On a sewing machine, feed dogs are metal teeth that rise out of the throat plate. The feed dogs grip the underside of the fabric, helping to pull it through the machine and away from the needle. While feed dogs help your sewing projects progress, for darning projects or freehanding projects such as appliqueing or sewing feathers, the feed dogs should be turned down or covered so that the quilter has more control over the speed and direction of the fabric.