Stitching In the Ditch-When, Why and How
Today’s Topic: Stitching In the Ditch-When, Why and How
Welcome to Lesson Nineteen of The Better Machine Quilt-a-long based on my book 25 Days to Better Machine Quilting.
Find all of the previous Lessons HERE.
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Good Morning, Quilters!
First, I would like to thank all of you who have shared quilts and comments on the LKQ Facebook group page! YOUR quilts are amazing and YOU constantly inspire me with new ideas. I love the spirit of sharing and helpfulness within the group!
Next, I want to call out the fabulous ideas shared in the comment section relating to ideas and experience with basting techniques. Please check that out for more basting ideas. We will definitely need to “circle back” to the basting lesson as soon as we get through our 25 Week Quilt-a-long! Speaking of that–can you believe we are already starting Lesson 19!
If you haven’t been keeping up–don’t worry! The lessons will be here when you are ready.
This week, we will be covering two separate but related topics, stitching in the ditch and stabilizing.
Stitching in the Ditch
Whenever you stitch a seam between two blocks in a quilt, a “ditch” is created. Some quilters press the seams of the quilt open, in which case the “ditch” is between the two pieces. Other quilters press the seams to one side. In this case the “ditch” is on the side opposite the seams–sometimes called the “well”.
Stitch in the Ditch quilting, sometimes abbreviated as SID, is stitching a line through the ditch created by a pieced seam.
When to Do Stitch in the Ditch Quilting
Once the layers of the quilt are sandwiched, it’s time to start quilting.
One option for quilting an entire quilt is to stitch in the ditch of all the major blocks. For example, if you were working on a log cabin quilt, you could stitch in the ditch of all the seams and you would have a perfectly quilted quilt.
The advantage of this method is there is no design necessary. You don’t need fancy stencils or to learn any motifs. Simply outline every block and all of the seams and voila–your quilt is quilted.
From a design perspective-this is easy…
Three Methods of Stitch in the Ditch Quilting
Stitch in the ditch quilting can be stitched machine guided or free motion.
Machine Guided Stitch in the Ditch
To do machine guided quilting, it is best to use a walking foot or dual feed function so the quilt layers don’t shift. Set the stitch length, adjust the tension and stitch. The machine controls the stitch, so all you need to do is control the quilt.
The down side to machine guided quilting is you can only stitch in one direction. Any time you need to change directions, you must turn the quilt. When the quilt is small, rotating the quilt is easy, however, the larger the quilt, the more difficult this becomes!
Free motion stitch in the ditch
Another option is free motion stitch in the ditch quilting. It is harder to maintain a perfectly straight “in the ditch” line when free motion quilting, however, it is not necessary to rotate the quilt as often.
So the trade is less perfection, but much easier!
Free Motion Stitch Over the Ditch
I often adopt a hybrid solution…Free motion stitching over the ditch. Instead of trying to stitch perfectly straight within the ditch, I stitch a slightly wavy line over the ditch. The wavy line looks intentional (as opposed to trying to stitch straight with accidental waves).
Cindy Needham: ESS
In her Craftsy video, Design It, Quilt It, Cindy Needham recommends ditch stitching “ESS- Every Stinking Seam” before adding decorative motifs on top. In this method, the blocks are outlined and appear set within the batting using very light weight thread. Additional decorative motifs are then layered on top. This is a time consuming method, but the results are beautiful!
Best Thread for Stitch in the Ditch Quilting
Use lightweight thread in a matching or neutral color for most stitch in the ditch quilting. You don’t want to notice the stitching line, though you may see it. Stitch in the ditch quilting is functional without being decorative. so choose thread accordingly.
Stitch in the Ditch Quilting When, Why, How
When: As soon as the quilt is layered. Any time during the quilting process
- Why: A design-free way to quilt
- To”set” the pieced design before free motion designs are added on top (a la Cindy Needham)
- Or to stabilize a quilt (more on stabilizing later this week).
How: Machine guided, Free motion (in or over the ditch)
Practice and Samples
Stitching in the ditch is best seen in person. Photos of my quilts don’t tell the story. To create your own samples this week, either find a few “orphan blocks” for practice or create two mini quilts shown here.
To make each mini quilts, Cut 36 squares: 2-1/2 by 2-1/2. Piece them in a 6 x6 checkerboard. Add a 3/4 inch small border (cut size + 1 1/4 inch) and a 2 inch border (cut size 2-1/2 inches. (Page 98 of 25 Days to Better Machine Quilting).
Make at least two!
Tomorrow: Four Samples of Stitch in the Ditch Quilting
Thursday: Stabilizing Quilts
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy Quilts and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to LKQ. For all other purposes, please contact me at Lori@LoriKennedyQuilts.com. Thank you!
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22 responses to “Stitching In the Ditch-When, Why and How”
Upholding a long tradition of being the oddball, I actually manage to stay in the ditch better with free-motion. I recently noticed that when my feed dogs are up I have to make an effort to keep smaller quilts from veering slightly to the left unless I am using the walking foot, which might be contributing to my more errant machine-guided SID. (I expect this when doing 1/4″ seams, because the fabric is not over the righthand feed dogs.) Is it possible for my feed dogs to be “out of sync” with each other or not properly aligned?
Sometimes stitch in the ditch can be a bit difficult keeping lines straight, I also do a small serpentine type stitch over the seams. It is much easier for me and I do like the looks of it in my overall project. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I like using a ruler for ditch stitching.
Interesting. What foot do you use? Seems I would be struggling trying to manage a ruler , staying in the ditch and helping the uilt ti move correctly ( not pull ). Any tips?
I also like to use a straight edge quilting ruler and a ruler foot when stitching in the ditch on larger quilts. On small quilts that are easy to move around I do use my dual feed with a foot made for stitching in the ditch. I like the idea of serpentine lines stitched over the ditch.
I sometimes use “invisible” thread for SID. (Clear for lighter colored quilts or smoky for dark quilts)
That’s what I do also.
When I do log cabin quilts I play with the decorative stitches on my machine, with shiny embroidery thread (50 weight rayon) and use a dual feed foot. It’s a great time to play with the hundreds of beautiful stitches available and if I’m not exactly in the ditch, no one will ever notice.
I use ruler to free motion quilt in the ditch. Don’t have to turn the quilt and you can keep a fairly straight line this way.
Love the idea of a “serpentine” stitch over the ditch. SID can be fabulous when wanting to highlight a certain area though, so I do do that by ruler.
I’m really leaning more to that serpentine stitching over the seams. Definitely more forgiving…and freeing. I make less traditional quilts and it just feels good to lighten up.
Lori, I luv luv luv your lessons and posts. Thank you soooo much. I know you’re enjoying the autumn colors of Minn now. Wish I were (back) there…sigh…
I’m thrilled to hear you are enjoying the lessons! Unfortunately it is snowing in Minnesota right now!!
Yes it is! But it’s pretty!
I attended a lecture a few years ago by an experienced long-armed who advised NOT using SID in blocks or areas of blocks where the seams are pressed open. His rationale was that you could pierce the seam threads and significantly weaken the quilt. I had to think about this for a long time, but realized he was correct. I recently made a quilt with many HST’s with pressed-open seams. I did SID around the blocks, but only stitched near, not on, those pressed-open seams. It worked great!
That makes sense to me! The serpentine quilting would be okay too.
I am beginning to think that rulers to SID is definitely worth trying. I really like the serpentine idea, too, although I am not sure it would be distinguishable from my normal SID.
After years of sewing garments, I find doing a serpentine stitches line over a seam or marking line more challenging than stitching in the ditch. My brain wants to keep it straight.
I just finished quilting a jelly roll quilt made entirely of long strips and wish I’d seen Heartland Honey’s suggestion to use decorative stitches. It would have been really cute way to secure a quilt for my 18 month old great-niece.
I have tried the machine stitched zig zag over seams and I like the look of that, too.
My SID lines are never perfectly straight, and I don’t sweat it. When I make a block quilt, SID is strictly a stabilizing step or a means to travel while FMQ something pretty. I really like to make those swirly curly lines in swirls and feathers when I FMQ. I tried SID with rulers, but my FMQ lines were straighter. Rulers are the next thing on my list to master. I’ve done serpentine stitching over the ditch and it’s a perfect way to quilt for a male or on something uber modern. I love that look.
As a new quilter I have started with table runners. In the comments I’ve read about SID using a ruler. Tell me more!