What is a Presser Foot?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Presser feet are devices that help to increase the efficiency of sewing machines. Essentially, the presser foot is the lever that is used to hold material in place as the fabric is fed through the machine. It helps to keep the material taut and steady while the needle passes through and creates stitches in the fabric.

The presser foot holds fabric in place on a sewing machine.
The presser foot holds fabric in place on a sewing machine.

In design, this device somewhat resembles the letter “L”. As the needle lowers into position to initiate a stitch, the presser foot is placed firmly on top of the material. The section of the device that rests on the fabric is split. The needle actually makes the stitches in the area of fabric that is exposed between the opening in the foot. Because the device holds the material in place, it is possible to quickly make a series of stitches that are evenly spaced and in a straight line with relatively little effort.

In order to allow the material to progress during the process, the presser foot will slide upward and away from the fabric at the same time that the needle is retracted. This allows another component of the sewing machine, known as the pantograph, to aid in moving the material so that the next stitch point can be properly aligned.

While there is a standard presser foot included with all types of sewing machines, the device is detachable. This is because different sizes and configurations of this device exist. When working with material that is thicker and may be more difficult to stitch, the job may call for a customized form. One example would be sewing machines used in factory situations to sew seams on sleeping bags. The presser foot employed in that scenario would be heavier and larger than that used on a machine used for home sewing tasks.

Fabric stores are often a good source when it is necessary to replace an existing presser foot. In like manner, repair shops that are certified to work on various types of sewing machines often have access to various types of presser feet. Generally, a replacement presser foot is inexpensive and will take very little time to put in place.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I hate using a zipper foot. I'd rather just put in a zipper with the regular presser foot, but it's too aggravating. Zippers are a pain in the neck anyway, and the zipper foot just adds to the irritation.

I hate changing them too, but what can you do if you want to use your sewing machine?

I'd like to have one of those really expensive machines that will do everything, including embroidery. I remember when getting a machine with a zig-zag stitch was a big deal. Now, some are totally computerized and will do a zillion things.


A presser foot is a necessity on a sewing machine, but they can be *so* aggravating to change! I used my mom's ancient Singer machine, and the presser feet screwed on and off. Now, they snap on and off, and they don't want to do either one very readily, so I'm always afraid I'll break the plastic one.

If I'm doing a buttonhole, I do the plastic presser foot so I can see what the needle is doing through the plastic. It's a major pain. As I said, they're necessary, but they certainly are annoying!

Post your comments
Forgot password?