Monday, November 7, 2016

How to Tell the Shank Type of a Sewing Machine

When it comes to doing ruler work, there are two hard rules that I teach (besides have fun!):

  • Make sure you use a ruler foot on your machine to safely keep the ruler from popping over or under the foot. 
  • Make sure the foot is down before lowering the needle (conversely, raise the needle before raising the foot).
Today I want to talk about how to tell what type of shank is on your sewing machine. I get a lot of questions about what ruler foot is needed for various machines. (Shank type really doesn't apply to sit down long arms.  Most of the time, the machine owner just doesn't know which shank type they have. Once you know the shank type, then you can match up whatever brand of ruler foot you want to use.

So how do you know whether you have a low shank or high shank machine or some other shank type?

Easy peasy! First, remove the shank or foot from your machine. We're going to measure from the center of the screw hole where the shank or foot attaches.

Some machines have feet that attach at this hole, while other machines have a snap-on shank and the feet are easily interchangeable. Removing whatever is attached at the screw hole makes it easier to see the measuring point.

Now lower the presser foot lever. We need the machine to be positioned like you're ready to sew even though the foot isn't attached.

Again, make sure the presser foot lever is down.

Now measure from the bed of the machine to the screw hole.

If the distance is 1/2 inch, you've got a low shank machine.

If the distance is 1 inch, it's a high shank machine.

Above machines; low shank on left and high shank (with my beloved Janome ruler foot combination on it) on the right.

Those are the easy machines. But there are some machines that don't fit into these two main categories.

First there are some machines that are high shank machines, but the needle position is different than regular machines. These are the straight stitch only machines like the Janome 1600P and its clones: Brother 1500, Husqvarna Megga Quilter, Juki 2010, etc. These are considered a high special by Westalee and the High Straight Stitch by Accents in Design who are making a clear ruler foot (More on this soon.)

There are some machines that fall somewhere in between high and low. Westalee categories these as medium shank machines. These are usually Pfaffs, but not all Pfaffs are medium shanks. Before declaring your machine a medium shank, make sure the presser foot lever is in the down position. Pfaffs that use a special half-way position for free motion are considered medium shanks.

Berninas are....well, Berninas. There is an adapter shank that can be used with Berninas to use with other brands' feet. This supposedly the #77 adapter, though I'm not well versed with Bernina, and will make it like a low shank, though the series 7 and 8 machines can be manipulated to use the medium ruler foot from Westalee. This gives the ability to use thicker rulers, though now Bernina has its own ruler foot for the series 7 and 8 machines.

Once you know the shank type of your machine, you can match up the foot version you need. BTW, this applies to any foot for the most part, not just a ruler foot. At my shop in Lynchburg, we sell a lot of Janome feet to owners of Singers, Brothers, Vikings, and other machine brands not supported by a local dealer.

I hope you find this helpful. As always, if after using this article to try to determine shank type, you still can't determine it, email me and I will try to help you.


  1. Great information! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this! I've always wanted to know the difference.

  3. I have a Series 7 Bernina and my dealer just sold me a #96 ruler foot for high shank rulers.

  4. Thanks Amy! I've read about the measuring before but never heard to take the foot off and measure from the screw's hole! Always learning.....

  5. Amy, I thought I had it figured out, until I got to the part "not so easy machines"....I quilt on a Brother it a high shank? Confused...

    1. Shirley, you've got a high special machine. It is high, but has the further forward needle position similar to the Brother 1500, Janome 1600, etc.

  6. I have a Pfaff 2140 which when measured showed to be low and they sent me a low shank . But when I went to use it I could not get the foot low enough So I called Bill at Westelee and they said they were not sure about a Pfaff and so in replacement they sent a medium that does work but barely. If I raise the feed dogs I have lots of room for up and down position but when they are down I am at the very most top at the screw. New information on a Pfaff for me so thanks again for the info.

  7. Amy, I do like your posts even if I don't need to work out my machine type. love the info I can pass on to friends.

  8. This is new-to-me information, Amy, so thank you! You're a wealth of valuable knowledge, though I'm sure much of what you've picked up is from necessity, as customers come in with all types of machines. Good work!

  9. Replies
    1. That machine takes a Westalee Ruler foot for medium shank machine.

  10. I have a brother dz2750 is this a low or high shank machne

    1. I had to go from a picture I found online of your machine and guess a low shank. But if you follow the instructions above and measure, you're in a better position to tell for sure.