Stitch in the ditch is a basic quilting technique that every quilter should know how to do. Luckily it’s also an easy one!
This technique is used when you want to hide the stitching on the top of the quilt. It’s a really easy design choice when you have no clue how you want to quilt something. If you want to show off the fabric, stitch in the ditch holds the quilt together without taking away the spotlight! It’s also great as a starting point for quilting – it can help anchor the quilt so it doesn’t shift as you do additional decorative stitching.
Now let’s talk supplies.
You’ll need either a matching color or invisible thread.
I personally always use a matching color for all my stitching. I’ve used invisible thread and I hated it. Maybe someday I’ll get the urge to give it a go again, but I don’t see that as happening any time soon. It was a pretty miserable experience. I had such terrible breakage problems! But if you like the stuff, more power to you! (And you’ll have to let me in on your secrets to making it go smoothly!)
Use a walking foot and a topstitching needle. The walking foot helps move the whole quilt sandwich through your machine more evenly and the topstitching needle is made for, well, topstitching! There’s also a specialty topstitching foot. If you do a ton of topstitching it might not be a bad investment for you.
Now for the technique.
First, I recommend pressing the seams to one side. I know the debate of seams open or to one side is a heated one in the quilting world and I’m not going to stop you if you are dead set on pressing your seams open. I jump back and forth between open or to one side myself. However, if you press to one side, when you sew in the ditch your stitching will be catching on the fabric of the quilt and not your stitching from your piecing. I personally just feel better knowing my stitching is holding on to the actual fabric.
Center your needle over the seam. You’ll be sewing as close to the seam as possible on the low side of the seam. You know how when you press the seam to one side one side of the seam will be slightly higher than the other? We want to be sewing on the other side. That way you aren’t sewing through as many layers and the stitching will hide a bit under that high side.
Gently pull the fabric apart. This’ll spread open the seam a little more so that you’re less likely to catch the high side and keep your stitching more invisible.
Sew slow. This is really the most important part! It’s a lot easier to keep it in the ditch and not straying out into your fabric if you take your time. I always remind myself that doing it right the first time is so much quicker than ripping out stitching.
Here’s what it’ll look like when it’s done. I used black thread and it’s still pretty hard to see in those pink blocks.
When do you use stitch in the ditch?