Using a Sewing Machne Foot Pedal The Easy Way

Almost all of us instinctively use the foot pedal on our sewing machine the way that gives us the LEAST precise control, and is the least ergonomic.

The tendency is to use it in the orientation below.  Notice how the heel is suspended in air? You have to hold up you foot and push down with your toe.  This is usually not the easiest way. 

Instead, flip the controller around the other way.  You will be able to rest your heal and foot on the floor rather than devoting muscles to suspending it in the air.  To control the speed of the machine, just push down or release using the ball of your foot on the edge of the controller.   Give it a try.  You will be surprised at how much easier it will be to get more precise control over the speed and how much more comfortable it feels for most people.

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  • Friday, April 30. 2010 Jeanne wrote:
    Got a kick out of the picture with the foot pedal, that is how I tried to learn to drive stick shift, which didn't work very well. Once I put my heal on the floorboard, I made out much better.
  • Friday, April 30. 2010 Jodieth wrote:
    I am so glad to see this. My foot pedal always creeps even with the bought floor sewing peddle pad that doesn't work. Maybe now You have solved my problem. Thanks! Ha ha, I don't wear dress shoes sewing, though.
  • Thursday, May 13. 2010 Denise wrote:
    Jenny, what about the bakelite controllers with the button? I've tried several different approaches using these type on the floor and none of them seem satisfactory. Any tips?
    1. Thursday, May 13. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:

      Using the Button foot controller

      1. Place the controller on the floor within easy reach of your foot with the cord end of the controller away from you and the button end closest to you.

      2. Rest the ball of your foot on both knobs/buttons on the controller with your heel on the floor.

      3. Use a tilting movement of your foot to press down on the button with the ball of your foot. Obviously only one of the buttons/knobs moves and that is the one to push down to control the speed of the machine.

      The whole key is the tilting motion of your foot as opposed to pushing straight down like you would on an accelerator style foot control.

      1. Friday, May 14. 2010 Denise wrote:
        Thanks for this, Jenny. It seems I am using it correctly as you describe it.

        I have a Singer 15-125 with a foot control (my other button control machine, a 403, is in a cabinet with a knee lever) and it seems that I have to really press down and apply a lot of pressure to get it to start sewing but then it's too fast - I would like to sew at a more moderate pace.

        Perhaps the controller needs to be replaced? Is there anyway I can troubleshoot & repair this myself? Or is this something I should have repaired professionally? The 15 is really my favorite machine so I don't want to ruin it!
        1. Friday, May 14. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:

          It is correct that you should need to push down significantly on the button before things get moving. Because of how these controllers function, it's very important that when they are in the off position absolutely no "juice" is flowing.

          There are a multitude of things that can cause hesitation or a machine going from 0 to 100 mph. Sometimes the controller needs to be adjusted or replaced.  Sometimes it;'s just a matter of where in the stitch cycle you begin or end your stitch. (always start with the take-up lever just past the highest position).  Sometimes it's how you use the controller. There could even be a slight bind or build up of old oil somewhere in the machine as well.  Perhaps the innards of the motor needs some TLC....

          If you feel comfortable and want to put on your mechanics hat, you can.  If you don't feel comfortable doing that, well then you'll have to hire someone to do it for you.
  • Friday, May 14. 2010 Denise wrote:
    Thank you for taking so much time to talk to me about my foot controls!

    I feel comfortable opening up the machine for oiling/greasing gears and such, not quite as comfortable taking things completely apart yet but working on it. I found your post on the 15-91 and foot control repairs last night so I'll be studying them closely! If it's something that can be done at home I'll give it a go, I just want to avoid attempting things that are best left to a professional.

    As for my 15-125, it has now stopped working completely. The machine blinked off (no light or anything) when I moved the controller, but came back on when I wiggled the foot control and sewed for a bit more but then stopped completely. No amount of wiggling or adjusting the foot control could cajole it back to life.
  • Friday, May 14. 2010 bingobonnie wrote:
    What works best for me is to use my BAREFOOT I can easily rest my heel on the floor and my toes actually grip the upper end of the foot pedal... Very controlled sewing. I even make sure to wear flip flops at workshops so I can slip off to sew, and back on to get up and go cut or press.

    Love from Texas! ~bonnie
    1. Tuesday, May 25. 2010 Heather wrote:
      I'm usually sewing barefoot, but most of my shoes don't have heels either. I keep my heel on the floor and the ball of my foot on the control. If the foot has a habit of wandering, non-slip gripper fabric helps. I learned to sew on my grandma's old singer that had the "toe button" - I would rest my foot on the box (and sew barefoot).
  • Monday, May 24. 2010 Frances wrote:
    Gosh -- checked your website for the first time in a long time. Saw this post. Turned my pedal around this weekend while quilting. What a difference it makes. Thanks for the great suggestion!
  • Wednesday, June 09. 2010 JustGail wrote:
    When I was learning to sew, I was taught to give the handwheel a gentle nudge as I was pressing on the controller. It seemed to prevent (or at least reduce) the nothing-to-full-speed takeoffs. This was on machines at home and at school (back when we still had home-ec). I never knew the reasoning, but after reading Jenny's list of causes, I suspect it was needle position that was the common issue. Not that the school machines didn't have others though. Even on my Viking with the electronic foot control, I still keep reaching for the wheel, especially when I'm sewing something heavy, like repairing jeans. Old habits die hard.
  • Friday, July 16. 2010 Ed wrote:
    I really enjoy your Blog/site!!
  • Wednesday, July 21. 2010 Terry wrote:
    I purchased a Singer 401A, and it has just been refurbished. However, it is missing the original foot pedal. I've looked on ebay and on this site for parts, but I can't find any originals. Anyone got any ideas? Thanks! Terry
    1. Thursday, July 22. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      The orginal controllers (foot pedal) are no longer made, so if you feel that you must have one of those for some reason, you will have to wait and dig around the secondary market ebay, thrift stroes, etc..) until one shows up.

      The other option is to purchase a brand new controller.  I carry several controllers on my Parts & supplies online store, and anyone of them would work with a Singer 401/401A.  Just pick the controller you want and the cord for the 401/401/a.  If you want it to arrive already wired up, I offer that service too.  Otherwise, you can connect it up yourself.


      Singer 401/401A foot controller cord

      Wiring Service

  • Sunday, October 03. 2010 Robert wrote:
    Photos of proper timing show the eye of the needle just below the hook on maximum down of the needle. My Wizard/Brother (1958) zig zag has just the tip of the needle just below the hook at maximum down. Is it possible that this type of machine adjusts timing automatically depending upon settings? Otherwise the machine sews normally.
    1. Tuesday, October 05. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You don't time the needle depth by the absolute lowest position of the needle in the cycle. 

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