Speed Up Your Sewing with the Free Hand System

Let’s talk about the free hand system! The free hand system (often abbreviated to FHS) is a feature available on most BERNINA machines. The FHS is a bar that locks in on the lower right side on the front of your sewing machine. With just the nudge of your knee, you can raise and lower your presser foot. This helps you retain better control of your sewing project because you never have to take your hands away from the fabric to move your presser foot! With practice, using the FHS can help your sewing projects progress up to 20% faster.

The FHS is really life-changing when you’re working around curves and points in applique, pivoting corners, or are working with any shape that’s not a clean straight line. Being able to keep your hands in contact with the fabric helps keep you in total control of your stitching.

Free Hand System applique

While bringing the presser foot up and down is great and useful to have hands-free, there’s more happening when you use the FHS than you realize. When the presser foot is raised using the FHS, the feed dogs on your machine drop which has two great benefits. One is that more space is created between the bottom of the foot and the stitch plate. This also reduces the chance of delicate fabrics like silks and satin weaves from snagging on the texture of your feed dogs as you slide them under the needle.

The free hand system is available on the following current BERNINA models:

How to Use the Free Hand System

Step 1. Install Free Hand System

First off, you need to plug the FHS into your machine! Insert the metal bar into the opening at the lower edge on the front of your machine. On the B 350 or a 5 Series machine, this is all the way in the lower right corner but on a 7 Series machine or a B 800 it’ll be closer to the free arm.

FHS installed

Step 2. Lower your presser foot

Use your knee to push the FHS to the right. This will lower your presser foot to the fabric, allowing you to keep your hands on the project. This is handy for all your sewing but particularly useful if you’re sewing bulky and heavy items or something delicate and slippery! Sometimes you need both hands to control what’s going through your machine.

Free Hand System presser foot

Free Hand System presser foot down

Step 3. Raise your presser foot

If you’re in the middle of a seam and need to readjust or are pivoting around a corner, you can nudge your knee to the right and bring your presser foot up.

FHS engage freehand system

The further to the right you push, the higher your foot will raise. When pushed all the way to the right, the presser foot will actually lift higher than its standard raised position which is great for particularly bulky seams! Just be sure that your machine is set to stop with the needle down.

Free Hand System raise foot

Step 4. Release

By simply releasing pressure from the FHS, the presser foot will return back down to the fabric and you can resume stitching!

Free Hand System raise and lower

It may take a project or two to get comfortable with using the Free Hand System throughout your sewing but once you make a habit of it, it’s impossible to live without!

8 thoughts on “Speed Up Your Sewing with the Free Hand System

  1. I love the knee lift….however, on my Bernina (640), the knee-lift always works loose from the machine while I’m sewing. I constantly need to push it back in. There are no Bernina dealers anywhere near where I live, and my local sewing-machine man had no idea whether it could be fixed. Is there any way to make the knee-lift lever stay firmly in my machine?

  2. I love my FHS on my Bernina 135 & my 351. To make it even easier to sew, I re-learned sewing on my sewing machine by using my left foot on the pedal. This frees up my right knee for the FHS. It took some time to get left-footed but well worth the transition!

  3. I love the knee lift and have an awful time, it is always slipping out, makes me nuts. I read the above post I will definitely be getting my Bernina mechanic to adjust it. Thanks ! Live-Love-Laugh, Missnuggy

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