The Free Motion Quilting Project: Break Your Foot

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Break Your Foot

Not your real foot, silly! Let's break your free motion foot so it works better and gives you 360 degrees of visibility around your needle.

Here's how to do it:

You can pick up your own generic free motion foot right here.

Why invest in a generic foot just to break it?

Well for some reason there's a big selection of machines that don't have darning feet / free motion feet made by their manufacturer.

Even worse, some machines, like my Juki, come with big, clunky free motion feet that need to be modified anyway. You might as well break a foot that isn't super expensive and can easily be replaced!

These feet are generic and they're available in 2 sizes: high shank and low shank, so they can fit most machines.

Here's how to determine which shank machine you have:

Put on your regular piecing foot and lower the foot. Using a tape measure, measure the distance from the bottom of the foot to the top of the screw hole that attaches the foot to your machine.

If the distance is 3/4" or less, you probably have a low shank machine.

If the distance is 1 1/4", chances are you have a high shank machine.

If you're sewing with a singer, you might have a Slant Shank machine (distance of 1 1/8"). In this case, you'll want to get the Big Foot for Slant Shank machines instead.

With the Big Foot, the only modification you really need to make is to cut off or bend back the bar that causes the foot to hop on the surface of your quilt.

Of course, this is a personal preference, so only break it if you don't like the hopping!

Bernina users really don't need to try out this generic foot because Bernina already makes a perfect, metal open toe darning foot for your machine. Just go talk to your dealer to find this awesome foot.

While it may seem silly to fuss over which foot you use, it's actually extremely important.

How much visibility you have around your needle will directly effect how well you travel over your previous stitching, hit certain points of your design, and see where you want to go next.

Before I modified my juki foot, I felt like I was trying to quilt in the dark. The foot was in my way and I couldn't see the stitches or estimate where I wanted to go next.

It's almost like trying to drive a car with a 6 ft tall person sitting on your lap!

I mention in the video that I like the generic foot better. In truth, I really like the Big Foot the best of all, but both plastic feet are extremely reflective on camera.

I'm a firm believer in finding something that works and sticking with it so I'll continue to use my metal foot simply because I don't like to have to readjust to a new foot every time I sit down to quilt.

So if your foot isn't up to snuff, consider giving the generic free motion foot or the Big Foot a try.

I bet once you put it on your machine, you'll realize you've been quilting in the dark this whole time!

Let's go quilt (or break our feet!)

Leah Day


  1. I had my local sewing repair guy break my foot - and I LOVE it! I had him do it right when I bought the foot and will never try a regular foot... so good to SEE what you're quilting!

  2. Just bought a new free motion foot that is large in diameter and open. I'm loving it. Just that one thing changed my quilting significantly. Lane

  3. Excellent post!

    I didn't know that the foot would work without hopping. Several months ago, I upgraded to a Husqvarna from my old, cheap Kenmore. I had been using a generic darning foot before, but it wouldn't quite fit the new machine, so I bent the bar out of the way, but it still hopped. (Gah, I hate that sound!) Now I'm going to further modify it.

    Thanks for the info!

  4. Great idea! I'll have to try mine out to see what works best...

  5. I am having a simmilar blindness issue. I find that I can see well working up and away from myself with existing stitching on my left, but anything else is difficult. I am curious now as to if this would help. I have a similar foot that is standard with my machine with the clear plastic base. I'll have to get another one to try.

  6. Thanks for this, Leah. I have a Janome foot, and the thick plastic across the front drives me crazy. It means that you really can't see clearly where you are going. I've been contemplating breaking it, but was a bit scared because it wasn't cheap. I know the newer Janome feet don't have the plastic across the front - I guess they realised what a stupid design it was at some stage. So maybe I'll attack mine now, after seeing how easy you made it look.

  7. My Husqvarna foot looks just like the Bernina, too. Yay for me!

  8. I found your blog on another site. Lucky me! I got my cutters out and cut my pfaff quilting foot, bent the bar back and added my rubber band. Dropped the feeddogs and everything worked perfect!!!! Thank you for sharing the information.

  9. This comment has nothing to do with feet ;) I am a new follower of your blog (and a new quilter) and wanted to say hello and THANKS for your remarkable work on this blog and on your project. I send you warmest regards and best wishes.

  10. I can't find a Bernina open toe foot to order anywhere. The metal darning foot I have is so thick that it would be impossible to cut it. Can you point me to a store where I might purchase one?

  11. Hey Wilma - Check ebay! Best place in the world for cheaper Bernina feet.

    You never know what you'll find there, but just double check that it's name brand Bernina or you might get a lemon.

    Let's go quilt!

    Leah Day

  12. Going to break my foot first thing in the morning. Hopefully my free motion stitching will improve as my eyesight is not great at the best of times

  13. Looking forward to breaking my foot first thing in the morning. It's driving me nuts as it is.

  14. Thank you so much for the video. I had read about this before but was afraid to try it. A couple minutes after I watched your video I had a newly-opened foot all clipped and sanded!

  15. Leah
    I have a juki TL 2000 QI . Is this a short or long shank quilting foot?

  16. Char - The TL98QE is the older version of that machine and it was high shank, but it could have changed with your model. I'd run some google searches just to be sure...



  17. I used waxed dental floss instead of a ponytail holder. I find I can readjust it if I need more or less space.

  18. Thanks Leah, I just 'broke' my foot! I've free motion quilted for years with my Bernina with no problems at all. But I've just bought a little Janome to take when I'm teaching and to retreats etc. I just tried to free motion with it and it was like trying to push through tar -so frustrating. I remembered when you had posted about foot modification and went searching. My foot was open toed already but I bent the bar out the way and lifted the foot up with a rubber band and now it's easy breezy.

  19. Hi Leah, my machine (Husqvarna) has 2 free motion settings, one with and one without spring action. Am I correct in using the "without spring action" setting when quilting with my newly broken foot? Thanks.

    1. I would try both settings and see what works best for you!


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