- Stitch in the ditch is the first stage of machine quilting and can lead you on to free motion quilting.
- Stitch in the ditch quilting can be used to outline particular parts of the design.
- Stitch in the ditch quilting doesn't show up too much if you are a beginner quilter
It is quilting quilts by stitching along the seam lines of the pieced quilt blocks. The sewing obviously then has to be done on the quilt top and the design that you follow will show up on the quilt backing.
The requirements for stitch in the ditch quilting are a walking foot sewing machine foot, quilting gloves and bags of patience.
Before you begin quilting with stitch in the ditch (as with any method of machine quilting) there are a few preparatory steps to take:
- Decide what colour quilting thread to use: for stitch in the ditch quilting it is more common to use a colour that will blend rather than stand out, but don't forget that your quilt backing might be a totally different colour from your quilt top. It's okay to have different colour threads for the top and back of your quilt.
- Decide whether you are going to follow every seam line or just outline a larger pattern in the quilt blocks. You might even wish to outline the quilt blocks only. Most battings these days will stay in place with quilting stitch lines up to 8" or 10" apart.
- Check the stitch length: the normal recommendation is about 12 stitches per inch.
- Check the tension on your sewing machine. I can't emphasise this enough. Even if your machine has auto tension setting, which mine does, you still need to check this. Make up a couple of practice squares of two layers of fabric with batting sandwiched betwen them and sew a line of stitching. Check the back of your sample quilt block. It's quite likely that the quilt backing looks too pulled in and slightly puckered. Adjust the tension and sew some more. Keep going until you are happy with the look of your stitching both on the quilt top and the quilt backing.
Begin quilting from somewhere near the middle of your quilt, working towards the edge. Place your sewing machine foot so that the needle will come down on the seam line. As you sew, try to keep your eye on the seam line that you are following as it goes under the machine foot. It's very easy to become mesmerised by the motion of the needle itself.
When you have quilted a few inches, stop the machine and reach round to the trailing end of thread where you began quilting. Pull gently on the thread so that the bobbin thread starts to pull through to the quilt top. Using a pin, pull the bobbin thread right through and tie a double knot with the top thread. Trim the ends. It's best to do this at the start of each stitch in the ditch quilting line or you will end up with trailing threads all over the place getting caught in the next line of quilting.
Continue stitching in the ditch until you reach the edge of the quilt. finish the stitching, take your quilt out of the machine and tie off the ends of the thread.
Return to the middle of the quilt and begin a new line of stitch in the ditch quilting, again working from the middle towards the edge. Try always to quilt in the same direction as previous lines of stitch in the ditch quilting or you may find your quilt backing starting to pucker slightly.
Quilting with stitch in the ditch is a marvellous way of quilting quilts in its own right but it is also a great introduction to machine quilting for the beginner quilter - and a great confidence booster.