What Are the Different Types of Stitching for Quilting?

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Quilting is a method that joins together two layers of fabric by stitching, with batting placed between the layers. From quilting's ancient beginnings through the present, it has enjoyed a long, varied history, as simple quilting techniques gave way to more complex patterns. In the 19th century, the art of quilting was essential as a homemaker skill, and it remains popular today with many homemakers, schools, religious groups and quilting associations making quilts by hand, by machine or using a combination of both methods. Native Americans use quilts in religious ceremonies when members of the tribe are married or buried. The types of quilt stitches are varied, but they are based on common fundamentals.

Hand-Stitched and Machine-Stitched Quilts

Antique quilts were exclusively made by hand, and hand-stitched quilts remain popular today because the quilter can execute finer, more delicate stitches with hand-stitched quilts than with many machine-stitched quilts. In the late 19th century and through the 20th century, sewing machines were invented, and this mechanical advance brought machine-stitched quilts to popularity. Many quilters use a specialized, long-arm sewing machine for quilting, but some use a traditional, textile sewing machine for certain quilting methods.

The Rocking Stitch

The rocking stitch uses a thick needle, whereby the quilter holds her hand underneath the bottom layer for support, guiding the fabric. The needle then pierces each layer of a quilt. Once through the bottom layer, the rocking begins, as the needle is brought up or "rocked up" through the upper layers. Once four or five passes have been completed in this manner, the quilter then pulls the thread taught. This kind of stitch is used in conjunction with the running stitch and the straight stitch, which are the foundations for the rocking stitch.

The 'Stitch In The Ditch' Stitch

The stitch in the ditch is a technique in which the stitch does not appear visible in the quilt. The stitch is made "in the ditch of the seam line" and it disappears in the seam. This stitch often outlines parts of a quilting design, because it does not show up on the quilt, and it is a common stitch for beginners, because it is so easy. The stitch in the ditch can be accomplished with a small running stitch.

The 'Loading The Needle' Stitch

This stitch is used as both as a hand stitch and as a machine stitch, since the concept is the same for both. When using the loading the needle stitch on a machine, a stitch-needle plate guides the stitch along the fabric, but it does not pierce the backing of the quilt. The loading the needle stitch differs from other stitches in that this stitch is actually a series of stitches grouped together in segments. Four or more stitches are often run in a row through the batting, but they do not go through the backing. The process is repeated in segments along the length of the quilt, which gives a quilt additional strength.