What is a feed dog on a sewing machine

What Is A Feed Dog On A Sewing Machine – You Should To Know

We have been using sewing machines for more than a century. A sewing machine has so many components, if we count, we will see that, it has 30+ components. Feed dog is one of the basic components of a sewing machine which plays a vital role in the stitching process. A feed dog of a sewing machine is an important part of the machine which will pull the fabric forward while you sew. It has a small toothed mechanism underneath the pressure foot.

The function of a feed dog is to grip your fabric and pull it through the machine to create even stitches. the mechanism of the feed dog lies beneath the needle plate. A feed dog in a sewing machine is made up of several small teeth that move up and down, while the machine stitches. Different models have different numbers of feed dogs, this number also varies depending on the purpose of its use.

Key Takeaways

  • The definition of a feed dog and where a feed dog is located.
  • Different locations of feed dog for old sewing machine and modern sewing machine.
  • Various kinds of feed dogs and their uses.

What is A Feed Dog

What is a feed dog
What is a feed dog

Feed dog! Even though it sounds like a pet’s name, in the sewing world, it’s a crucial part of a sewing machine. It is that tiny metal mechanism located beneath the needle and presser foot. It’s like a set of little jagged teeth, and its job is to move the fabric smoothly through the machine as you sew. The feed dog has some cool features that make it an essential part of sewing. First off, those jagged teeth I mentioned? They grip the fabric from below and gently pull it forward with each stitch you make. This consistent movement is what allows you to sew in a straight line without the fabric bunching up or getting stuck.

It has different feed dog settings on your sewing machine, which you can adjust based on your fabric type and sewing technique. Some machines have the option to lower or disengage the feed dog entirely. When you lower it, it gives you more control over the fabric’s movement, which is super handy for free-motion sewing, quilting, or darning.

Its main purpose is to keep the fabric moving at a steady pace, ensuring that your stitches are even and neat. This is especially important for beginners who are just getting the hang of sewing. It’s like having a trusty assistant that keeps everything in place while you concentrate on guiding the fabric.

One neat thing to note is that the feed dog works together with the presser foot. The presser foot holds the fabric down against the feed dog so that it can work its magic. When you press the foot pedal, the needle goes up and down, and the feed dog moves the fabric forward at the same time.

Visibility of Feed Dog

Visibility of feed dog
Visibility of feed dog

Feed dogs have zigzag metal ridges that will pull the fabric in precise measurements. If the machine is free-motion for quilting or darning, feed dogs will drop underneath the throat plate or it will be covered by some metal plates. By lowering feed dogs means, you are dropping them below the needle plate and you are disabling their use. This method is used to make quilting that is freehand motion. If you have raised feed dog, if you pull it against the back side, it will make it more challenging in on directions. For this reason, you have to lower your feed dog by a lever or button. We will find various kinds of machines in the market and they are different by make, manufacturer, and methodology. For this, the feed mechanism is different for different machines and they need different techniques to move the feed dogs to the up and to the down.

  • the computerized sewing machine and the modern sewing machine have working switches, so when you press them, it will lower the feed dog straight away.
  • If you have an old sewing machine, then you will have a pre-installed metallic plate that will cover the feed dogs- this will allow you to do free-motion quilting.
  • If you want to feed dogs that are permanently fixed and cannot lower anymore, you can use playing cards and plastic sheets.
  • You can use the instructions manual if you don’t know how to use feed dog.
  • Use low-tack tape so that feed-dogs do not move, this will also allow you to control the direction of the fabric freely.
  • You can use supreme slider which is a vinyl decal and fits tightly to your sewing machine. This polyester will cover the feed dog perfectly. It will affect the needle hole at the center of the rectangular cutout.
  • You can also go through online instructions, for that you need your model’s number.

When you are dropping the feed dogs, you will have free-flowing motion. If you have timing on the sewing machine that is related to the feed dogs, so when you lower them, the tension will be changed. When you have a thread at the back of the fabric, your stress – level will be high. While your feed dogs are down, you will not have a good-looking stitch. Your sewing machine is responsible for bad stitches.

Your feed–dog has to be up and engaged so that you can sew evenly spaced stitches. Many quilters drop their feed dog for free–motion quilting. Some quilters do not drop their feed dogs, because they have old machines. You can drop your feed dog or you can leave them as they are. You can test both methods and choose the one that works best for you. You can also try darning foot which is a circular opening for an inexpensive sewing tool at the base. It controls the fabric so the quilter can work with it. A lot of new tools have been introduced to the market, so machine quilting is taking up new space in the industry. Computerized darning foot will take full control of the stitches to help you stitch at a consistent length when you are doing free–motion quilting with your feed – dogs lowered. Stay updated on your machine, so that, you can work with it if there is any new tool available.

A Built-in Feed Dog

A built-in feed dog
A built-in feed dog

If you have a sewing machine with feed pressure or a walking foot that will feed layers of fabric, then it has feed dogs at its base. It will allow the quilter to sew multiple layers of fabric. Built-in feed dogs will be found in the walking foot as it grips the top layer of the fabric and then it will be pushing it at the same pace, as the machine’s feed dog moving the bottom layer of the fabric – and it will prevent the layer from shifting. A walking foot is a unique part of any sewing machine, it is also helpful for straight-line machine quilting.

Different Kinds of Feed Mechanism in Sewing Machines

1. Drop feed system

It has three parts; they are

  • pressure-foot
  • throat plate
  • feed the dog.
  • Pressure-Foot: The surface of the throat plate is smooth and it is made of stainless steel. As the surface is smooth, the fabric can be fed on it. A throat plate can also be used as a needle plate. The feed dog can move forward or backward, as the throat plate has one or more than one slot. For the movement of the needle backward or downward, there is a hole. The needle hole should not be larger than 30 % of the needle size. If your needle hole is larger than 30% of the needle size, then some portion of the fabric will enter the needle hole, which we know as flagging. Because of flagging, you will face problems with the correct stitch. The speed of the feed dog is controlled by a stitch length regulator. The feed dog has to make a pre-settled length for each stitch. The upper end is slotted and it will be at the upper of the plate which follows the slot of the throat plate, and upper to the plate, and then in touch of the fabric from the downside of the fabric and takes the fabric a step forward. The throat plate will be in touch with the fabric. a feed dog will be a backward step, then to the slot of the throat plate, a little above the surface, and from the downside of the fabric, it will be it touch of the fabric. this was it makes the pre-settled distance in cyclic order. The speed of the feed dog and needle controls the speed of the fabric, and the needle will remain above the fabric.
  • Placement: The number, the placement of the feed dog, the shape, and the number of the slotted tooth will vary. For a row-feed dog, when you are feeding the fabric, the sewing line will go right or left as they are not going straight.
  • Shape and number of slotted tooth: The number and shape of the slotted tooth will be of various shapes. The direction of the tooth will be at the direction of the fabric to the direction where the fabric will be fed, so the tooth will be kept slanted that way. Light to medium-weight fabric, the tooth is between 1.3 and 1.6 mm, to secure the fabric from damage the front part is rounded. You can use a 1 to 1.25 mm pitch tooth for lightweight fabric. The feed dog has to be covered with rubber so that the fabric is not damaged. You can do this with complicated fabric. when the pitch of the stitch and the pitch of the feed dog becomes equal, there will be damage to the feed dog.
  • Spring pressure: With the help of spring pressure, the pressure foot is creating pressure, so if the needle is moving up and downward, the fabric will not move. The pressure foot remains static and the fabric is fed on its lower surface, in the drop feed process. The pressure foot’s lower surface is kept very smooth, so the friction between the pressure foot and the fabric is less.
  • Fabric: In the drop feed process, when there is two-ply fabric is sewn, moving forward from the lower layer of the fabric to the upper layer of the fabric gets the speed because of the touch of the lower layer to the upper layer. The pressure foot will have pressure on the fabric by pressure spring and when the fabric is moving forward by feed dog. The fabric’s movement in the upper layer is obstructed because of the friction of the pressure foot. As a consequence, there will be length distinction in the lower layer and the upper layer, this is called ply shifting, or differential feed pucker, or feeding pucker. During hemming, roping is created. Ply shifting and roping are very common, in a drop-feed sewing machine. If you are a skilled operator, this problem can be avoided. But the speed of the sewing machine will be much slower.

2. Differential bottom feed

The feed dog has two different parts, one part, where the needle remains in the front and the other part where the needle remains in the back. The feed dogs of the drop feed system get speed. The two parts will be operated at the same speed or at different speeds. the front-feed dog will be at a higher or lower speed than the back-feed dog. Differential puckering can be controlled in this process. Differential bottom feed stitch is available in chain stitch, lock stitch, etc.

3. Adjustable top feed system

When you have fabrics with a number of layers that are sewn together, then speed will be given to the top layer of the fabric. As a consequence, the top layer will be fed at the same or higher or lower speed than the lower layer. In this process, there are two sections. When you start sewing, the needle is penetrating the fabric, one section will keep hold of the fabric, and the pressure foot of the other section which is moving a straight forward is placed and it is pressed on the fabric. so, with the help of the tooth speed of the lower end, it gives speed to the top layer of the fabric which will mean feeding it. With a top feed system, the sewing machine is adjustable, the ordinary drop feed system is available. The differential bottom feed is adjustable and adjustable top feed is available. If you are gathering top ply, it will be done by lower ply, if you are gathering bottom ply, it will be done top ply with adjustable top feed and differential bottom feed. Adjustable top feed and differential bottom feed is a combination for an over-edge stitching machine.

4. Needle (compound) feed system

The needle will go forward and backward. When the needle starts penetrating into the fabric, it gets speed which has the possibility of making a bigger hole. The needle feed mechanism is adjusted with the drop feed mechanism which is called the compound feed system and this will be used to avoid this problem. The needle will enter the hole of the feed dog as soon as it penetrates the fabric, and from there it will make advancement to the fabric at a stitch length, the feed dog and the needle will pass the same distance at the same time. If the needle is coming out of the fabric, it will go upward and then forward a step which will have speed for making a new speed. This system works for thick or hollow fabric. If you want to change the stitch length, the strokes for both needle and the feed dog are needed to change.

5. Unison feed

The unison feed is made by a needle feed mechanism with positive top and bottom feed. It has two pressure feet, one will stay at the bottom of the other and they get speed at different times. Due to the feeding of the needle, the top and the bottom feed at a maximum level at the kept stop. If you have a difficult fabric, like adhesive surface fabric, this feed mechanism is very suitable. There will be no ply shifting. This kind of feeding system is not very much in use.

6. Puller feed

With an ordinary drop feed mechanism, a pair of rollers are used, which means, just behind the pressure foot, they will keep the fabric layers from pulling. The upper roller will be given speed directly from the machine, the lower roller gets speed due to the pressure of the upper roller. The puller feed has a higher speed than the drop feed. For this reason, it has no possibility of ply shifting or roping. This mechanism is needed for making waistbands.


What is the purpose of feeding a dog in a sewing machine?

Feed dog is one of the basic components of a sewing machine. It controls the motion of the fabric. The needle plates are covering feed dogs and the feed dog will push the fabric towards the needle. As a result, stitching will be done on the fabric.

What is called a feed dog?

It is called a feed dog because the device has teeth. On a sewing machine, you will see how the feed mechanism, which will grip and pulls the fabric, resembles a dog’s teeth.

What is the difference between a pressure foot and a feed dog?

Every sewing machine moves the fabric and it is done by a feed dog, the pressure foot will hold the fabric down and the feed dog takes the fabric with it.

Do all sewing machines have feed dogs?

Every sewing machine has a set of feed dogs, they are located on a stitch plate below the pressure foot.

Should feed dogs be up and down when sewing?

Feed dogs should be up and engaged, so that, you can have evenly spaced stitches. This is the way a sewing machine is designed to be used.

Final Thoughts

As we have discussed in this article feed dogs are essentially a crucial part of a sewing machine. It depends on you if you want your feed dogs to the top layer and do finely spaced stitching, or if you want your feed dogs lowered and do a free-motion quilting. For the best results, you can try both methods and see which is the best fit for you. It is also a vital part to do servicing of feed dogs if you address any damage to your machine. With proper care and maintenance, your feed dog will let you create beautiful garments, crafts, and other projects.


Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

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