Knee Lift

Hands Free Sewing

Something I often hear thrown around by those looking at new sewing machines is the phrase, “That is too much machine for me.” In certain cases this is true. Typically, a $5,000 quilting machine or a $10,000 sewing/embroidery combination machine really is too much machine for a new sewist. That said, often times this phrase is uttered out of intimidation.


The other day I was showing a new quilter a handful of different machines for under $1,000. We arrived at the Baby Lock Brilliant when she said it:


“Oof! That’s too much machine for me.”


I asked her the reason why she thought that. Was it that the machine was physically larger than the others she has seen? Was it the larger electronic screen? Was it the 250+ stitches to choose from?


“No, it’s that thing hanging off the machine.”


What thing?


The knee lift.

Today I want to talk a little bit more about the knee lift– how it is an overlooked feature in the sewing world, and the concept of hands-free sewing.


A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the knee lift is used as an alternate to the foot pedal to run the machine. This is not the case. The function of the knee lift is to raise/lower the presser foot with your knee instead of your hand. This allows the user to keep her hands on the fabric at all times, because she no longer needs to use her hand to raise the presser foot.


Why is this useful?


Say we are sewing relatively large project with our machine. Handling all that fabric can be difficult, because the weight of the material can cause the fabric to move around and mess up our stitching. It is even more difficult to handle when pivoting around a corner, because we have to take one hand off the fabric in order to raise/lower the presser foot. With the knee lift, this is not a problem. The knee lift acts as a third hand raising/lowering the presser foot, so you can keep your two hands on the fabric, helping you with your quilt and making it easier on your body.

Now, all these sewing machine manufacturers pour lots of resources into their Research and Development teams, whose job it is to discover the needs of the sewist and engineer a product to meet those needs. These R&D teams recognized the usefulness of the knee lift and took it to another level by inventing the hover feature.
The hover feature essentially acts as automatic knee lift. With the hover feature engaged, when you take your foot off the foot pedal and stop sewing, the machine will stop with the needle in the down position. At the same time, the presser foot will raise automatically and hover above the fabric, and will do so until you start sewing again. To see the hover feature in action, take a look at the video below:
For those of us who aim for a precise seam, the hover feature is a dream. Because the presser foot raises immediately at our whim, we can quickly check to visually see our seam whenever we want. For garment sewers, if the seam is on target and looking good, then we can keep on sewing; if it is off target, we can make any minor adjustments needed. For quilters, if we are piecing the top of a quilt, you can use the hover feature to quickly pivot at corners of the quilt block. Because we don’t have to lift the presser foot lever manually, we can keep our hands on the fabric, which makes re-adjusting and re-aligning fabric easier than ever before.
The knee lift and hover feature are features you will use every time you sit down and sew. I see many people concerned with how many stitches their machine offers, whether they want the hundreds of different options or not. I would say, in general, people are overly concerned with that kind of stuff. What’s I like to remind people to focus on is not stitch #347, which you may use once every few years. Instead, focus on features that you will use every time you sit down to sew. Features like knee lift, larger throat space and automatic needle threader, features that actually make sewing easier, not more complicated.
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