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Stitch Length for Quilting with a Walking Foot

by Melba Marshall
(Macon, GA)

What type of stitch and stitch length do I use with the walking foot?


The purpose of the walking foot (aka even feed foot, IDT on a Pfaff) on a sewing machine is to pull the layers of a quilt sandwich evenly through the machine. That prevents puckering and tucks from forming on the backing side.

The best stitches to use are those with all forward movement like your straight stitch, which is the most commonly used stitch for machine quilting. Many of your fancy stitches (like the serpentine stitch) also have all forward movement and add a creative element to your quilting stitches.

Straight Stitching

For straight stitching, it is advised to set your machine's stitch length to 2.5 to 3.0 or about 8-12 stitches per inch. This range works quite well for a majority of machine quilting but there are always exceptions when you make a rule.

For threads with sparkle or shine, use a longer stitch length. The longer stitches provide a larger area for light to hit the thread and create the sparkle and luster that drew us to these threads in the first place.

If you are using a thicker thread, say a 30 weight rayon, a longer stitch length is appropriate. Use a short stitch and it'll look like the stitches are forced into your quilt.

For a monofilament thread, I like a shorter stitch length to help hide the thread. The light has less area to create any shine. In my opinion, the shorter length also makes these stitches more flexible.

With a traditional 50 wt 100% cotton quilting thread I set my stitch length to 2.5 and then test to see if I like the resulting effect. When using an even finer thread, I'll reduce the stitch to something less than 2.5. Normal to long stitches with fine thread look like basting to me and so I adjust my stitch length to satisfy me.

Learn to trust your own eye, it's as good as anyone else's. You will know when you like how the quilting looks.

Mock Hand Quilting

There is a technique using your sewing machine's walking foot that creates a 'mock' hand quilting stitch.

It requires a triple straight stitch (not all machines will have this stitch) and increased needle tension to create the look. The machine is threaded with monofilament or clear thread in the needle and 100% cotton thread in the bobbin. Stitch length is increased a bit.

The increased tension on the monofilament literally pulls the cotton bobbin thread to the top in the '3 stitch' portion which is followed by a single monofilament stitch.

For this quilting technique, the walking foot moves forward and back several times to create each stitch. While I believe there is, at most, only minimal damage to the foot for small projects, if you consistently used this machine quilting trick to mimic hand quilting, it is my opinion that this action would wear out your foot faster.

From up close you can tell it's done by machine, but from a ways away it fools the eye.

Readers, what do you think? Please use the 'Click here to post comments' link below to add your own helpful suggestions and experiences. Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for Stitch Length for Quilting with a Walking Foot

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Stitch Length
by: Anonymous

New at this quilting just following e-mail ideas, so this certainly answers my question, Thanks, very helpful.

From the Editor: You're welcome! ~ Julie Baird

stitch length
by: Anonymous

This has been one HUGE, simple, to-the-point information. Thank you ! ! !

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