Your presser foot is the piece that sits below your needle and holds your fabric down against your needle plate as you sew. The presser foot is moved down before sewing a seam, then lifted back up when finished.
Your sewing machine likely came with a zigzag foot (also called an all-purpose foot or a multi-purpose foot). This foot has a wider hole in the center to accommodate the side to side motion of a needle as it makes a zigzag stitch. This presser foot can also be used for straight stitching.
Your zigzag foot, however, isn’t the best foot to use for every sewing task. There are times when changing to a different presser foot can make a specific sewing task easier.
Switch to a zipper foot for sewing in a zipper. This foot enables you to stitch close to the zipper teeth.
If you’re sewing a fine, sheer fabric, you may want to switch to a straight stitch foot. It has a smaller opening to keep your fabric more stable as your needle passes through it. This can help prevent skipped or uneven stitches.
Note: As a general rule, presser feet with wider holes can be used to make wide stitches and straight stitches. Presser feet with narrow holes should only be used for sewing straight stitches. If you were to try to sew a wide stitch using a straight stitch presser foot, your needle would hit the foot and break.
There are many other presser feet available for specific tasks: making a buttonhole, sewing an invisible hem, over- edging, doing embroidery, making pin tucks, stitching denim, and more. Your sewing machine manufacturer’s website may have a list of all the different kinds of presser feet available for your machine.
Changing your presser foot
Raise your presser foot first before attempting to change it. Presser feet either snap off or screw off. Consult your manual for how to change the presser foot on your particular machine.*
Make sure when you purchase a presser foot that it fits your machine model. Presser feet aren’t necessarily interchangeable from one brand of machine to another.
Adjusting the pressure of the presser foot
Many machines will let you adjust the pressure of your presser foot to accommodate different fabric thicknesses. Incorrect pressure from your presser foot can damage your fabric, cause skipped stitches, uneven stitches, or puckered seams. Generally, use heavier pressure for bulkier fabrics and lighter pressure for finer fabrics.
*If you need the manual for your machine, try visiting your manufacturer’s website. They often have old manuals available for download or purchase.