have it - the sum total of my presser foot knowledge! Comments?

9 comments:

Margie said...

Bernina offers adapters that allows you to use feet from other manufacturers. I have two different adapters of different lengths. Of course, you do pay for these adapters almost the same price as the feet. Low shank feet attach to the adapter the same way they attach to a presser bar, with a side screw.

The ruffler I use on my Bernina 1630 is an old Singer one that I purchased for $1.00. With the adapter, that is a lot less than the price of a Bernina ruffler and it works great.

Ed Lamoureux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Lamoureux said...

Thank you, Anonymous, the correction has been made. It took 5 1/2 years for the error to be noticed, shows just how widely-read this blog is! -Ed

Audrey Johnson said...

I found a sewing machine @ my grandmothers, it has an A in a square do any of you happen to know who mad this one there is a serial # or make of any kind. I can email pics of it. All I have found is made in japan. And the numbers 2200-9954 I googled that and came up with nothing. I've had it for going on 10 years so I'm hopeing to find something out thanks so much Audrey

Anonymous said...

I found a Vogue Stitch Model 5800.
Need ti find a bobbin holder for it and a manual.
Were would be a good place to find them.
Glad to find a place to ask qustion on older sewing machines.

rookie quilter said...

Did the person in the original post find a walking foot for her White 999? I am looking for the same thing, and because there are so many factors to consider now, I want to make sure I order the correct thing.

Stacy Lopez said...

Need to find a bobbin holder for it and a manual.
Were would be a good place to find them.

Ed Lamoureux said...

A make and model would be helpful! Ed

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, I have a sewing machine that has been in the basement of a home we purchased in 1960. The machine is a Visetti, id'd with 175Deluxe Automatic Buttonhole, made in Japan. This machine was purchased new (I think) for me probably between 1960 and 1970. I'm not so concerned about it's value, but would like to try and find a user's manual for it. It was my first electric sewing machine and I made plenty of clothes for my children on it as they were growing up . I've learned online that it was made (probably) by Toyota. My son is showing an interest in it, as much for it's age as for using it and I'm just trying to help him find a manual for it. Any pertinent info you can offer would be appreciated. I's a soft blue and off-white; I have photos of it if helpful. I'm guessing the serial # is on it somewhere, but at present I don't have it.
Thanks Ed. Betty