Wednesday, 22 July 2015

'So, Zo...' Investigates: Janome Sewing Machine Feet

I am NOT an early adopter when it comes to any kind of technology or gadgets. It's not that I fear change, but I can be reluctant to spend time learning how to use something new properly and/or get used to it enough so that it improves on my previous method of doing something. When it comes to sewing, the time I can spend on it is limited so I want to get cracking as soon as a window opens up. I don't want to get slowed down for even a second whilst I get to grips with something new. But I have to admit that this attitude is to my own detriment, and I never regret the time spent figuring out the new thing once it has been adopted into my arsenal of tech! Like my rotary cutter. I bought it in 2007 (from Britex in San Francisco, fact), but only got it out of the packet a month ago! Now I love it and wonder what the hell I was waiting for. And I promise I'm starting to change...

So when I received some different sewing machine feet from Janome for my new DSK30, the old me would have thought 'there's a box of hassle right there'. But the new-attitude me was actually pretty excited to crack them out and find points in my forthcoming sewing projects to try using them. For clarity I want to state that I received these sewing machine feet for free from Janome, in exchange for an honest review. Apparently, not all feet and machine accessories can be used on every sewing machine made by that brand. My machine requires Category B accessories, and a full list of things to pimp your sewing experience in that category can be found here. On to my findings...

Applique Foot:

What's it meant to be for?

The appliqué foot seems to have two main benefits: 1) it is smaller so theoretically more manoeuvrable round angles and shapes than a standard machine foot, and 2) the back of it is raised to accommodate the bulk from a row of close satin stitch. 

Is it any good?

I used the appliqué foot when applying a patch to cover a hole that 'appeared' in Dolores's blouse when she momentarily got hold of some scissors (on her dad's watch, I may add). The patch was a bird-shape, so suitably awkward for testing this foot. I used a faux-blanket stitch rather than a satin stitch, but I definitely had no problems stitching round the shape, which must be in-part thanks to using this little appliqué foot. 

Even Feed Foot (AKA Walking Foot):

What's it meant to be for?

The point of an even feed/walking foot is that it has a row of teeth that feed the top layer of fabric through at the same rate that the feed dogs feed the bottom layer through underneath. Therefore, there isn't the resistance that a regular machine foot can create to the top layer that can make for shifting and slipping when sewing certain types of fabric. There's a bunch of uses for this foot depending on what type of sewing you're into, but it can be good for super-fine and slippery fabrics, knits, vinyl/leather and for quilting. If you were paying close attention during the last series of The Great British Sewing Bee, you would have seen these being used during the leather jacket challenge. 

Is it any good?

Of all the feet I was sent, this was the one that I was most interesting in. When I worked at TRAID, I did a lot of leather and vinyl appliqués (like this, this and these), and often struggled with the machine foot sticking to the leather/vinyl. I found that a squirt of machine lubrication spray helped a little, but I feared staining the fabric of the garment so was excited to try a new foot. 

I tried this walking foot when applying the leather fawn shape on this pinafore dress. It's a chunky old foot this one, not as light and nimble as the appliqué foot (see above), and therefore a bit trickier to manoeuvre round an awkward shape. But it was SO MUCH FUN to use and there was no sticking at all. If you have encountered any sticking, slipping or shifting in your sewing projects, I'd recommend putting this foot on your Christmas (or alternative special occasion that is celebrated with presents) list.   

Zigzag Foot:

What's it meant to be for?

Another foot related to appliqué (can you tell I've got the appliqué bug back these days?!). The zigzag foot is made of clear plastic and has a massive gap in the area where the needle goes down, so visibility for fancy stitches or following the edge of something is made really easy. 

Is it any good?

I cracked open the zigzag foot when appliquéing a lightning flash shape onto a little sweatshirt, and I must admit, the huge gap makes it feel really weird to use initially. However, all that extra visibility is excellent. I think back to the masses of appliquéing I used to do in my twenties (cool appliquéing, mind) and think about how much easier it would have been if I could have seen what I was doing a bit more! If you are into appliqué or fancy stitches, I do recommend getting hold of one of these. I will now stop using the word appliqué for the duration of the rest of this blog post. 

Zipper Foot:

What's it meant to be for?

Now what the Janome website won't tell you, is that the zip/zipper foot that comes with a Janome machine as standard is pretty rubbish. So they have this far superior one available. You can see what the standard zip foot looks like here, and basically when it is positioned so the needle goes down the left side of the foot, the needle can't get very close to the teeth of the zip (or whatever other use you are using it for, like making/inserting piping etc.). 

This superior zip/zipper foot (sorry, I find writing 'zipper' uncomfortable!) is adjustable and can be positioned so you can get really close to the zip teeth or piping, whichever side you need to use. Like the walking foot, it is a screw-on type foot. 

Is it any good?

Hell yes. Check out how close to the piping I got in the picture above. I want to write that buying this adjustable zip foot would be worth every penny, but I am annoyed that the standard zip foot is so rubbish that you have to buy this one. 

Concealed Zipper Foot:

What's it meant to be for?

The concealed/invisible zipper foot makes inserting this type of zip much easier and raises your chances of putting one in successfully first time. It has channels that the teeth run through, and a little central nodule-thing that pushes the teeth to one side so the machine needle can stitch really close to them. 

Is it any good?

At various points in my 'career' (I use that term loosely) I have made money from making garments, many of which had concealed zips. I have always used a regular zip foot for putting them in, using my fingers to push the teeth to the side. Having felt that I'd more or less developed the knack, I wasn't sure that a specific concealed zip foot was necessary. I thought it might be a useful tool for teaching others how to insert a concealed zip, but I didn't think I'd want one myself, particularly if you have a decent regular zip foot (see above). But hear me when I say, I was wrong. The concealed zip foot is great. It would be a stretch to claim that it assists a perfect zip insertion every time; a few times I've seen people stitch too close or even over the teeth when using one of these feet. But it definitely makes your concealed-zip-insertion life considerably easier, and if you usually fear or even avoid concealed zips, you should grab one of these if you can. I would recommend that you use a regular zip foot first for basting the zip tape in position (see the yellow row of stitching in the photo above) before using the concealed zip foot to stitch close to the teeth.


badmomgoodmom said...

Yup, I have quite the collection of both Janome and Bernina feet.
See a small subset here:

You can do these things without the specialized feet, but you get much better results in less time with them.

Miriana said...

I bought that zip (sewing blogs have almost trained me into 'zipper') foot before I realised my machine came with one so I'm oddly pleased to here it's crap. Does the good one work with machines where the feet clip on? Looking at mine (it's 7am so a it early for getting my machine out and trying to keep a toddler away from it), I can see how it fits.

Miriana said...

I mean 'can't see how it fits'

Fiona@Staring at the Sea said...

I'm just starting to explore other foot options for my Janome. I made a few zippy bags and was disappointed with the results. Then I read a blog post about how difficult it is to put in a really good zip with *that* zip foot. Irritating to have to buy something extra, at around £15 it was a considered purchase, but the improvement is well worth it. Interesting to read your thoughts on the others.

Caroline said...

Hi Zoe! I have a Janome even feed/walking foot. Best sewing gadget that I've got! I always use it when I'm sewing jersey or fiddly fabrics. :-) x

Debra said...

Yes, that Janome zip foot is a beast. I thought it was just me being useless until I bought the adjustable zip foot and the concealed zip foot.

I sew a lot of stretch / fleece fabrics and find the walking foot invaluable for those.

The other foot I use a lot is the straight stitch foot (and plate) for very lightweight fabrics; stops them getting eaten.

I've got a couple of feet for ditch stitching and top stitching and I find those very useful too, much quicker than doing it by eye. I do feel like I'm cheating a bit but really, who cares?

Eimear Greaney said...

good to see a post on the concealed zip foot - i rarely use concealed zips as i dislike them as a zip, however as I am upcycling old clothes I have a few old concealed zips here to be reused and like you I had developed a knack for putting them in, however in my case, I had to do a very close inspection each time after to check for corrections, but it does look like that would give a smoother quicker finish.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I totally agree about the rubbish zip foot, and like another comment, resent the £15. I have just started using the 'overlock' foot on my Bernina. It has lain unused in the gadget box
for years. But it is useful on single thickness fabric when zigzagging - it prevents the edge puckering up!

Jane said...

Oh yes, zip, zip!
I love your admission about reluctance to learn new gadgetry. I'm very much the same. But yes... sometimes the gadgets are good, and it's really interesting to read your reviews here. I'm still really unconvinced by sewing machines with computer screen controls though!

Ann said...

Oh my god. I have a Janome 500 and I had no idea that this was common knowledge about the zipper foot. Ugh. It's the only machine I've ever had so I didn't even know that putting in zippers could be an easier task. I'm shocked!

Hanna said...

Having had my Janome machine for five years, I have just discovered that the 'clear buttonhole foot B' which came as standard with my machine is really useful for topstitching - it's see-through, and has a line marked just right of the centre, so if you line the edge of the fabric up with that line, you get perfect close topstitching a scant 1/8" away. They probably have an even better foot designed specifically for topstitching, but I'm absurdly pleased with having got this one for free, effectively (never used it for buttonholes, obv).

Frankie Carson said...

ive got to say hands down my favourite foot is my button hole foot! as long as i do each step my buttonholes are perfect!

Elizabeth Made This said...

Great review! I had no idea about the superior zipper foot! I will have to check it out. I do love the applique foot because the clear plastic really helps you see your stitching and there's very little that it sticks to. I haven't ever really loved the even feed foot. It's so big and clunky and makes an unnerving amount of noise. I used it a lot as a beginner, but since I've gotten used to sewing with a hand in front and a hand in back, I haven't felt much need for it . I might have to break it out again and do an objective test now as a better sewist.

Ann Watts said...

I bought the concealed zip foot on recommendation from a friend and agree it is v good.

Encouraged to look at a new zip foot now!

But can I ask. Have you or anyone else tried the bias binding foot? I was given one for Xmas and every attempt to use it has failed! Anyone got any tips/ advice?

Anonymous said...

I have a few of these that came in a pack with my machine, but I never knew what they were for, so thanks for enlightening me. That said, I wouldn't be without my invisible zipper foot!

Mother of Reinvention said...

I have started buying a lot of feet for my machine and have found that they are really useful. My latest is an invisible zip foot and I am really looking forward to using it. I got a fair few with my machine and they have all been very useful. Also, just bought a vintage Singer buttonholer. Have you ever used one of those? My favourite is my bias binding foot. Xx

@ Ann Watts - Do you have the kind that adjusts and takes the folded binding? If so you could iron your binding a bit and get the fold in the little groove of the adjustable bit., then make sure that it is not too loose. I start mine off by sewing an inch or so, then just feed the fabric through in between the recessed bit. I don't think that they take fabric that is very thick. I have a blog post reviewing mine. :)

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

OMGZ!! Walking feet are the best for EVERYTHING Zoe!!! Velvet and corduroy - watch how much less they wander off in different directions. Silks? Staying put. Chiffon? Staying put! Quilting? Made for it.
That baby lives on my machine for almost everything. Except zips, embroidery and..actually that is it :) (mind you I have a Bernina not a Janome but I think the principles are the same)

Anonymous said...

The walking foot is also fantastic for any kind of sewing where you're matching stripes and plaids-- you don't have to stress out about things becoming misaligned by the end of the seam! I use mine constantly! Also the concealed zipper foot is fantastic. I've never had issues with the regular zipper foot that came with my Janome, but I generally prefer invisible zippers, so I use that foot more often.

Katie said...

I use my walking, zip and invisible zip feet on my Janome regularly. I can't believe the different the screw-on zip foot makes - I used to hate setting in zips, now I can deal with it no problem. Other favourites: button and buttonholer, and quarter-inch guide foot.

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