I want to introduce you to a great tool for quilting: the open-toe walking foot. It’s not only a walking foot but an open-toe one as well! This means that all the layers of your quilting sandwich will be fed evenly through your machine, preventing puckering, AND you will be able to see what you’re doing. Plus, the open toe has guides on the foot itself and an adjustable, removable guide that will allow you to easily quilt parallel lines and turn corners accurately.
OPEN TOE WALKING FOOT VS REGULAR WALKING FOOT
As you can see in the pictures, both walking feet look very similar from the side. Every walking foot has a lever with a fork that hooks onto the sewing machine needle holder screw; as the needle moves up and down, so does the fork’s lever, moving the walking foot’s feed dogs in turn. This is how all layers of fabric move together.
Now, if you look at the open-toe walking foot from the front, you can see that it has a space in the center, where your stitches will be, and also some guides in red. The guides will help you make precise turns and keep even distances between stitching lines.
INSTALLING THE FOOT
The walking foot is not a snap-on presser foot, so get out your screwdriver for this job.
BEFORE YOU QUILT
Before you start working on your quilt, make yourself a small sample with the same or similar fabrics to try your settings, and do a couple of trial runs.
You can quilt with a universal needle and whatever regular thread you normally use. Make sure you do not use quilting thread on your machine, it’s meant for hand quilting and the wax coating it has will gunk up the tension guides inside the machine.
The walking foot is meant to work best with a straight or zig-zag stitch, it will work fine with zig-zag based stitches, but it is not recommended to use for embroidery stitches. Also, when using a walking foot, sew at a medium to low speed; no racing with this guy!
ADJUSTING THE SETTINGS ON YOUR MACHINE
When quilting, you are dealing with much thicker fabric than usual, plus three layers instead of just two. This will affect the tension of your stitches, so you will have to experiment a bit to see what works best; counterintuitively, I find that I usually need to raise the tension (and note that I say usually and not always, it really varies with each quilt).
Another adjustment that I like to make is to lengthen my stitches to a 4; I mostly do this because I like my quilting lines to be prominent and show clearly on my fabric, but it is a common adjustment when working with thick fabric as it helps the feed dogs do their work.
Lastly, if your machine allows you to change the presser foot pressure, lower it to a 2 or a 1. Consult your sewing machine manual to see if you have this option.
QUILTING YOUR FIRST LINE
USING THE GUIDES ON THE FOOT
Once you have your first line of stitches, you can use it as a guide and align it with the guides or the edges of your foot to make evenly spaced lines.
The quarter inch markings are also very helpful to turn sharp corners
USING THE DETACHABLE GUIDE
Your open-toe walking foot also comes with a detachable guide that you can use to quilt lines with larger spaces in between them. This guide attaches to the back of the foot from either side by simply sliding it into the hole.
You can slide the guide closer or further away from the foot until it rests on the spot you want to use as a guide (this can be a seam, the fabric edge, a previous quilting line…), then keep this line aligned with the guide as you quilt your next line.
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