So you've picked up a vintage machine and you'd like to get some attachments for it. You take a look on eBay or your local thrift store and you see a box of accessories descsribed as "low shank" or "slant shank" or something like that.
And you realize you don't know which kind your machine takes!
Let's see if we can shed some light on the problem.
White zigzagger attachment.
Different sewing machine manufacturers solved the issue of interchangeable presser feet in different ways. The distance between the sewing platform and the attaching point on the presser foot bar varied widely and the method of attachment might be a screw or a clamp.
White sewing machines had one of the more unique attaching designs, which involved a clasping wrap and locking pin.
Over time, however, certain designs became standard and are referred to as low-shank, high-shank, slant-shank, etc.
So what does this look like?
As shown above, presser feet heights vary widely. The attaching point on an Elna foot is 1/2" while the clamp attachment for Bernina feet is over an inch.
The most common Singer styles are referred to as "low shank" and "slant shank." Let's take a look at them side by side:
As you can see, the Singer low shank is short and vertical, and the slant shank is tall and slanted.
But what if your machine is a vertical needle? Does that automatically mean that it's a low shank model?
Not necessarily, because there are some differences between Singer's low-shank and the similar feet used by Pfaff, Elna, and Necchi. And some Kenmore models use a taller "high-shank" foot.
So how do you tell the difference? Well, it helps if the foot is marked with the manufacturer name. If it's short and vertical and says "Singer" then it's a no-brainer. Otherwise, you'll need to measure from the sewing platform to where the screw attaches to be sure, as illustrated by the Singer and Elna feet shown here:
Singer's low shank is slightly taller. The bottom of the screw slot sits at 5/8" while Elna's measures in at exactly 1/2".
If you don't have a presser foot, you can measure this on the machine. Drop the empty presser foot bar down and measure from the sewing platform to the bottom of the screw. This will tell you which foot to use. Using the wrong foot will result in too much or too little pressure on the fabric as you sew.
One of the best quick-reference guides for presser feet can be found on the bottom of the Greist buttonholer box.
Because Greist manufactured buttonholers for many different machines, they made it simple to select the right one for your machine. I like to keep one of these boxes handy for reference.
So the next time you find a mystery attachment and wonder if it will fit your machine, take a close look at how it attaches, how tall it is, and whether it is marked. Genuine Singer feet will have a Singer or Simanco part number stamped on them.
OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most our of your old sewing gear.
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.