What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

We’ve seen a few people new to sewing ask “What is a low shank sewing machine”? And to be honest, we’ve been wondering the same thing.

In a nutshell, a low shank sewing machine is essentially a domestic or regular sewing machine that people use for home sewing projects.

An example of a popular domestic (aka) low shank sewing machine is the Brother XM2701.

Brother XM2701 Lightweight Sewing Machine Review

This sewing machine has an automatic needle threader, a great selection of different stitches that beginners and advanced sewists can use. 

In this post, we discuss the definition of a low shank sewing machine, plus cover different accessories and attachments that work perfectly with these kinds of sewing machines.

What is the Definition of a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

The definition of a low shank sewing machine is one that has a 1/2 inch distance from the bottom of your machine's needle plate.

To find this measurement, you will need to measure the distance between the presser foot bottom to the hole that attaches the foot to the presser bar.

Source: Amazon.co.uk:  Low and High Shank Sewing Feet Examples

If the distance from the bottom of your sewing machines presser foot to the center of the screw is 1¼ inches or higher then it's considered a high shank sewing machine.

So...What is a Shank (Exactly)?

The shank is a metal rod that you attach the presser foot. The size of this shank decides whether the sewing machine is low or high shank by design. 

As we’ve mentioned, most of the home sewing machines (like the Janome Home Sewing Machine displayed below) are low shank in design.  The low shank machines can be fitted with a wide variety of presser feet. 

Janome  (Low Shank) Home Sewing Machine for Beginners

Since the size of the shank is measured from the bottom of the presser foot to the screw hole that attaches the foot to the presser bar, for a low shank, it measures just ¾ inches. To reiterate, the long shank measures 1¼ inches.

In the next section of this post we will discuss what "presser feet" are and also list out some of the different types of presser feet that you can use with a low shank sewing machine.

What Are Low Shank Sewing Machine Feet?

You cannot talk about low or high shank sewing machines without first looking at the types of presser feet available. 

Sewing Machine Presser Feet Set 42 Pcs (For Low Shank Sewing Machines)

These come in different sizes. Here, we shall also look at how you can find out the type of shank your machine uses.

A Brief History on Sewing Machine Presser Feet

As its name suggests, a presser foot is a small part that is used to hold the fabric that you are sewing. It holds the fabric so that the needle can pass the thread through it. 

The presser foot makes it possible for the fabric to move in the back and forth motion. Of course, the feed dog is also involved and you use one hand to hold the fabric to guide it.

Addicted DEPO - Universal Zig Zag Sewing Machine Presser Feet

If there were no presser foot, then the fabric that you are sewing would rise up and down with the rise and fall of the needle. This would make it impossible to make continuous stitches.

7 Popular Types of Presser Feet You Can Use with Low Shank Sewing Machines

Sewing machine presser feet come in many shapes, styles and sizes. They are selected depending on the fabric that you are sewing, the type of stitch you are making and other factors. 

For the home sewing jobs (assuming you only do light to medium-duty sewing), there is a one-size-fit-all presser foot. You just need such and a different one for the zippers and you are good to indulge in your hobby.

Here are the common presser foot types:

All-Purpose Presser Foot

If you have a single straight needle machine, you can use this type of foot for almost any kind of sewing. 

This is just a basic foot and so it does not come with any other enhancements to make sewing easier.

Zipper Foot

This is the foot that you use to thread around the zippers. It is also basic in design and it can only be used for zippers works. The zipper foot is adjustable and it can be used on the left or right side of the zipper.

Sew Easy Presser Foot

This is another of the feet that are compatible with low shank sewing machines. This foot is going to help you sew in a straight line. 

To help with this, the foot has a ruler and an adjusting guide for accuracy. If you have some topstitching work, this is the right presser foot to use.

Blind Hem Foot

This foot is mostly used for sewing hems on clothes. The main distinguishing feature on this blind hem presser foot is an extension on the front that guides the fold of the fabric.

Jeans Foot

This foot is used for working on tough material such as jeans and denim. It guides the user to stitch their jeans correctly.

Slant Shank Presser Feet

These presser feet are only found under the Singer brand name. This foot has a backward-slanting foot shaft that connects the presser bar. Just as its name suggests, this shank is not straight but it is slanted backward.

Snap on Presser Foot

Thanks to its snap-on design, this presser foot can be fitted on all machines that it is compatible with. 

You do not need any tools to attach or remove it. As a universal low-shank fit-on, it can work with all brands of machines.

All of the above presser feet are compatible with low shank sewing machines. If you are more than a hobbyist seamstress and you work on different materials at any given time, a low shank machine suits your needs in a much better way.

Low Shank Sewing Machine Attachments: What They are and How to Use them with your Machine

With low shank sewing machines, there are several low shank sewing machine attachments that you can add to your machine to create specialty projects. 

That accessory is low shank sewing machine attachments.  These are parts that you can add to your sewing machine to create specialty projects.

Here are a few examples of attachments that you can add to your machine and what they can be used for:

#1:  Ruffler Attachment

Planning to sew skirts, dresses or other garments that require pleats? Great!If so, then this attachment is an attachment that you should consider using.  

SINGER Sewing Machine Ruffler Attachment Presser Foot for Low-Shank Sewing Machines

This ruffler attachment is used to create spaced pleats and gathers in sewing projects and works best with light to medium weight fabrics.

#2:  Embroidery Attachment

If you're planning to create awesome quilts and want to add fancy designs like monograms, thread painting and more, then consider using an embroidery attachment.

SINGER  Embroidery All-Metal Presser Foot for Low-Shank Sewing Machines

Embroidery attachments like this one will help you add beautiful designs and embellishments to your garments.  This sewing machine accessory is one of the most versatile accessories that you can add to your sewing arsenal.

#3:  Hemming Attachment

Rounding out the list is the hemming attachment. If you are planning to do some touch ups and want to add hem’s to garments, then this is an attachment that you should consider using.

Hemming Foot Kit for Low Shank Sewing Machines

Simply add this attachment to your sewing machine and you’re off to the races. The great thing is that you can get a pack of these attachments and use them with your sewing machine.

5 Benefits of Using Low Shank Sewing Machines

Since the low shank sewing machines are the most  common for home use, you will find the most common brands in the market. Therefore, all the popular, and unpopular brand names have low shank machines.

In this section of the post, we will cover the top 5 benefits of using low shank sewing machines for your sewing projects. 

#1: Good for Home Use

There are many benefits of using these machines. One of them is that they are readily available, and they work with almost, if not all types of presser feet.

Believe it or not, home sewing is more versatile than industrial sewing. In the industrial setting, there are many repetitive tasks.   For example, if a certain factory makes jeans, then it is jeans for years on end.

However, at home, you may have to mend jeans today, and tomorrow you may be mending silk. Either way, its worth investing in a low shank sewing machine that is compatible with different presser feet.

#2:  Best Machines for Beginners

These machines are really good for beginners. The reason for this is that the machines work great for different types of sewing.

Most beginners look for a machine that can meet  a few to several sewing needs, especially considering the fact that most of them want to start by mending the clothes of their children and friends. 

The good thing is that these machines are so versatile and so you do not need to upgrade any time soon.


#3: Low Budget Sewing Machines

Because of the popularity and the wide variety of these sewing machines under different brand names, they come at affordable prices. 

From tens of dollars to a few hundreds of dollars, there is a good sewing machine for every budget. Again, even the replaceable parts of these machines are easy to find in the market.

#4:  There is No Need to Upgrade

As a beginner seamstress, you might buy a sewing machine that you can use for a short time and then upgrade to a more advanced one. 

However, unless you really want to, or you have decided to go into business, you will not find the need to upgrade to a more advanced sewing machine. 

You can stay with your low shank one. All you will need to do is to buy more presser feet for different stitching jobs.   When you have heavier fabrics to sew, just change the presser foot. If you scroll up, you will see some feet that we looked at, which are aimed for different sewing jobs.


#5:  Low Shank Machines are More Precise

Hem jobs require you to be accurate. The same applies to when you want to add a fold to a garment. 

With one of your hands guiding the fabric, you will agree that it is indeed easy to follow a fold while keeping a straight line. Just choose the right presser foot for the job and you will not be disappointed.

Wrapping Things Up

We hope that you enjoyed reading this post and that it answers the question of “what is a low shank sewing machine”?.  

As we’ve mentioned throughout this log post, low shank sewing machines are essentially ones that most beginners use for their sewing projects.  The biggest perk of using low shank sewing machines is that they are very versatile, can perform tons of stitching jobs, and are compatible with different presser feet and accessories. 

Using different presser feet and attachments with your low shank sewing machine will help you add versatility and flair to your sewing projects. As sewing enthusiasts, we recommend starting your sewing journey with one of these types of sewing machines.

As always, please be sure to head over to check out our latest sewing machine reviews and 10 step guide to buying your first sewing machine when you have a chance.  

Happy Sewing!


Shelly is the main editor and author of this website. She is passionate about helping fellow sewing enthusiasts find the right sewing machine for your sewing projects plus design beautiful sewing spaces that inspire your creativity. If you're ready to DIY a stunning sewing room (on a budget), be sure to check out the Sewing Room that Sizzles Workbook bundle (complete with a 50+ page workbook) and two Bonus Guides that will put you on the fast track to setting up, designing and organizing a sewing room that is TOTALLY you (on a shoestring budget).