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Specialty Feet And Tools For Working With Trims
Creating a lush and luxurious Romantic Bedroom Retreat is the perfect opportunity to incorporate a few of the wide variety of trims available. We added dense chainette fringe to our Coverlet and elegant tasseled fringe with crystal accents on both our Valance and Bolster. Plus we have piping and more in upcoming tutorials. These options just prick the surface of the variety of trims available both in-store and online. They always look so beautiful wrapped around their little bolts, rows and rows from which to choose. But many people shy away from using these gorgeous embellishments because they’re unsure how to sew them in place. We have more information on the trims themselves coming up later in the Romantic Retreat series. Today, we’re here to help you understand how to use your sewing machine, and the specialty feet (as well as standard feet) available, to sew all kinds of trims.Regardless of the brand of sewing machine you own, you’re likely to have at least some of the feet we’re talking about today. Or, you’ll be able to find them as optional accessories from your local sewing machine retailer. Since Janome is our exclusive sewing machine brand in the S4H studios, we’ll be using their feet in our descriptions and examples. Be aware that the various manufacturers may use similar or different names, or even lettered and numbered coding for their sewing machine feet. In addition, you can’t always assume the intended purpose of a particular foot based solely on its name. For example, the Janome Fringe foot is designed to make thread fringe or do fagotting, not sew on fringed trim.
If you’re wondering why you should purchase the same brand of foot as your sewing machine, it’s because each machine manufacturer has designed its machine feet to work most effectively with their feed system, shank height (high or low), and the maximum stitch width (or the width of the needle plate opening) to achieve optimal stitching results. In addition, each brand has a slightly different way of attaching (snap-on, screw-on, etc.) to the foot holder and/or presser foot lifter/lever.
So, if you have a pile of feet that looks similar to the one below, you’ll want to take a moment to properly identify each one. Keep in mind, our pile consists of standard (the feet that came with the machine) and optional (the feet purchased separately) feet.
We’re thinking it will make things a little easier if we separate our sewing machine feet into four categories:
- Feet designed to sew specific types of trim or to create custom trims
- Feet originally designed for another purpose, but which work great on a variety of trims (and for making trims too!)
- Feet designed for specific fabric types
- Feet that come in handy, depending on the type of trim you’ve selected
Feet for sewing with specific trims
In general, when sewing trims, you either sew over the trim, along each side, or straight down the middle. This means you use either a zig zag or straight stitch. Depending on the stitches available on your machine, you can sometimes use decorative stitches as well.
Feet designed to work with specific types of trims or embellishments will look distinctive. They usually have some type of holder or guide, extra hole(s), and/or large grooves underneath. These elements are designed to help hold the specific trim in place so the needle sews exactly over or through the trim. You’ll also notice most of these feet have a wide opening to accommodate the maximum stitch width of your sewing machine.
A) Ribbon/Sequin Foot: This foot is designed to hold up to ¼” wide ribbon. As the ribbon is guided through the foot, the needle sews over the ribbon, attaching it to the fabric. This foot can also be used for single sequin (or similar narrow type) trim. The guide can be adjusted to the left or right to coincide with the stitch/needle position you plan to use.
B) Beading Foot Set: A set of clear feet for sewing over bead trim (2mm – 4mm) with a zig zag stitch. To learn more about this set of feet in detail, check out Accessories We Love: Janome Beading Foot Set.
C) Piping foot: Used to sew pre-purchased piping trim with a flange or to aid when making your own piping. This foot can be used for other trims with a similar structure as standard piping. One misconception is that because of the name, it’s assumed it also works for piping larger than 4mm. However, for most piping or corded trims with a flange, especially those nice thick ones we like for home décor, use a Zipper Foot.
NOTE: What’s a flange or lip? That’s the piece of fabric or trim that extends beyond the edge of the actual trim. The flange or lip is what you use to sew the trim to your project.
D) Binder Foot: The funnel on the front of this foot holds pre-made or self-made bias binding no larger than 14mm (or ½”). For larger binding, Janome has a Quilt Binder Set.
E) Cording Foot: Not be confused with a Piping foot, this foot is designed to hold 1, 2, or 3 strands of embroidery floss (or similar corded threads or yarn) while sewing with a zig zag or decorative stitch. We listed this foot to eliminate the ol’ confusion-by-the-similar-name thing. Plus, it just may be the right foot for those very fine cords you find in the trim department.
Feet for making trims or embellishments
A) Ultimate Ruffler: You can create more than one kind of ruffle with this foot! Current owners rave about how easy it is to make ruffles with this specialty foot. Check out Accessories We Love: Janome Ultimate Ruffler Attachment for more details on how to use it.
B) Gathering Foot: Unlike the Ultimate Ruffler above, this foot is designed to make soft gathers on lightweight fabrics. It also gathers one layer while keeping the other layer flat as it sews… now that’s kind of cool, dontcha think?!
Ribbon Sewing Guide (not pictured): This guide holds flat ribbon up to 1” wide so you can sew decorative stitches or stitch lettering directly onto the ribbon for a custom trim. We enjoyed playing with this attachment (not an actual foot) in the tutorial Accessories We Love: Janome Ribbon Sewing Guide.
C) Pintuck Foot Set: This set of feet contains a 5-groove foot and a 7-groove foot. We’ve found you can use the 5-groove foot for fine cords that are too large for the Cording foot mentioned above. You just have to make sure you stay within the same groove on the foot. Some sewing machine manufactures also have a 3-groove Pintuck foot that can be used to make mini piping.
Feet designed for a different purpose but which work great on trims
A) Zipper Foot: This one is obvious. Any Zipper foot is designed to sew close to the teeth on a zipper. Because it’s designed to sew so close, it is also an ideal foot for a wide array of trims. Especially, trims with a flange or lip.
B) Adjustable Narrow Base Zipper foot: You’ll find a number of uses for this foot besides sewing zippers. It can be adjusted to both the left and right of the needle, and is very narrow in design, so you can get into difficult to reach places with the needle. You guessed it – perfect for trims!
C) Custom Crafted Zig-Zag Foot: The detail that makes this foot so special is its original design for sewing decorative stitches. The foot is clear with an “open toe,” which means you can see exactly where you’re sewing. Plus, there’s a groove underneath which rides over the stitches, thus allowing the foot to glide smoothly over the fabric. We’ve included it here because the combination of features make it ideal for certain narrow, flat trims.
Feet for special types of fabrics
A) Ultraglide foot: This foot is made of a special resin designed to glide smoothly over fabrics that would otherwise stick to a metal foot. With the latest trends in trims, we’ve seen leather and vinyl ones that would be easier to sew over with this foot.
B) Roller Foot – This foot is named for the roller that is built into the foot. Its purpose is to sew over bulky or uneven layers – sounds like a win-win for trims! We played with this foot on velvet in Accessories We Love: The Roller Foot for Velvet & More.
C) Even Feed Foot – Also known as a “Walking” foot. You will find these in closed and open-toe versions. If you’re having trouble getting layers to stay even, this foot is designed to work with the motion of the feed dogs so the fabric is fed evenly from the top and bottom.
Other feet that can come in handy
A) Standard Foot: Here again, depending on the type of trim, this everyday foot may be all you need. The little black button on the back of the Janome version of the foot locks it in place so you can sew over an uneven surface.
B) Satin Stitch Foot: This foot provides many of the same features as the Standard foot, but because it’s clear, you can see where your stitches are going! Plus, it has a wide groove underneath to help it move smoothly over the fabric and trim. The Janome version also has a handy red arrow to help you keep on the straight and narrow.
C) Blind Hem Foot or Adjustable Blind Hem Foot: These two feet are designed to do exactly what they are named for: sew a blind hem. However, they can also be very helpful when sewing laces and other flat trims to each other or to the edge of fabric. The guide on either foot helps maintain a very straight edge.
D) Rotary Even Foot Set: This is a very special specialty foot (with several attachments) and is considered an overall sewing tool for your sewing machine. The Rotary Even Foot has a set of treads on it that is great for all kinds of “challenging” fabrics, such as knits, leather, suede and more. It comes with attachments for hemming, attaching bias tape, and making rolled hems in three sizes. We like it for sewing trims too! Read more in our tutorial: Accessories We Love” Janome Rotary Even Foot Set.
E) Button Sewing foot: Don’t underestimate this little foot! Although it’s designed to sew on buttons with your sewing machine, it has strong little grippers on the underside of the foot that firmly hold whatever your sewing in place. If you have a very challenging trim you can’t sew over, use this foot to tack the trim in place.
If you’re interested in seeing many of these feet (and others) in action, visit the Janome Accessory Tutorial Video page. These helpful, short videos show you how to use the various feet for their intended purpose and more
A few other specialty feet you’ll find, which are unique to brands other than Janome, include:
Chenille Foot: Sews through layers of fabric strips to create a “chenille effect” trim.
Double Cord Foot: Creates a double piping trim.
Mega, Maxi, and Mini Cord Feet: You can either create your own or sew pre-made piping or other round trims. Most require a flange or lip to sew on the trim.
Couching Foot: Enables you to sew over or “couch” a trim no larger than the maximum zig zag width of the machine.
So, which specialty foot do I use?
Determining which foot to use usually depends on whether you’re using a purchased/pre-made trim or if you plan to make your own. Our explanation of the various specialty feet above should help you determine the right foot for the job. If you’re making the trim yourself, you most likely will use the same foot to sew it to your selected project. However, if you’re using a pre-made trim, you will need to determine which will be the best sewing method for attaching it to your project, as well as which will be the best foot for the job. Keep in mind, not all trims are created equal or have a distinct area to sew along to attach to your project.
In this section, we’re going to show you some of the feet listed above in action. As with all our sewing techniques, we want to remind you to consider the proper machine setting, thread and needle size/type in addition to deciding which foot to use. Also, you want to be accurate as you sew your selected trim; take your time and sew slowly. And… one final important note about sewing trims: decide at which point in the construction process you should attach your trim; sometimes it’s best to attach a trim during the steps, other times, it should be attached as a final embellishment.
NOTE: We used mostly white trims (or white thread on black trims) so you could see our stitching clearly. For an actual project, you usually want to select a thread color that coordinates with your trim, or consider a Monafilament thread.
Here is what the Ribbon Sequin foot looks like on the machine with ribbon inserted.
We selected a decorative stitch that sewed across the width of the ribbon quite nicely. We had to make sure we held on to the ribbon to help keep it straight as it fed through the guide on the foot. This insured the stitch stayed even across the ribbon.
Beading Foot Set
There are so many fantastic beaded trims available today, like the rhinestone bead trim we found for our sample. We used the largest of the two feet with a zig zag stitch to couch the trim to our fabric. Just make sure to test the stitch width or swing of the needle (hand-walk the needle for a few stitches and watch the left and right swings) so you know you’ll clear the edges of the trim. If you skip this testing step, you will definitely break a needle and quite possibly damage your machine!
You can also adjust the stitch length to coincide exactly with the spacing between each bead.
Trims are ideal for covering the raw edge of fabric. With the Binder Foot and a straight stitch, you can sew purchased bias binding (or your own) to the edge of fabric.
Feed the binding into the foot.
Then slip the fabric edge in place.
And, you’ll create a lovely bound edge in one easy step!
Pintuck Foot – 5-groove
Using the 5-groove Pintuck Foot, you can make great mini piping. Cut a 1″ strip of fabric, place tiny cording (easily found in the home décor section at your local fabric or craft store) in the middle of the strip, fold the fabric over the cord (wrong sides together), and place the fabric wrapped cording into one of the grooves on the foot.
Using a straight stitch, adjust the needle position so you can sew very close to the cord. Voilá — mini piping!
We love dangly pom-pom trim here at Sew4Home!
To attach it, we use our Zipper foot and a straight stitch to sew them to the edge of our projects or in the seam of project. Since the woven tape on this type of trim is a bit thicker than most, we recommend lengthen your stitch.
Adjustable Narrow Base Zipper Foot
You can buy very elaborate dangling trim with beading and sparkles in all sizes and shapes. This trim can be very delicate to work with, and you certainly wouldn’t want to hit a bead or other embellishment with your needle. The Adjustable Narrow Base Zipper Foot is perfect for getting in really close.
We used a straight stitch, because that’s usually the only stitch you can use with a Zipper foot! We didn’t need to lengthen the stitch since the flange on this trim is similar to a thin, flat ribbon.
Custom Crafted Satin Stitch Foot
Sometimes, you can’t resist a trim! We fell in love with these sequin butterflies on a lace background. We wanted to keep a close eye the edges of this trim, so we selected the clear Custom Crafted Satin Stitch foot and a straight stitch. Although the trim is adorned with sequins, it’s flat, so the groove under the foot allowed us to easily pass over the embellishments.
This foot is so versatile you could also use a zig zag stitch along each edge, then cut away the fabric between the stitching so the trim can really shine.
We had a fun metallic mesh flat trim in our studio, and decided we would try to simply use our Standard foot to zigzag over the edges.
Rotary Even Foot
With the endless selection of trims, sometimes it’s hard to determine which foot will work best until you get home and try a few. We found a ruched ribbon trim that was absolutely darling, but how the heck should we sew it? We decided the Rotary Even Foot, with its dual treads, would be great for getting over the uneven bumps of the trim.
We simply lined up the needle with the line of stitching on the trim itself and sewed down each side.
Button Sewing Foot
Believe it or not, this bead trim was a little too large for the Beading Foot Set. We decided it was the perfect opportunity to use the Button Sewing Foot and the button sewing stitch on the machine to couch the trim to the fabric.
A beautiful result… we actually kind of like the contrasting thread in between each bead as an extra accent!
Some general rules of thumb for sewing trims
At the fabric store or when shopping for trims online, think about how you will sew the trim you are considering. Analyze it closely to determine which foot will work best or if you can use a foot at all.
Remember that with some specialty feet, the trims are fed through the top and others are fed through the bottom. In addition, some of the feet have a holder or guide that extends out from the foot and into which you feed the trim. You want to make sure the trim will fit into the foot. You can either take the foot with you to the store, or make a note of the maximum size it will allow and refer to this when shopping in person or online.
When considering a specialty foot for sewing trim, any type of foot that is “narrow” or “clear” is usually a good place to start. Remember, many times a foot can be used for more than its intended/designed purpose.
Sewing along one or both edges or couching (sewing over) the trim is usually the best method to use for application. You will most likely want to use a zig zag stitch or straight stitch. However, don’t forget about those decorative stitches or a blind hem.
How you will bring the ends of your trim together or secure them in place is another thing to consider. This depends on the type of project, but for the most part, trims are overlapped in an inconspicuous location on a project. Conversely, if a trim is going into a seam, you most likely will have to cross over it at some point. This can add a bulk to your seam, which you will have to contend with later in the construction process. You will definitely want to lengthen your stitch. If the machine is struggling to sew over the trim, you can do what’s called “hand walk” or “hand crank” the needle through the bulk by turning the handwheel manually.
If you plan to sew a trim in a seam between two layers, such as how fringe is traditionally used or cording around a pillow, we recommend hand or machine basting the trim to one layer first before trying to sew all the layers together. This way, you are working with two layers instead of three.
A big part of sewing successfully is knowing your sewing machine, its setting options, and how its various feet work. Sewing trims is where you need to take the time to look at how the machine will sew over, through, or along the edge of a trim. You can easily damage your machine if you’re not careful. Whenever you’re not sure, visit your sewing machine retailer for advice. That’s what they’re there for!
It’s important to know there is a similar selection of specialty feet for sergers, such as a piping foot, beading foot, etc. If you own a serger, you may want to investigate these optional feet so you can try your serger for attaching certain types of trims or edge finishes.
When all else fails
If machine sewing simply doesn’t work, you can use a hand needle and sewing thread to attach your trim. Or, you can try an adhesive or fusible type of product. There’s a wide selection of glues, adhesive tapes, and fusible tapes (the kind that activate with the heat of an iron). Of course, there’s always that hot glue gun too!
The important tip here is to think about how the project will be used and/or laundered, as well as if you can even use an iron on your selected fabric and/or trim. This will be a factor in the type of product you select. Below is a brief list for your reference:
Many of the these products are sold in sheets, rolls, or by the yard for larger projects.
Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Permanent Adhesive
Beacon Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly
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