Chiffon · Feet · Haid & Neu · Hems

Know your snails from your sea shells – the narrow hem feet

You’ve seen them around, the narrow hem feet. They look so similar, so why do I have four of them supplied with my Haid & Neu machine? Time to read the manual!

Fortunately, the feet are numbered, otherwise I’d have a hard time figuring out which is which. They look quite different on the underside, which may be the reason they work differently too.

Note: my machine has needle positioning, i.e., I can move the needle right, left and centre. The feet in my set use this feature. If your machine has its needle locked in one position, you need to check your feet – you might have special ones that compensate for it. Otherwise you will be limited in what you can do with these feet.

Here are the pages from the manual that describe their use:


​The feet are called the feller foot (das Kapperfuß), the hemmer foot (das Säumerfuß), also called the snail foot in the text, the rolled hem foot (das Rollsaumfuß) and the sea shell hem foot (das Muschelsaumfuß). I feel a beach trip coming up! 🙂

The feller foot

This is the first on the left, the one without a swirl, so I’ll call it an oyster foot. It is used to sew two types of seams: narrow flat seams that are closed on both sides of the work, and covered seams that stick out on the back, as often used on fine and sheer materials.​​

This foot is made for 3mm wide seams. Both flat seams and covered seams are sewn in two steps.

Step 1: Put two layers of fabric together so that the lower layer sticks out from under the upper layer by about 3mm. Guide the single sticking out edge into the foot so that it flips to the left. Set the needle to centre and select either straight stitch or very narrow zig-zag, say 1-1.5mm. I’m sewing chiffon, so I’m using zig-zag.

Step 2: If you are doing a flat seam, open up your work with a single layer left and right of the seam that is now sticking up. If you are doing a covered seam like I’m doing on this chiffon, leave everything as is. Start from the top of the seam, set the needle to centre and choose a straight stitch. Guide the sticking out seam into the foot and stitch. Job done!​

The snail hemmer foot

Snails have a rounded swirl on their shells, hence the name, I think. Notice that this foot has a rounded toe, and on the underside the middle groove stops at the needle hole and the tip of the scroll comes out quite far to the left. Compare it with the other two feet – their grooves run along the entire length of the foot and the tip of the scroll stops in the middle. This should help you figure out which foot you’ve got. 🙂

The snail hemmer foot is meant for doing narrow hems. This foot does about 5mm hems. Use straight stitch with the needle centred for dense decently behaving fabrics like cottons, or use narrow zig-zag of 2-3mm with the needle set left for loosely woven, shifty, slinky or otherwise uncooperative fabrics.

Guide the fabric into the scroll so that it rolls over, lower the foot and stitch. Alternatively, to start right at the edge of the fabric, pin a 5mm rolled hem from the edge (just the one pin), put it flat under the foot and stitch a little. Leave the needle in the material but raise it a bit, raise the foot and guide the fabric into the scroll. Lower the foot and stitch – the foot will pick up your manually rolled bit and just go on!

Here I’ve used this foot to hem chiffon with 2.5mm zig-zag.​

​It goes very easily on a plain stretch of fabric, but what to do with seams? Some seams are not too thick and will fit into the scroll, but those stick-out covered seams I made on my chiffon have no chance of passing through the scroll.

I had to bend the rules here a bit. Stitch as normal up to the seam as close as you can get to it, leave the needle in the material but raise it a bit. Raise the foot and pull out the fabric from the scroll. Fold it following the hem edge, but fold just once with the seam sticking up. That seam is too thick and won’t fold over twice. Lower the foot, reduce foot pressure almost to nothing, and stitch over your folded seam almost in a free motion, so you need to help the fabric move. Try to keep it straight. 🙂

​Stop as soon as you’ve sewn over the seam. Leave the needle in the material again, raise the foot and guide the fabric into the scroll like before. Don’t forget to restore the foot pressure! Lower the foot and stitch – it will pick up your seam and continue.

You could trim that extra bit of seam sticking up, or leave it.​

It may not be perfect, but I think the result is pretty good!

The sea shell feet – rolled hem

The last two feet are both used to make a rolled hem: a single or a double. The narrower foot makes a narrow single rolled hem, while the wider foot makes either a wider single rolled hem, or a narrow double rolled hem, which is much tighter.

The sewing technique is the same as with the snail foot, basically guide the fabric into the scroll and sew! 🙂

Set the needle to the left and select a medium zig-zag. The width depends on the fabric, so try it out. It should cover the hem completely. Reduce the upper and lower tensions and set a small stitch length so that the stitches lie close together. Best use embroidery thread on the bobbin, this will make for a lighter silky hem.

Here is a narrow rolled hem with gold embroidery thread on the bobbin and red regular thread on the top, so you could see what’s happening.

​There is hardly any of the red thread showing, the bobbin thread encloses the entire hem. Below is what it looks like on the “good” side. Just a perfect little hem for the chiffon!

​Now we use the wider foot with low tension on upper thread. It makes a soft rolled hem a bit wider than before. You also see a lot more top thread here, in fact it can cover one side of the hem completely. This way you can make two-coloured hems!

If you want to make a double rolled hem, increase upper tension while keeping the bobbin tension low. This will cause the hem to fold over creating a heavier and denser hem. Use this if you want the hem to stand out.

​Here is a comparison of the single and double rolled hems made with the wider foot:

​Admittedly, it does not show very well in the photo, but the double hem is much more ropey, tighter and denser. Try it and see how it comes out on your fabric! It all very much depends on the choice of fabric and threads.

Off to the beach!

We’ve had an oyster foot, a snail foot and two sea shell feet. Time for the beach. 🙂

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee 🙂

9 thoughts on “Know your snails from your sea shells – the narrow hem feet

  1. So fascinating how just changing the presser foot on a sewing machine can do so many wonderful things! When I used a sewing machine last August for the first time, it was so thrilling and so amazing what a little machine could do, as I told my husband, “it’s like wizardry!”

    I love reading your posts so much, your knowledge and love of sewing machines is so fun and so informative. I’m getting a Singer 127 or 128 (will know for sure when I get it!) on Monday from a local woman who is selling hers, largely thanks to your post on Vibrating Shuttle supremacy! Mine will be coming with the attachments included (yay!) so this post will help me in identifying at least some of them! Thank you!


    1. Congratulations on your first vibrating shuttle machine! 🙂 It will have a standard low shank foot fitting, so you can use all sorts of other feet with it. Also, you can buy an adaptor for clip-on feet, and use all of them as well! Except of course most modern feet are designed for zig-zag, so although they can be used with a straight stitch machine, they don’t always make sense. 😉 But there are loads of vintage feet out on eBay, and different manufacturers made different feet, but as long as they are low shank, they will work too. I always look out for interesting feet to add to the collection. Like you say, it’s amazing the difference they make to the results.

      If you don’t have a manual, you can get one from my downloads link. It also explains the attachments. 🙂 Check out also the manuals under “_Attachments” for zigzaggers (including fancy stitches!) and a buttonholer, all suitable for your VS and frequently found on eBay.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for all the information! My VS did end up coming with the manual, which was a relief! As well as a buttonhole attachment (with it’s instruction booklet!) and a box of attachments. Very exciting. I’ve had to do some very minor repairs, but I absolutely love her!!


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