If you have never come across the contraption known as the darning foot, it can look a little odd when compared to the normal presser foot. It can even seem awkward at first to learn how to use a darning foot. However, it is an essential tool for free-motion quilters and fabric artisans to use when sewing decorative creations with thread. While the quilter moves the fabric, the darning foot keeps the fabric from coming up with the needle. With a little practice, your darning foot can become an invaluable tool.
Remove your current presser foot from your sewing machine, and attach the darning foot as you would any foot. Darning feet look different, depending on the manufacturer, but most will maintain a "C" or "O" shape using either metal or clear plastic at their bases.
Drop the feed dogs, or use a cover plate on your machine if feed dogs are not available. If this is not possible, adjust the stitch length of your machine to zero or as low as your machine will allow.
Slide your fabric or quilt sandwich into place below the darning foot. Lower the lever of the darning foot, and hold onto the upper thread with one hand.
Take one complete stitch, and pull up the upper thread to bring the bobbin thread to the surface. Take multiple stitches in the same place to secure the threads.
Run the machine as you free-motion sew or quilt your fabric piece, using your fingers to move the fabric instead of the feed dogs, until your stitching is complete. Replace the darning foot with your preferred presser foot when finished.
Because the darning foot does not "press" on the fabric, the easiest thing to forget is to release the lever to drop the foot. Even without pressing on the fabric, the foot must be down to create tension on your upper thread; otherwise, you will end up with blobs of tangled thread instead of decorative patterns.
Depending on your machine and darning foot, using a cover plate can decrease the amount of space you have to work with between the base of your machine and the darning foot.
- Margaret Telsch-Williams