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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

Click here to add your own comments

Stitch length for quilting
by: Di from Down Under

Thank you so much, having my first go at quilting a rainbow bargello. Following the line of the pattern I thought would be the easiest. Very grateful for your advice on the stitch length.

Have done one row so far and it is just right.

Again thank you.

From the Editor: Glad to have been of some help! Rock your quilting, Di!!!



to Annymous re: stitch length
by: GrandmaSue10

Perhaps you are not supporting your quilt enough, and it is pulling your project through the walking foot. If you don't have a little table to use, try the back of a chair.

Thank you!
by: Sarah

This is so helpful, thank you!

Currently trying to get to grips with machine quilting, so far have stuck to hand quilting which I love but I'm very slow!

A little terrified of machine quilting but I am going to try!

From the Editor: Something I learned on the way to building this website (and I'm not a techy person), all the little steps stay done.

Same way with quilting. Every time you quilt, you get a little better.

Think about it.

If every time you quilted, you got just 1% better. In the moment you might not be able to see the improvement. But over time...

...over time, you'll be amazed at what you can do!

Thank you for writing.


Julie Baird

Stitch length
by: Anonymous

Using my walking foot I choose a 3.5 length. However, when quilting [at the lowest speed] the length of the stitches appears to vary. I would appreciate any comments as to what is happening with my walking foot.

From the Editor: Without seeing it first hand I'm afraid I can't offer much of a diagnosis.

Try stitching a bit faster. Does that cure the problem?

Remember to let the feed dogs do the work, you are merely the 'guide' when you're quilting with a walking foot. If you would push or pull on the quilt sandwich that could possibly account of the difference in stitch length.

Again, without seeing it, I can't offer much more than that advice.

I wish I was more help.


Julie Baird

Walking foot help!
by: Amy In AK

Thank you for your very helpful info and simple explanation.

From the Editor: You are very welcome.

Thank you for writing to share!


Julie Baird

Quilting with walking foot
by: Julie

My Pfaff 1221 has a built-in walking foot. I've tried FMQ with it..what a disaster! Fabric bunches up under the needle because it doesn't move, feeding down or up.

Is the machine too old to do it?

From the Editor: For free motion quilting you'd want a different foot. The feed dogs don't do ANY of the work in free motion quilting.

YOU are the driver of the quilt and the motor for moving it.

Check your instruction manual. I believe you'll find the correct foot and settings to use there.

I wish I could tell you exactly, but I'm a Viking/Juki gal, and the feet and setting are likely different.


Julie Baird

Thanks for All Information
by: Joy

Thank you for all the information learned on this site! How to achieve "Mock Quilting," with a walking foot, making potholders using 30 weight thread (Gutermann). And a 4.0 stitch length. Can't wait to try. Not sure what makes up all five of the layers and how large the square potholder will be but I can play with it. And the invisible machine applique I will try. I threw away my last monofilament thread but will seek to find a newer type of monofilament than what I once used. Thanks to all who contributed to this wealth of information.


From the Editor: Thank you for writing, Joy. You're quilting with gusto! And that trait alone will take you so very far!

Happy Quilting!


Julie Baird

Thanks for the info
by: Liz

I thank you for this information. I am getting a book on walking foot patterns and this information will come in handy!

From the Editor: Excellent plan, Liz!

The stitch length, stitch width and any decorative stitches you have on your machine are your friends. Then add in some yummy decorative threads and the walking-foot quilting world is your oyster.

Enjoy the adventure!


Julie Baird

by: Donna M

I teach my new sewing students to use a walking foot to make potholders containing 5 layers. The thread used is 30 weight Gutermann. Preferred stitch length is 4.0 and used to quilt the potholder. The look is attractive and easy.

From the Editor:

Thank you for sharing what's working for your students! Keep up the good work...we need more sewers and quilters.



by: Dee

My machine has 3 speeds. I would call them slow, medium,and fast. When quilting with a walking foot, what is the best speed to use?

From the Editor:

The best speed is the one at which you have control over your project.

The only way to know for sure is to test your thread, tension and speed on a practice quilt sandwich made from the same materials as your quilt.

The other thing I've learned from my own experience is that different types of quilting (i.e., ditch, following a marked line, motion free without markings, grid quilting) can all require different speeds.

But control is the biggy.

I hope this helps.

~ Julie

Quilt stitches
by: Debbie

I just finished a table runner that I machine quilted. I used very small stitches and it definatly looked forced. Will never do that again.

From the Editor:

Hi Debbie! Never say least not in quilting. If you are ever quilting with a very fine thread like a 100 wt silk or monofilament, you may find that those smaller stitches look perfect. Usually the finer the thread the smaller the stitch you'll like.

Quilt on!

~ Julie

Very helpful!
by: Charlotte

I've done many quilts for my own pleasure. At present, I am completing a quilt for someone who is unable to do it themselves. I so want to do it well! Your information has given me more courage to complete it. I basically machine quilt. This quilt has large decorative squares. I think that I can machine quilt with the walking foot within those patterns to finish it off!

Thanks so much!

From the Editor:

Hi Charlotte. You've hit on the 'secret sauce' to quilting...confidence...knowing that you can do it.

You'll be just fine!

~ Julie

Stitch Length
by: Anonymous

I found this information very useful. Thank you for sharing it.

So good
by: Rae

Thank you so much for this information. I never know what to set stitches on so this has been invaluable.


Very informative, I am new at this. Thanks

Width of stitch
by: Linda Hunt

What width is set to do quilting?

From the Editor:

Hi Linda.

Since you use a straight stitch for quilting with a walking foot, the width of the stitch is 0.

However, some machine are showing the 'width' as some number other than 0.


Well, on my Juki DX-2000-QVP the width number is referring to the needle position and not the 'width' of the straight stitch that I've selected.

Just choose a centered straight stitch from your menu of stitches.

Good question!



by: Anonymous

Great info! Thanks for taking the time to post it. Very helpful!

Stitch length and width for quilting an applique
by: Judy M.

Your column is really great! It came at the right time for me. I am new to quilting and would appreciate knowing the correct setting for the stitch length and width for quilting as well as when I do appliqué?

Thank You, Judy M.

From the Editor:

Hi Judy.

For invisible machine applique I use a tiny zigzag stitch: 1.0 long and 0.5 wide with monofilament thread in the needle and 50 wt cotton in the bobbin.



Thank you very much!
by: Anonymous

I don't have a special machine, it only does straight stitching and I am unable to do the free motion quilting. I have looked and looked for simple explanations on walking foot quilting and I finally found it. Thank you so much for your blog.

Stitch length for Walking Foot
by: Dorz Rhodes

Thank you for answering a lot of my questions. I usually keep playing till I get the result that looks good to me. Saves a bit if time with a heads up about stitch length. Thanks again.

Very helpful!
by: Anonymous

When they talk of stitch length and say 8-10 my machine only went to 5-6. So it helps to kinda have a grasp for the concept on the conversion. I'm new to sewing.

Machine quilting with walking foot
by: Cheryl A Randall

I've pieced quilts for the past 19 years, just getting time to learn the tricks of machine quilting on my home machine. I want even stitches, nothing fancy to start. Thank You.

Just what i needed
by: Tina

Thanks for the simple but oh so important info

Thank you
by: Anonymous

This is exactly the information I need :)

Hugely helpful
by: LizAnonymous

That was a simple straight forward answer to my question and I thank you very much. Hugely helpful

stitch length
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much. Nervous finishing a special baby quilt for a special baby!

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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