Firstly you may want to know what a side cutter foot is. It is a sewing machine foot which is also known as a cut and hem foot because it hems your fabric and cuts the edge off as you go. Just like an overlocker but on a domestic sewing machine.
It is much like an overedge foot (tutorial here) but with a blade to cut the fabric off as you sew.
To use the side cutter, first you need to unscrew your standard sewing machine foot. When attaching the side cutter foot line the prong part up to cradle your needle screw so the cut and hem is able to move as your needle does. It is easiest to line it up if you sneak up on your sewing machine from behind!
Then pivot the foot so that the claw looking part lines up with the screw hole, and screw into place. Hand turn the needle to check it isn’t hitting the presser foot. Pull your thread into the gap in the centre of the side cutter then out behind.
You might want to practice on some scrap fabric before you try it on your actual fabric. You need to make a snip of a couple of centimetres in the fabric to get started. This is because the material needs to pass through far enough inside the foot for the needle to pierce the fabric next to a raw edge to begin an overlocking action.
To feed your fabric into the side cutter, pass your material over the plate closest to you, but under the part that looks like a standard foot. The bumped out black section in the centre is the blade, so be careful not to get your fingers too close to this as you sew. Push the cut edge of the fabric gently up to the the edge of the blade.
You will find that most sewing machines come with a couple of stitches designed to be sewn over the edge of fabric, so either select one of these, or a wide zigzag. Double check that the stitch you picked avoids the centre bar by manually moving the needle up and down first.
TIP – I would suggest that marking a line on the wrong side of the fabric and sewing it that way up. This will help guide you and limit your chance of errors.
As you sew, you will notice that the blade cuts at the same speed as your stitches are sewn, and the stitches wrap around the centre bar. It does this to maintain the perfect tension before sliding them off and around the edge of your fabric. This stops the edge getting pulled out of place.
Once you are finished, you need to slide any remaining stitches off the centre bar, so gently pull the fabric backwards before pulling away.
Now the edge of your fabric should be looking like the image above. You could leave the edge like this or if you want to neaten it you can turn the edge up out of site. I rolled up the bottom of the fabric, pinned it in place, and with a quarter inch quilting foot that has a handy little guide for lining the fabric edge up against (also available from our shop), I quickly can stitch a perfect line 1/4 inch from the bottom.
The finished result looks neat and professional and took me all of 5 minutes!