Sewing is a fun hobby and pastime that people of all ages can enjoy.
There are a variety of different reasons people sew, but no matter why you do it, it’s important to know all of the parts of the machine.
Whether you’re just starting to sew or you’ve been doing it your entire life, if you’ve ever asked yourself “What is a low shank sewing machine?”, you’re in the right place.
While there are plenty of parts to a sewing machine, today we will talk all about shanks, screws, and sizing.
What Is a Shank?
We can’t talk about what a low shank sewing machine is without discussing what a shank in general is.
The shank is the metal rod where you will later put a presser foot onto its end when you’re ready to start sewing.
While the majority of newer sewing machines have a low shank built-in, this isn’t the case with more traditional sewing machines.
If you enjoy sewing as a hobby and have a variety of different presser feet, you’ll enjoy working with a shank that’s not quite as tall.
What Is a Low Shank Sewing Machine?
In short, a low shank sewing machine has a distance of 3/4 inches from the presser foot to the attachment screw.
One reason people use a low shank sewing machine is that it can save you plenty of time, which is a bonus for everyone.
- Zipper Foot
There is something you may have called a zipper foot that makes it really easy to sew as close as possible to the zipper coils.
When you do this, it will automatically improve the way that the zipper functions and looks afterward.
- Buttonhole Foot
Another part is a buttonhole foot that will come in handy when you’re making clothing or bags where you need to add buttons.
This foot will make the buttonholes the same size and shape due to the repeating pattern that it makes.
- Blind Hem Foot
You can also use a blind hem foot on a low shank sewing machine if you are aiming for an invisible hemline on a clothing item that you’re making.
Who Is It Best For?
Knowing whether or not a low shank sewing machine is the right one for you is crucial before you spend any of your hard-earned money on a sewing machine.
If you’re a beginner or just learning how to use a sewing machine, a low shank sewing machine is your best option.
There’s no doubt that sewing machines can be incredibly expensive, which is why you want the first one you buy to be one that lasts you for several years to come.
One of the best things about low shank sewing machines is how versatile they are, which is perfect for someone who isn’t completely sure about what they like to sew.
How Does Shank Size Affect Sewing?
So, now that you know what is a low shank sewing machine and it is the best option for someone just starting, thanks to its versatility and durability, the next question is, how does the shank size actually affect your sewing?
If you have any experience on a sewing machine, you may have found that the universal presser foot that you were using wasn’t working out for your project.
Don’t worry since this is an entirely normal thing that most people are bound to run into at some point when they’re learning the ins and outs of a sewing machine.
If you have experienced this and went ahead and installed a new or different foot, you may have found out that you cannot use it with the specific type of machine you have.
That is likely due to the shank of your sewing machine and is no fault of your own.
As much as there are a variety of needs that you can use and presser feet to put on, there are also different shank types when it comes to mounting your foot choice.
It’s important to know what type of shank your sewing machine is so that you can properly buy feet and have a stress-free sewing hobby.
How to Tell if Your Machine is a Low or High Shank
There are a few parts of the machine that you’ll need to observe in order to find out if you have a low shank machine or a high shank sewing machine.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that the presser foot is in the down position before you begin measuring.
When you are ready to measure, you’ll want to start from the bed of the sewing machine to the center of the thumbscrew and make sure to get an exact measurement since there isn’t a significant difference in size from a low to a high shank.
If you get a measurement that falls between ½ inches to ¾ inches, then you have a low shank sewing machine.
If you get a measurement that exceeds ¾ inches or is close to one inch, you likely have a high shank sewing machine.
Do you see why it’s so important to make sure that your measurements are as close to perfect as possible?
That said, not every sewing machine has the parts needed to measure.
What do you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Check if It Has Snap-On Feet
You may have gotten this far, and you’re feeling frustrated because you can’t find the screw to measure, but that’s okay!
Not every machine will have a screw, and this actually makes it even easier to tell if you have a low shank sewing machine.
Many machine manufacturers have decided to toss out the screw to make the sewing machine look more seamless, ironically.
In this case, these machines have feet that simply snap on and are really easy to change in and out when you need to use a different one.
If you have a sewing machine that uses snap-on feet, you’ve got yourself a low shank sewing machine!
Are Low and High Shanks the Only Options?
So you’ve measured your sewing machine from the bed to the screw, and you’ve come to the realization that it’s not a low shank machine, does this mean it’s a high shank sewing machine?
The short answer: possibly!
When a sewing machine has a foot-to-screw distance that falls between one inch and 1.25 inches, it is considered a high shank machine.
Popular brands like Kenmore and Necchi make the majority of high shank sewing machines.
These machines are popular among sewers who do a lot of quilting since it’s easier to get thick fabric through than a low shank sewing machine.
There is a third type of machine called a slanted shank.
You’ll find yourself with a slanted shank sewing machine if you find that the distance between the foot and the screw to be 1⅛ inches, plus the shank has to be at a very slight incline.
These machines were popular from 1960 to 1980 and were made mainly from the infamous company Singer.
Is One Better Than the Other?
If you haven’t bought a sewing machine yet and you don’t know which shank size is best, it’s important to consider what you typically sew.
That is why low shank sewing machines are great for beginners since they’re incredibly versatile.
There are also many presser feet to choose from if you have a low shank sewing machine.
On the other hand, it may be harder to find presser feet for slanted shank machines because they’re so rare nowadays.
Finally, high shank sewing machines are best for people who work solely with thicker material, such as quilting fabric or denim.
With so many sewing machines on the market, you must find one that fits your needs.
Many beginners don’t know what a shank is, let alone what differentiates one from another.
Before you spend any money, sit down and consider what you want to sew most, and that will help you decide which type of shank you’ll need.
If you’re unsure, be rest assured knowing that a low shank is a great universal option that works for the majority of sewing enthusiasts.