Any way to artificially adjust presser foot pressure?
May 17, 2017 1:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to sew stretch fabrics, but have been having difficulties with the top layer of fabric bunching and getting shoved out of the way by the presser foot. I checked online and the answer seems to be to reduce the presser foot's pressure....however.... My machine - a Brother SQ9000 - doesn't have a presser foot pressure adjustment! Is there any other way to adjust the presser foot that doesn't include the machine's knob? Any way of "artificially" lifting the presser foot a little?

My equipment - Brother SQ9000 machine, with a new ballpoint needle.
My project - lycra helmet panties - all of it is lycra-to-lycra sewing.
Stitch - wide zigzag (pattern specification)
Presser Foot - "J" (stitch-machine requirement)
Other: Top thread tension is 3, and top and bottom stitches look equal. Tissue paper under bottom layer of fabric to prevent it being pushed into the machine.

Anyway, this is my first time sewing this type of fabric and I've gone to google and read and watched a number of tutorials. I followed them as best I could, and it seemed the recommendation for "bunching" was, initially, to use "a ton of pins" - I have done this, pinning about every cm or so. However this hasn't helped - it just makes the bunching more pronounced more quickly. The next recommendation I saw was to "reduce the presser foot pressure, duh" - however I could not find the corresponding knob from the tutorials on my machine. I tried searching for my model and it seems Brother rarely includes a pressure foot pressure adjuster. Some have speculated it's automatic, but the results I see show me this is not the case - it is not adjusting for my fabric and shoving (and stretching) it out of the way.

Has anyone else had this problem? Are there any recommendations? Should I try tissue on the top, too? At some point multiple layers of paper will result in the reduction of the stitch strength, and I'm worried it will prevent me from seeing the proper seam measurements....but honestly, anything to stop this bunching.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would try a walking foot.
posted by sulaine at 1:54 PM on May 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Walking foot or roller foot. I use a roller foot with vinyls that stuck and fluffy thick things that bunched under the presser foot. Roller foot is cheaper, walking foot probably better.
posted by pearshaped at 2:15 PM on May 17, 2017

Definitely agree with the walking foot - it should have come with your machine if you bought it new. Otherwise you can buy one.

Looks like this.
posted by vunder at 2:16 PM on May 17, 2017

Walking foot, roller foot (might get weird), or a teflon foot. Or, you can put parchment paper (like for baking) between the foot and the fabric to smooth the transition. The FAQs on Brother's site for this model seem to indicate you could make the feed-dog adjustment, but I don't know if that's in your manual (it would seem not).

Try loosening your tension as well, the worst thing that will happen is that it doesn't work.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:22 PM on May 17, 2017

I recently tried putting parchment paper (like for baking) just under the presser foot to make it slide easier over bulky fabric, and it worked like a charm. I was able to put the edge of the paper just to the left of where the needle is, and that made the regular foot just the right amount of slippery, even though the paper was only on one side of it. You could also put the paper on top and sew right through it if needed, then rip it away.
posted by danceswithlight at 2:23 PM on May 17, 2017

If you haven't tried this yet, maybe stretching the fabric while sewing would help. You want to keep one hand in front and the other hand behind the needle and stretch the fabric slightly, while letting the feed dogs control how much the fabric moves (in other words, you're not dragging the fabric under the needle, or fighting the feed dogs). This will keep the fabric taut and help control the bunching, and will also build a little stretch into the stitches so the seam won't pop when the fabric stretches during wear.

Another thing to try might be to sandwich your fabric in tissue paper after pinning it together, then sew normally. Tissue paper is very easy to tear off after you're done sewing. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 6:20 PM on May 17, 2017

Thanks to those who suggested the walking foot, but it's no good. After the first comment I went out and bought a walking foot. It actually helped it from slipping, but it didn't help the bunching.

I have tried adjusting the feed dogs, unfortunately though the settings are just "up" - preventing the fabric from moving through cleanly, or "down", which prevents all movement (which, with such flexible fabric, causes the material to get jammed in the plate).

Is parchment paper much different from the tissue paper I've been using?

I've also tried stretching the fabric a little, but everything else I've read says NOT to do this, and if you find yourself doing it, it means you should reduce the presser pressure....
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:07 PM on May 17, 2017

I just saw some suggestions about this on patternreview ( - you need an account to access the page). One suggestion was to try sticking a strip of scotch tape on the bottom of the presser foot, which sounds similar to the parchment trick above. There was also a link to this pdf about making sure your tension is good. That comment also said "If the fabric is pulling up and the stitchline is getting shorter as you're stitching, slightly stretch the fabric before and after the presser foot. (The old Stretch and Sew books from the 1970s are excellent information on this technique, which is how I always sewed knits on my straight stitch only Singer 301A)". I had seen the same advice as you about stretching so I too was surprised, but it looks like it might be worth trying.

What happens when you use the walking foot without the tissue paper?

What I've found helpful is using some kind of interfacing, knit stay tape, or elastic as stabilizer. If you're worried about the end result being too thick, there are some stabilizers that dissolve in water.
posted by trig at 3:19 AM on May 18, 2017

If you are not putting tension on the fabric by stretching it slightly while it feeds through, it will bunch no matter what foot or thread tension you use.
posted by ananci at 11:25 AM on May 18, 2017

Is parchment paper much different from the tissue paper I've been using?

Parchment paper is stiffer, which would be better.
posted by pangolin party at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2017

Thanks for the suggestions all, but I am wondering if there's any way to adjust the presser foot pressure on a machine that does not have a knob for it - that's the question.

Again, thank you for your suggestions, but I've tried many of the "workarounds" already, or, more accurately, the things that are supposed to be done in addition to reducing the presser foot pressure.

I am asking specifically about changing the presser foot pressure on this machine. If it can't be done, it can't be done.... but I'm asking if someone perhaps has done something that most people might think can't be done.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 10:42 PM on May 18, 2017

I also have one machine without a pressure foot adjustment. There's no way to hack it. If I sew slippery fabrics together, I baste them first. You can baste both sides of the seam to effectively make the fabric pieces behave as one, unstich the inner afterward. As far as tissue paper goes, you'd want to use it under the needle in this case... and only with a straight stitch so you can tear it off. A long straight stitch may work just fine for your pattern if you stretch as you go.

I'm assuming you've double checked that the bobbin is working correctly, top and bottom thread is the same brand/type, needle is brand new? Any crud on the bottom of your pressure foot? What happens when you sew a straight stitch on the same fabric? Those are the types of little things I forget to check when having sewing issues.

(I'm really surprised the walking foot didn't help at all, since it lessens pressure on the fabric, which is why I'm thinking to double check all the fiddly little stuff. The walking foot won't do a zig-zag stitch, so make sure your machine settings weren't on that.)
posted by oneirodynia at 3:11 PM on May 20, 2017

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