WHAT IS A WALKING FOOT SEWING MACHINE? (AND WHY YOU NEED ONE)

There is a lot of confusion about what exactly a walking foot sewing machine is. First, let’s clear up any misconception you may have about a real walking foot sewing machine.

A walking foot machine is built for industrial use. Basically, a walking foot sewing machine is a straight stitch machine that is specially designed to evenly feed in the materials (both the top and bottom pieces). The feet of the machine—that is, the flat piece surrounding the needle—are made up of two pieces that move separately from one another to accomplish even feeding.

A walking foot sewing machine has a foot that looks like it’s walking as you sew.

Industrial Machines Only

There’s no such thing as a domestic walking foot sewing machine. Although, you can buy an attachment that will mount onto a domestic machine, just like you might mount a buttonholer.

While the domestic attachments may serve a similar purpose, it is far from the same as a real industrial walking foot machine. Here’s why:

  • Domestic attachments do not duplicate the motion that is so vital to a real walking foot machine.
  • Domestic attachments do not convert your domestic sewing machine into a real walking foot machine.

Technically, while domestic attachments are called “walking foot attachments”, they are properly known as plaid matchers. They can be effective for some uses but they do not replace a real walking foot machine and its accuracy. A domestic attachment costs about $20.

Why You Need a Real Walking Foot Machine

Now that you know what not to fall for, here’s why you need a real walking foot sewing machine.

-When producing products commercially, you can’t afford to waste precious hours wasted by a machine that was not meant to sew multiple layers of heavy material.

– A walking foot machine usually eliminates the need to pin your material together, which is a painstaking process. The ability of a walking foot machine to feed evenly means there will be limited slippage, which keeps your pattern and material true to place while sewing.

-The ability to climb over differences in thicknesses without getting stuck

-Walking foot machines are a staple in the upholstery industry.

Pricing a Walking Foot Machine

You can find stationary table mounted industrial walking foot machines starting at around $1375, going up to $4000 and even $7000 depending on the model and features you’re looking at. I don’t recommend the smaller portable walking foot machines unless you really need the portability. The portable machines have a much smaller neck and will be difficult to sew large sections of pleats and can cause trouble when sewing large seat covers.

There are a few different brands to consider, including:

  • Adler
  • Juki
  • Pfaff
  • Brother
  • Consew
  • Sailrite
  • Others I’m forgetting…

These brands are well-known and if you put in the initial investment, you can find a quality machine that will last for many years. You can also find used and second-hand machines with a long life still left in them.

What To Look For

Here are some things to look for when purchasing a walking foot machine:

  • Make sure you’re buying a legitimate industrial grade walking foot machine. It can also be described as a “compound feed”
  • Look for a machine with a reverse function.
  • If possible, test the machine (or a model like it) before buying so you can get a feel for the controls.

Be sure it’s a real walking foot machine. Some people don’t know the difference and will tell you it is anyways. If in doubt, call the manufacturer and inquire about the model. This may be a good idea anyway, in addition to your research. One reason is that some models are meant for drapes and other materials, while others are meant for upholstery. They can look very similar, but an walking foot upholstery sewing machine will have more power and improved ability to sew heavy fabrics.

Do Your Research

As always, make sure to shop around and do your research about the machine you will be buying. Compare similar models within the product line and consider the motor, power, and other features. If you’re buying a used machine, make sure to test it or ask for a demonstration to ensure everything works properly. If it looks like it has been misused or sounds like something might be off, keep looking.

If your machine doesn’t come with a factory manual, you should be able to find one pretty easily online or by calling the manufacturer directly. It is important that you actually review the manual prior to using your machine, as it does have a lot of valuable information in it. The manual should also tell you about some basic adjustments and maintenance procedures for your machine.

Along with your sewing machine, you will need to get a few different attachments (if needed) to allow you to sew zippers and welting.

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