Sewing machines work by joining two layers of fabric together with lines of interlocked threads. As the needle pushes into the fabric to make the stitches, the fabric is slowly advanced forward by parts on the underside of the needle plate called feed dogs. They play an important role in proper stitch tension and making straight, uniform stitches in the fabric.
What Are the Feed Dogs?
The feed dogs are a set of two or more metal parts with teeth that rest underneath the needle plate on a sewing machine. They are positioned so the teeth stand out from slots in the plate. The feed dogs rise up against the underside of the fabric to gently push it forward or backward depending on the direction you are sewing. They are controlled by the presser foot, which holds the fabric against the needle plate,
The sole purpose of feed dogs is to push fabric forward or backward with the rise and fall of the needle, allowing the needle to pierce a new area of the fabric each time instead of pushing the thread through the same hole again.
The feed dogs make it possible for the machine to create continuous stitches of uniform length to join the fabric together. Most machines have between two and four feed dogs, although some have more to provide precise control of the fabric feed for more detailed projects.
Using the Feed Dogs
The feed dogs are designed to work in conjunction with other parts on Juki sewing machines, pushing the fabric forward or back according to the stitch settings. In most instances, you can simply sew as normal on your machine by allowing the feed dogs to advance your fabric just the right amount for perfect stitches without the need to push or pull the fabric.
Since the feed dogs only work forward and backward, they are most useful when sewing a straight line. For free motion stitching, the feed dogs can be lowered so they do not protrude through the needle plate, allowing you to gently guide the fabric on your own.
Improper Use of the Feed Dogs
Because they are barely visible when using machines like the Juki HZL DX5, it is easy to forget the feed dogs are there. Unfortunately, failing to allow them to do their job can cause problems with sewing machines and affect the quality of your project. Feed dogs advance the fabric at the right speed and rate to create perfect stitches. When you force the fabric along by pulling it forward or pushing it from behind, you affect the uniformity of the stitches.
You may also bend or break the needle on your machine. As tempting as it may be, it is important for you to allow the feed dogs to control the speed at which the fabric is advanced under the needle and simply guide the fabric so it stays straight. In most cases, the feed dogs allow the machine to sew the fabric with very little intervention.
When using sewing machines, resist the temptation to pull the fabric under the needle faster. Remember how the feed dogs work and let them do their job. These mechanical grippers will make sure that your Juki HZL DX5 produces quality, uniform stitches that look great and function well in keeping your project together. When you work with the feed dogs instead of against them, you will sew smarter and get the most from your Juki sewing machine!