"If you'd like me to break your foot just let me know!"
I got some pretty weird looks from that, especially because I was walking around in just socks for most of the class. But eventually students found I wasn't referring to their actual foot, but their free motion quilting foot (also called a Darning foot).
Here's a video I shot last year of me breaking a cheap generic foot. It's always better to do this on another foot rather than the expensive one that came with your machine!
You see, most darning feet are pretty badly designed. I've only experienced two feet fresh out of the box that could work for free motion quilting without being modified in some way.
One was Bernina's Open Toe Darning Foot. I'm not sure why, but I'm having a really hard time finding that foot online and I wonder if they've discontinued it due to the BSR foot? Anyone know?
The other foot that has worked perfect straight out of the box is the darning foot supplied with the Janome Horizon. I absolutely LOVE that foot!
You can pick between an open toe, closed toe, or this wide base foot. Even better, you can adjust the pressure of the foot on your quilt top on the actual foot by fiddling with the little spring thingy on the side. That's just plain awesome!
But most darning feet aren't this smart or well designed. Most look something like this:
This is a generic darning foot I carry in the quilt shop, and straight out of the box, this little guy has some issues.
First off he has this long bar jutting out on the top that hits your needle bar every time your needle goes up. This causes the foot to raise up slightly and, when stitching at high speed, makes an awful racket (think machine gun fire).
The design flaw is pretty simple: rather than create some sort of adjustable mechanism, the foot is designed to sit too low on your machine. If it didn't have the needle bar thingy, the foot would be squishing your quilt so bad you wouldn't be able to move it.
So when you stitch with the needle bar in tact, you're not actually getting a totally free range of movement. Every time the needle bar lifts the foot you can move, but as soon as the needle comes down, you've just squashed your quilt again!
Lift, squish, lift, squish isn't a very smooth way of free motion quilting. You need to be able to move and slide your quilt around freely no matter what position the needle is in.
The great news is, the fix is very simple: break that bar off your foot.
Once you break that bar off (or just bend it back with needle nose pliers), your needle bar will no longer hit anything and a peaceful hum, rather than rapid gunfire, will fill your sewing room while you quilt.
But there is a problem! The foot will now be sitting at it's lowest position - the squish position! If placed on your machine in this state, your quilt will be impossible to move underneath it.
So solution #2 is to place either a rubber band or elastic ponytail holder over the top part of the foot, adjusting the height of the foot so that the base skims over the surface of your quilt.
You can adjust how high the foot is by adding or subtracting loops from the top of the foot. I find that the average foot needs 3 loops lifting the base around 1/4." Start with that amount, and if it's too low (still squishing your quilt) add another loop and lift the base a bit more.
And if it's too high (things feel a bit out of control and your thread is prone to break when the foot is too high) take a loop away to drop the base a bit.
You will have extra rubber band or ponytail elastic left so just wind that around the top part to get it out of the way:
While this isn't the most elegant fix to your free motion foot, it does WORK and that's what matters.
But there is one other thing that's wrong with this foot:
I prefer an open toe for free motion quilting, especially if I'm travel stitching because you can't stitch perfectly on top of a line you can't see!
To fix this part all you need to do is take some jewelry clippers and clip open the base. Because this can result in some sharp edges, I then take a nail file and sand down the rough edges of the foot.
Viola! An Open Toe Darning Foot, perfectly adjusted for your machine!
So if you find yourself struggling to move your quilt smoothly and freely, or if you find that travel stitching is virtually impossible because you can't see anything around your needle, you know what to do:
Go break your foot!
That's it for this Feature Friday!
Let's go quilt,