What are Sewing Machine Feed Dogs and How Do They Work?

A sewing machine is not complete without the drop feed component known as “feed Dogs”. The feed dog components is comprised of crosscut diagonal teeth made from thin metal bars. The feed dog are placed on the needle plate of the sewing machine and operate in a back and forth motion. Feed Dogs main purpose is to feed or pull fabric via the machine, the steps are done discreetly between the stiches. The feed dogs work in precise and measured increments this creating a distance between stiches. Feed dogs create very high quality stitches.

Visibility of Feed Dogs

Most sewing is done when the feed dogs are visible and up. However, when freehand quilting or darning the feed dogs are covered using some special plate or lowered right beneath where the throat late is placed.


When to Lower the Feed Dogs

Lowering the feed dogs gives the craftsman total control. The craftsperson is able to master perfect fabric position and stitch length. Lowering the feed dogs completely eliminates the grip made by the machine, giving total control to user. This is an advantage for freehand users, the only down side is, the crafts person will have a difficult time making consistent stitches or straight line.

How to Lower Dog Feeds

Sewing machines are of different make and brands. For this reason different methods are used to move feed dogs up or down. This methods include:

  • Most quilters prefer to cover the feed dogs using playing cards or a plastic cover. This is mostly for feed dogs that are permanently fixed and cannot go any lower.
  • Older sewing machines were installed with a plate which covers up the feed dogs.
  • The contemporary or computerized sewing machine have a working switch which when pressed will lower the feed dogs.
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New user are advised to carefully read the instruction manual if they are clueless on how the feed dogs are lowered. In case you do not have a print manual there are online instructions available. For online instruction, find the manufacturers website for help. Using the search engine type the model number and brand name.


Presser Feet and Feed Dogs

Sewing machines with feed presser or walking foot have feed dogs that are built in. This will allow the crafts person to sew more fabric layers at the same time. Feed dogs found in walking foot will push the upper fabric via the machine while the feed dogs found in the machine works on the lower layer of the fabrics. This will prevent the bottom layer from shifting to the top.

Foot’s feed or walking foots is used for different types of sewing such as sewing binds around quilt edges, sewing quilted curves, sewing projects with heavy cloth and multiple layers such as denim quilts and rag quilts, finally, it is used in  straight line quilting.

Take Away

Feed dogs are important for holding and gripping. New users to sewing machines should know when and how to use feed dogs components.

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