- 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).
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.