What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine

What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

Many people love to sew, whether it be as a casual hobby or a professional job.  If you do love to sew, however, you are likely well aware of the common difficulties of having a sewing machine.

Sewing machines can be quite particular; some are made for specific tasks and are unable to complete others. Sometimes, it can be even the littlest thing that affects what projects a sewing machine is able to handle.

With that said, if you have ever experienced troubles with universal presser feet when it comes to sewing zippers, buttonholes, or hems – or if you’ve ever found that your new presser foot is not compatible with your machine, then it’s time for you to look into low shank sewing machines.

Recommended Low Shank Sewing Machines (and an adaptor for every machine)

What is a Shank?

Your immediate question, depending on how experienced with sewing you are, is most likely, “What even is a shank?” You’ve come to the right place because here’s your answer: the shank is simply the metal rod to which you attach your presser foot. Depending on the type of shank, the distance between the attachment screw and the bottom of the presser foot will measure differently. When it comes to low shank sewing machines, which are the most common type on the market at the moment, you will find that the distance always measures out to approximately three-quarters of an inch.

Benefits of Using a Low Shank Sewing Machine

Low shank sewing machines allow a large variety of presser feet to be used to be used at any time, allowing many options to save you time when doing things such as sewing close to zipper coils, creating consistent buttonholes, sewing blind hems, or sewing through denim material.

Each of these tasks can be matched to a specific, specialized foot designed for efficiency in that area. Of course, there are many specialized presser foot types for other various tasks, as well.

Low shank sewing machines are also highly recommended for beginners or casual hobbyists due to their extensive versatility. The number of options available for this type of machine guarantees that you won’t have to make any huge upgrades when the time comes to do a special project for the first time. In fact, your first low shank sewing machine will likely last you for several years, making it a wise investment for the value.

High Shank, Slanted Shank, and Other Sewing Machines

Of course, there are more options available than just the low shank sewing machine. There are also high shank and slanted shank options, which can both be determined by the length measured from the bottom of the presser foot up to the screw. If that distance is longer than three-quarters of an inch, you have either a high shank or slanted shank machine.

High shank machines have a foot-to-screw distance of one or one and one-quarter inches. These machines make up a lot of the commercial market next to low shank sewing machines. High shanks also make for great quilting machines. Necchi and Kenmore are popular brands when it comes to high shank quilting machines.

If your machine’s foot-to-screw distances measure one and one-eighth inch and the shank is mounted at an angle, you have a slanted shank machine. These types of machines aren’t that popular anymore, however, as they were primarily produced by Singer back in the 1960s and 1970s. With that said, you may still be able to find accessories and presser feet for this machine by searching online for discontinued products.

Which Shank is Right for You?

In the end, if you’re asking this question, it’s likely that you should go with a low shank sewing machine. The versatility of the low shank when it comes to applicable projects allows you to explore your sewing expertise while never needing to upgrade your machine. With that said, both high shank and slanted shank machines are still plenty capable. You shouldn’t have to worry too much about a different type of shank keeping you from completing a project.

In reality, it is your skill and experience that will allow you to use any type of machine to complete a project successfully. It may be best to start with a low shank sewing machine and go from there, dabbling in other types as you learn.