This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation

Do I really need both a walking foot and a darning foot?

by Bernarda
(Guanajuato, Mexico)

My first two quilts

My first two quilts

Bernarda asks:

Is it better to use a walking foot for a beginning quilter instead of the darning foot?

I'm a very, very beginner and I've been practicing my free motion quilting with the darning foot, but I'm too bad really.

I've already made two quilts for my niece and nephew. These I made it with the regular foot (I don't know the name) but I'd got many bulks...after this I've decided to hand quilt the other one and so I did it but not a very professional quilting, only wide stitches made by hand and the finish result wasn't very nice...haha...but I'm happy.

Besides that I just want to know if it's a good investment to buy this walking foot, since it's got feet dogs up and down, I don't have to care about being precise about my foot and hand rhythm.

What do you think?

P.S. I have a basic Singer machine (the best gift ever!)


I love your first quilts and am SO HAPPY that you shared them with us. You go, Girlfriend!!!

I am of two opinions on this question...

Once quilters start with the walking foot (or even feed foot) so many times they then become nervous about later dropping the feed dogs and controlling stitch length and speed all by themselves. That can stop a lot of people from really getting into machine quilting. And that's a total shame, because it's so much fun to do.

The learning curve to use a walking foot is almost nothing, just install it and start quilting. You'll find it takes a wee bit of practice to stitch in the ditch and some days truly are better than others. (This is from personal experience!) With it, you're quilting your own quilts right away.

The darning foot, as you've already experienced, takes more time to get comfortable with. The only way to get better is to practice. On real quilts that someone will use and on little practice quilt sandwiches made from leftover scraps.

The danger is quilters will practice forever because they lack confidence in their skills. (Been there, done that!)

To get over that feeling of inadequacy, do what I did!

Quilt the living daylights in the borders of quilts that are made from busy fabric. No one will ever see the stitching and you'll put in the necessary practice time. This simple, paper pieced Halloween quilt is an example of this.

Halloween quilt pieced and quilted by Julie Baird

In this Mariner's Compass quilt, the background is heavily free-motion quilted. Whatever fell out of my brain landed on the quilt.

Mariner's Compass Quilt, pieced and quilted by Julie Baird

Even though I used a particularly fabulous metallic thread, you don't see much of the stitching unless you get right up to it because it matched the mottled blue fabric.

In fact, when it was hanging in our local guild show several years ago, I happened upon a woman telling her friend that 'the quilter' had used 'pre-quilted' fabric in it.


Nobody ever told me that while I was quilting it! (giggles!)

My advice...

If you need to get quilts quilted NOW, then get a walking foot for your machine.

But if you have plenty of time to practice and projects to practice on, spend your efforts on the darning foot. Everything you can do with the walking foot, you can do with the darning foot, it just takes longer to learn and build your confidence. Once you have the skill, you don't lose it!

And once learned, you have more freedom—you can quilt in direction at any time. At this point in my quilting career, it is my foot of choice.

For more information on both feet, check out:Thank you for your question, Bernarda. It's a good one!

Readers, do chime in with your thoughts and experiences on the topic by using the 'comments' link below. Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for Do I really need both a walking foot and a darning foot?

Click here to add your own comments

by: Anonymous

A walking foot is a very good investment. I have been sewing for about 30 years and I just got one a few years ago.

I just love it.

darning foot and slide mat
by: Anonymous

I quilt using a darning foot and slide mat...however, if I was to use the walking foot, do I then remove the free motion slide mat from the machine? Does the walking foot get rid of free motion altogether?

From the Editor: Yes, when you are using the walking foot with the feed dogs engaged you are no longer free motion quilting.

You set the stitch length with the controls and the feed dogs do all the work creating the stitch by pulling the fabric through. You, as the quilter, are now the guide and not the driver.

Do you need the Slider?

Only testing will test. I would not be surprised if you do not use it when using the walking foot.



Agree with Julie
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady

I also think you should try the darning foot first, but also have a walking foot for when you are doing children's quilts. I was totally afraid of using the darning foot and avoided it for a long time. I even took four classes in free motion quilting and all I learned was how to put pins in a quilt. What a waste of money. Then I took a class from Libby Lehman in order to learn how to use metallic thread and we used an ordinary embroidery hoop to hold the quilt layers tight because we were doing so much stitching that the quilt would have bunched up otherwise. You use a plastic hoop and the part with the screw goes down and then you put in the quilt and then the other part. It takes some effort to get that quilt in there, but once you do that and get it under the foot (you can lift the foot with your finger to get it high enough to fit the hoop under) and lower the feed dogs you find that it is so easy to move that quilt around this way than trying to hold on to it with gloves. Remember to start with your needle down, then pull up the bottom thread to the top. You have to get a rhythm where you are moving the quilt slowly while your foot on the pedal is going at a much faster rate. If you are lucky enough to be able to have a speed regulator where you can set it and then push the foot pedal all the way down you eventually know what your foot speed should be and can set it. The wonderful thing about this method is that after practicing this way on quilt sandwiches you've made up from fat quarters you hate and wonder why you bought them, you will find that you are moving the hoop with ease and you start to get your stitches even enough that you can take off the hoop after about an hour of practice, put on your Machingers gloves and find that you are no longer afraid to free motion quilt. I have taught free motion quilting this way for years and guarantee that if my students can't free motion quilt after the two hour class they don't have to pay me. I have always been paid by every student I have taught this way. Julie's ideas are also great and you should try those too, but do it after you try my method. If it doesn't work for you, write to Julie and I will send you a fat quarter of my hand-dyed fabric. It is very different from Julie's wonderful fabric and I sell very little of it because I use almost all I dye in my own quilts. By the way, if you go to Patsy Thompson's website, she lets you download all of her free motion quilting patterns at no charge. But have lots and lots of paper and don't be alarmed that the first pages you get are her most complicated designs. The easy ones are at the end. You will end up with a notebook full of free designs by one of the most respected free motion quilter around.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to GQP's Quilting Forum.

This article was printed from

Print Article

Follow Us