What is the Shank on a Sewing Machine? (for Beginners)

If you want to get the most use out of your sewing machine, it is important to know all its various parts and what they do. One of these parts is the shank. If you have been wondering what the shank is on a sewing machine, you have come to the right place.

The shank is the metal rod part on a sewing machine that connects the presser foot to the rest of the machine. Its height is what determines the overall thickness of the fabric that you can fit under the foot. If your machine has a high shank, you can use thicker fabric with it because it has more space under the presser foot. Low-shank sewing machines can usually only be used with common lighter fabrics like linen, cotton, and synthetics.

This guide will outline everything you need to know about shanks in sewing machines. We’ll also elaborate on the types of shanks on various sewing machine brands, as well as let you know how to measure your sewing machine’s shank.

What is a High-Shank or Low-Shank Sewing Machine?

High-shank sewing machines are machines that are designed for bulky fabrics because they come with more space under the presser foot. Low-shank sewing machines, on the other hand, are better suited for thinner fabrics like cotton, linen, and synthetics because they have a smaller space under the presser foot.

High-shank sewing machines measure approximately 1 ¼” from the screw to the bottom of the foot. Low-shank sewing machines measure approximately ¾” from the screw to the bottom of the foot.

How to Measure Sewing Machine Shank?

You can often easily tell if your machine is high or low shank by checking if it has Dual Feed Foot. If it does, it is a high-shank sewing machine.

You can also measure your sewing machine’s shank size by following these steps:

  • Lower the presser foot until it is completely flat
  • Use a ruler to measure the base of the foot to the center of the presser foot thumb screw
  • If the measurement is 0.75 inches and lower, it is a low-shank sewing machine
  • If the measurement it 1inch or more, it is a high-shank sewing machine

Are Brother Sewing Machines Low or High Shank?

Most Brother sewing machines are low shank.

Low Shank Models Include:

  1. Brother XR9550 Sewing and Quilting Machine

The XR9559 comes with 165 unique built-in stitches. It also has automatic needle threading and a drop-in jam-resistant top bobbin.

  1. Brother HC1850 Sewing and Quilting Machine

The HC1850 comes with advanced needle threading functionality, a jam-resistant drop-in top bobbin, and an LCD screen that you can use to select your stitches at the touch of a button.

High-shank Models Include:

  1. Brother PQ1500SL Sewing and Quilting Machine

The PQ1500SL can handle up to 1500 stitches per minute. It has an advanced needle threading system and comes with lots of extra accessories, including a wide table, 7 sewing feet, a knee-lifter, and more.

Are Bernina Sewing Machines High or Low Shank?

Bernina sewing machines have their own unique type of presser foot system. Their shanks can neither be classified as high nor low shank. Instead, they rely on a specific clip-on system that no other brand uses. If you want to use a universal presser foot on a Bernina sewing machine, you will have to buy a special Bernina adapter first.

This is to say that Bernina shank systems are uniquely their own and not compatible with any other sewing machine brand. This makes Bernina shanks their own category of shank systems.

Are Janome Sewing Machines High or Low Shank?

Most Janome sewing machines are high-shank. While there are a few low-shank options as well, the vast majority of their models are high-shank. This is largely because Janome makes more advanced sewing machines than standard options like Brother. Their machines are often used in high-end embroidery, although not all of them (especially low-shank models) can be utilized for this purpose.

Low Shank Models Include:

  1. Janome HD1000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine with 14 Built-In Stitches

The HD1000 comes with 14 built-in stitches and is made entirely using cast aluminum like old-fashioned sewing machines. This makes it last a very long time. It also comes with lots of different accessories such as bobbins, extra needles, seam reapers, zipper foot, hemmer foot, buttonhole foot, a hem guide, and more.

  1. Janome HD5000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine

The HD5000 is a great beginner sewing machine. It can do a wide range of sewing projects well. It also has a heavy-duty aluminum body and 18 stitches plus one-step buttonholing.

High-shank Models Include:

  1. Janome MC6650 Sewing and Quilting Machine

The MC6650 has a superior needle threader and 6 LEDs in 3 locations. It also has a superior feed system, a 5-piece feed dog, and a host of standard accessories such as a blind hem foot, a darning foot, an open-toe satin stitch foot, a zig-zag foot, and a buttonhole foot.

  1. Janome Memory Craft Horizon 8200QCP Special Edition With Exclusive Bundle

The 8200QCP comes with 170 built-in stitches. It also has 10 one-step buttonholes, automatic thread cutting, automatic thread tension control, a built-in needle threader, an extra high presser foot lift, and foot pressure adjustment.

Are Singer Sewing Machines Low-Shank or High-Shank?

Singer has both low-shank and high-shank models. This means choosing Singer opens you up to a wider variety of options to choose from.

Low Shank Models Include:

  1. SINGER | 4423 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine

The 4423 has 23 built-in stitches, including stretch, decorative, buttonhole, and basic stitches. This allows you to work on a wide variety of projects using the same machine. It also has automatic needle threading and can sew up to 1100 stitches per minute.

  1. SINGER | M1500 Sewing Machine With Accessory Kit & Foot Pedal

The M1500 offers 57 different types of stitches. It is designed to make stitch selection easy, and you can preset the stitch length and width. It also has easy buttonholing and uses SINGER Class 15 transparent bobbins.

  1. SINGER | SM024 Sewing Machine

The SINGER SM024 sewing machine offers 24 stitch options. It has fast and reliable stitching and 4-step buttonholing. You also get an all-purpose foot and free arm to create quality hems and cuffs.

High-shank Models Include:

  1. SINGER | 9960 Sewing & Quilting Machine

It comes with a wide selection of stitches (up to 600) and it is designed to be super easy for beginner quilters to use. You also get a built-in needle threader.

  1. SINGER | HD6700 Electronic Heavy Duty Sewing Machine with 411 Stitch Applications

This is a computerized sewing machine that is designed for ease of use. It has 411 stitches and 7 built-in 1-step buttonholes.

Are Kenmore Sewing Machines High-Shank or Low-Shank?

Kenmore sewing machines were mainly low shank. The company made front-loading low-shank and top-loading low-shank machines. A few models were high-shank as well. There was also a special edition of super high shank feet that only released a few models.

The Kenmore brand was owned by Sears. Kenmore was famous for being sturdy, affordable, and great for beginners. The sewing machines were sold from 1913 to 2013. Sears went bankrupt in the early 2000s, forcing them to stop producing and selling sewing machines under the Kenmore brand.

Today, Kenmore sewing machines are almost impossible to purchase. The machines are no longer in production, so it is impossible to buy them brand-new. You may find second-hand versions on sites like eBay.

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