The presser foot pressure adjustment is one of the most overlooked yet valuable features on a sewing machine. With it, you can adjust the downward pressure of the presser foot and ensure proper feeding on any fabric.
I have seen only a handful of sewing machines that have handled all fabrics without this feature.
Location of Adjustment
Most machines have a mechanical adjustment for pressure. It can be a dial on the side or top of the machine. It might have a number or graduating scale associated with it. The higher the number, the more pressure on the foot.
Some vintage machines will have a button on the top left side of the machine. As the button is depressed, the pressure increases. Pushing down on the outer lower ring releases it. Some of the older machines may have an adjustment screw rather than the push-down button.
Yet another style of adjustment is a lever inside the door that covers the take-up mechanism on the left side of the sewing machine. Move it down for more pressure and up for less.
Higher-end computerized sewing machines often have the pressure adjustment on a screen. For these machines refer to your instruction manual. These machines will often have different settings programmed in for different tasks.
When to Adjust Pressure
Having a presser-foot pressure adjustment on your sewing machine gives you a much broader range of tasks you can handle without struggle.
Too Much Pressure
Something as simple as sewing two pieces of fabric together can be a problem if there is too much pressure. The top layer of fabric can end up longer than the bottom, and accuracy becomes more difficult.
Imagine trying to piece a quilt under this circumstance. All the shifting and stretching of the top layer would make for a very wrinkly result.
Lowering the setting allows the top layer to be transported at the same rate as the bottom, and both layers end up the same length.
You can see the effect a simple adjustment can have. The samples were sewn on the same sewing machine at different pressure settings.
Another task for which too much pressure can cause a problem is sewing over thick seams, such as hemming a pair of jeans. When the foot gets to the thick seam, it starts to angle up in the front. If the pressure setting is too high, the foot might get stuck in this position and the fabric stops feeding.
In the best-case scenario, the stitches get much smaller; in the worst case, the feeding stops altogether, the needle breaks, or both happen.
Again, by lowering the setting, the foot is allowed to rise up easily at the seam and glide over. This takes away the struggle and minimizes changes to the stitch length.
Not Enough Pressure
When there is not enough pressure on the foot and therefore on the fabric, you have another set of problems. The fabric floats, resulting in an uneven stitch length and wandering seams.
The foot does not hold the fabric down as the needle is going up. This can allow the fabric to lift with the needle, resulting in skipped stitches and breaking threads. This can be a real problem when working with a free-motion or darning foot. The foot pushes down on the fabric when the needle goes in.
As the needle lifts out, the foot stays on the fabric to prevent it from lifting until the needle is well clear.
Once the needle is high enough, the foot lifts, allowing easy movement of the fabric.
If you are experiencing skipping stitches or breaking threads when doing free-motion, increase the foot pressure so the foot can hold the fabric down properly as the needle is rising.
Presser-foot pressure adjustment is often overlooked as a cure for common problems. It is a most valuable tool and enhances your sewing machine’s capabilities. A little study of your manual’s chapter on this feature can give you new insight.
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