What is a Darning Foot?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
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Woman with a flower

A darning foot is a sewing machine attachment used in quilting. More specifically, a darning foot is a type of presser foot. Each type of presser foot produces a different stitching look, and darning feet are used for the free-motion quilting technique. Darning feet are also called free-motion feet.

Free-motion quilting creates fancy patterns and designs by using a template while machine stitching. This technique is recommended for advanced quilters, as even those with many years of quilting experience may need quite a bit of practice to master the free-motion style. The length of the stitches is controlled by the sewing speed and how fast the quilter turns the fabric. Practice is needed to be able to control stitch length to match the markings on the pattern. Both hands are often required to guide the fabric under the darning foot.

Most quilting experts recommend trying smaller free-motion projects such as a table runner, pillow top or wall hanging first. When free-motion techniques are mastered, a stipple quilt may make a good next project. Stipple quilting is considered the easiest type of free-motion quilting because a pattern or template isn't used. It may also help to use a darning foot make from clear acrylic to allow for clearer viewing during stitching.

Darning feet have a curved section that fits around the sewing machine needle. This curved part is known as a toe. The toe moves right above the fabric and the curved shape helps the quilter to create many different kinds of intricate, curvy stitching designs.

During free-motion quilting, the sewing machine's feed dogs aren't used since the fabric must be hand-fed through the needle. Manufacturer's directions for disengaging the feed dogs should be followed. Many older machines have an extra plate that can be used to simply cover the feed dog mechanism. Some sewing machine models include a knob that is turned to drop the feed dogs down and put them temporarily out of use.

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