Knit presser foot versus walking foot

A number of years ago I invested in a walking foot for my Bernina sewing machine. It wasn’t cheap, but it does a wonderful job. The walking foot makes sewing stretch or very light fabrics a breeze and matching checks and stripes a dream, but it wasn’t cheap. Its also wonderful at preventing puckering and when matching seams.

Bernina walking foot, note the special Bernina fitting which means no screwdriver is needed to fit the foot.

Last week I saw something called a ‘knit presser foot’, and thought it was interesting – mainly because the foot itself is smaller than the walking foot so I thought it might be easier to use in tight spaces.

The clip-on knit foot – note the bar that fits over the needle clamp.

The knit foot I bought is a clip-on foot, but provided you already own (or purchase), a Bernina adaptor for clip-on feet thats not a problem. These adaptors cost anything from £7-£15, depending on which one you opt for, and where you buy it. I have bought a couple from eBay and the most recent one from Austins. The eBay ones are made up from a Bernina low shank adaptor and a low shank clip on adaptor screwed together. A slightly kutcha solution, and with more potential for wobbling and misalignment, but they work OK in general. The Austin’s one is a single piece adaptor, which on the whole I prefer, but both have their uses.

I am also an impatient sewer, and it looked a bit easier to fit the knit foot for a quick seam. Its actually still a fiddle, very little difference in time needed fitting the knit or the walking foot I would say, once the adaptor is installed.

The knit foot itself came as part of a set of feet, some of which quite frankly I have no idea how to use. My enjoyment of this set is amplified by the wonderful names of some of the feet, ‘Iron opens the mouth to’, and ‘If you don’t speak iron’. Yes they are embroidery feet, but much prefer these names.

Finally I was ready to test out the knit foot. I am impressed, it does a pretty good job of sewing stretch fabrics and matching checks; I’ve not tried it on slithery or slinky fabrics yet, or thick knits rather than jersey.

The blue plastic bar, I think this is silicone type plastic as it is slightly sticky.

The key feature of the foot that you notice first is the arm that fits over the needle clamp. This works in a similar way as the arm on the walking foot; it reduces the pressure of the foot on the fabric as the needle raises and lowers. In the knit foot this is a little more obvious than with the walking foot. Underneath the knit foot a small (blue in my case) soft plastic bar grips the fabric and as the pressure is released on the foot, this gripper feeds the top fabric through the foot in synch with the raising and lowering of the foot.

The Bernina walking foot I have has black firm rubber bars that grab the fabric, feeding the top fabric through as the foot lefts of the fabric. Some brands of walking feet have teeth rather than rubber bars. I think this was the mechanism on a low shank generic walking foot I bought many years ago that, despite an adaptor, did not work well with my Bernina, and was a pig to install each time. I think I still have this, so may try it some day on my non-Bernina machine.

The under side of my Bernina walking foot, you can just see the black rubber bars between the metal .

Both feet equalise the feed of the top fabric with that of the bottom fabric as it is fed through by the feed dogs underneath the machine. In overlockers (sergers) a differential feed prevents puckering in stretch and very fine fabrics in a slightly different way, but still controls the way in which the fabric is fed through under the presser foot.

Stitch length makes a big contribution to successful use of the knit foot. Shorter lengths work best for me. You can use a double needle in with either foot. My walking foot is limited to a shorter stitch length for reverse stitch at start and finish.

These two feet so far have seemed pretty equal, but I like the knit foot for being small and easier on small pieces. It is also easier turning corners and sewing curves with the knit foot than with the walking foot. If I want a perfect seam I will however use the walking foot, because I trust it more through my experience of its reliable consistency in use.

Time may change this evaluation, but if you want to try sewing stretchy fabrics or matching patterns etc, for the price, a knit foot is a good investment. If you use it a lot, maybe think about a walking foot on your Christmas list.

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