To “stitch in the ditch”, or not to “stitch in the ditch”??
Let me back up for just a minute… “Stitch in the ditch” (also referred to as Ditch Stitching) is a catchy name for a simple quilting technique. It is one of those bits of sewing terminology that make beginner quilters look at you like you have 3 heads. I believe my first response was…
WHAT THE WHAT?
Once I show you a picture, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And don’t worry, it isn’t a complicated technique. It is simply making your line of stitches in your quilting in the “ditch” where two fabric pieces meet.
Most quilters I know are divided on this technique 50/50. You either love it or you hate it. There is not much in-between. Don’t ask me why. Some of us are just very opinionated and set in our ways.
We’ll get to my personal opinion in a little bit. First, let’s get to some tips to help you with this technique! It’s time to put your learning caps on!
6 TIPS TO STITCH IN THE DITCH
1. Sit square in front of the sewing machine – This is not rocket science, but it is non-negotiable. I know some of us have tiny makeshift workstations on the corner of our dining tables or are crammed in the guest bedroom somewhere. You need to make yourself some space, even if its temporary.
So get some elbow room and then cozy up to your machine. You will need to be in complete control here.
2. Very closely watch where your needle pierces your fabric. – Your seems are more than likely very straight lines for this quilting technique. You don’t need to be looking ahead to see where you’re going or when that big corner is coming. You need to focus on exactly where you are at this very second in your sewing. Needle to fabric is where your eyes need to be.
3. Placement of your hands – Any wiggle of your fabric is going to take the stitching out of this very small margin that you are aiming for. You’re going to get a wobble in your perfectly straight line and end up having to get the seam ripper out. So keep your hands engaged on the quilt the.entire.time. No free willy-nilly letting the universe take over. No exceptions.
So the above picture was not ‘wiggled’ on purpose. I was quilting this piece and I thought I should grab my camera and photograph this process to show you this technique. – I kid you not, I looked away for 2 seconds and BAM. I got off track.
Above and below that wiggle is stitched invisibly even though I’m clearly using black thread. It disappears into the line between the 2 fabrics.
…Just so you know who you are dealing with here… I don’t make mistakes on purpose so I can show you what a less experienced quilter would do… No no… they come completely naturally to me all the time. You’re welcome.
4. Stitching in the ditch is not a race. – Seriously. If you have to go slow to avoid making a mess of things, go slow. You must maintain control if you want to keep your stitches invisible. If your machine has a speed control, USE IT! Better to go slow and get it right than to speed along and have to spend time with the seam ripper later.
6. Pressing matters! – Your seams must all lay flat with no pleating of the seam allowances behind your seam line, no bunching of the fabric. Just pressed beautiful flat seams. Got it? If you hit a bump or a snag when stitching in the ditch, you’ll get a wiggle. We already went over wiggles in step #3. We don’t want them, ok?
6. And finally, take the time to switch your sewing foot to the right one – You’ll hear me say this again and again because I was THAT GIRL in my early quilting days… I never changed the sewing foot on my first machine. Like, EVER. (I know… ugh.)
So now that I know better, I’m going to try to save you from those stupid mistakes. I have been scolded by many women that I look up to so please don’t send me hate mail, ok? Thankfully, I know better now. The right tools make all the difference in your finished product.
This is the foot you want for stitching in the ditch.
See that little bar there in the middle? That shows where your needle will go. Watch it, guide your quilt with it in the middle of your seam and it will be totally golden.