What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

Last Updated on February 25, 2023

A low-shank sewing machine is one type of sewing machine that’s often recommended for beginners. This type of sewing machine has many advantages compared to other types, and it’s easy to learn how to use. In this article, we’ll look at the features of low-shank machines and how they could be beneficial for new sewers.

What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

What is a Low Shank Sewing Machine

The presser foot of a sewing machine is attached to the machine by a metal rod known as the shank. And how much fabric you can fit beneath the foot depends on the height of this shank. Because there is more space beneath the presser foot on high shank sewing machines, they are better suited to bulkier fabrics. A low shank will suffice for standard sewing fabrics such as cotton, linen, and synthetics.

Which is Better: a High Shank or a Low Shank Sewing Machine?

The answer to this question depends on the projects you will be sewing and the fabric types you’ll use. Generally, if you’re working with thicker fabrics or textiles, a high shank machine is likely better suited for your needs.

High shank machines have larger stitching areas and stronger needles that can penetrate denser material with more force than a low shank machine. 

On the other hand, a low shank machine may be more appropriate if you work with lightweight fabrics like lace or chiffon. Choosing a high or low shank machine depends on what kind of projects you plan to sew most often.

What is the Difference Between Low Shank and High Shank Sewing Machines?

The main Difference between low and high shank sewing machines is the height of the shank. Low shank machines have a shorter shank, which means the presser foot is closer to the needle plate. 

Another distinction between low shank and high shank sewing machines is the size of their needle shafts. Low shank machines have a 1/2 inch needle shaft, while high shank machines have a larger 3/4 inch diameter shaft.

This means that high shank machines can accommodate bigger, heavier needles; however, most projects will work fine with either machine. The key is ensuring that your presser foot is compatible with your machine’s needle thread size. Low shank sewing machines are designed to accommodate smaller, lighter-weight presser feet, while high shank sewing machines have a taller shank and can accommodate larger heavier presser feet.

Low Shank vs. High Shank Sewing Machines

FeatureLow Shank Sewing MachineHigh Shank Sewing Machine
PurposeUsed for domestic purposesUsed for industrial purposes
LengthLength from presser foot to center of thumbscrew is half-inches or lessLength from presser foot to center of thumbscrew is about one inch or more
CostCheaper and more inexpensiveMore expensive than low shank machine
Presser FootAccepts low shank presser footAccepts high shank presser foot
EfficiencyVersatile machine, can work quickly with embroidery and stitching denim pantsVersatile for challenging sewing projects
CompatibilityCan be changed to high shank with an adapterMay become incompatible with some presser foot

High shank sewing machines tend to be stronger and more durable due to their larger size and strength, whereas low shank machines are generally better suited for thinner fabrics or those requiring more precise stitching. Anyone will work for you depending on the projects you usually sew and the fabrics you like.

FeatureLow Shank MachineHigh Shank Machine
Needle Shaft Size1/2 inch diameter3/4 inch diameter
Needle CompatibilityLight-weightHeavier
Distance from screw to bottom of foot3/4″1 1/4″
Designed forLight fabrics or precise stitchingThicker fabrics or heavier projects
Strength and DurabilityLessMore

Are Most Sewing Machines Low Shank?

Most sewing machines are either low shank or high shank. Low-shank machines are ideal for lighter fabrics, while high-shank machines are designed for heavier and thicker fabrics

Generally speaking, modern machines tend to be low-shank as they’re more versatile and can fit a wider variety of presser feet. However, some specialty and industrial machines have higher shanks. Ultimately, the type of machine you choose will depend on the fabric you plan to work with and the specific sewing projects you will tackle.

Which Sewing Machines Have a High Shank?

Many sewing machines on the market feature a high shank or a long vertical arm for extra room and clearance. Some popular models of high shank sewing machines include the Singer, Brother, Janome, Bernina, Juki, etc. These models have different features and capabilities, so it’s essential to research what will work best for your particular needs.

Is Juki a Low Shank Machine?

Yes, Juki is a low shank machine. Low shank machines have a narrow base and a shorter arm than other machines, making them ideal for using smaller presser feet and accessories.

Additionally, the position of the needle on these machines is lower than many other brands, making them more comfortable to operate. Juki offers a wide range of low shank machines with features designed to provide ease of use and reliability.

Are Janome Sewing Machines High or Low Shank?

Janome sewing machines come in various types, and the kind of shank they use depends on the specific model. Most Janome sewing machines typically use either high shank or low shank presser feet and bobbins.

If the height is 1/2 inch, you have a low shank machine. It’s a high shank machine if the height is 1 inch.

Are Singer Sewing Machines High or Low Shank?

Singer sewing machines can use high or low shank presser feet and extensions. Most low-end singer sewing machines have a low shank, while most higher-end machines have a high shank. The type of shank you will need will depend on the specific Singer machine model you’re using.

It is important to note that many older Singer machines only can use high shank attachments, while most modern models can accommodate both high and low shank. However, before purchasing any presser feet or other Singer accessories, it is recommended that you check the specifications for your particular Singer model.

Are Brother Sewing Machines Low or High Shank?

Most of the Brother machines are low shank. Brother sewing machines typically use a low shank system, which refers to the distance between the needle drop and the presser foot.

It allows for the compatibility of presser feet and other attachments from different manufacturers. You can check your machine’s specifications and look for the type listed or contact Brother directly to find out what kind of shank your particular model uses.

Can I Use Low Shank Rulers on a High Shank Machine?

Yes, you can use low shank rulers on a high shank machine. However, you may need an adapter or special feet for the ruler to fit correctly and provide adequate support for the heavier fabric you’ll be working with.

To verify compatibility, see your owner’s handbook or contact a skilled technician with any doubts.


A low shank sewing machine is essential for the modern seamstress or crafter. Whether you need to sew delicate hems or heavy quilts, a low shank sewing machine is waiting to help you create beautiful garments and crafts. Don’t let your creativity go to waste—try out what a low shank machine can do for you!

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