How to Stitch in the Ditch Quilting

By Cynthia Myers
After completing a quilt top, stitch in the ditch to quilt it.

Stitch in the ditch quilting allows the pieced designs of your quilt to take center stage. This form of quilting follows the seams of the design, so marking the quilt top isn't necessary. Although you can stitch in the ditch with hand quilting, this technique is generally a machine quilting process. Following the seam lines makes your quilting nearly invisible.

Fold the quilt in half horizontally, then vertically to locate the center of your quilt for the starting point for quilting. Quilting from the center outward helps prevent puckering or shifting of fabric layers as you work. Mark the center point with a safety pin.

Set your stitch length to slightly longer than normal -- 3.0 or 3.5. Thread the needle with a thread close to the color of the predominant fabric in your quilt or use a neutral color. With stitch in the ditch quilting, the stitches should not be a focal point of the quilt.

Position your quilt beneath the sewing machine needle at the center point of the quilt so that the needle will come down in the center of a seam. Begin sewing so the needle stitches at the center of the seam. Guide the material with your hands without forcing it. Allow the quilt to feed naturally under the needle.

Stitch along the seam to its end -- either the end of a block, the edge of the quilt or to a border. At the edge, stitch one backstitch, then lift the needle and clip the thread.

Reposition the quilt at the center again and follow a new seam using the same stitching technique. Sew each seam from the center outward. Depending on your quilt design, you might sew all the seams for a block or a section and then move to the next block or section.

Stitch in the ditch along the seams joining each border to the body of the quilt.

Tip

Press all your seams in the same direction when you sew your quilt top. This will make it easier to stitch in the ditch. You can purchase a special quilting foot with a center guide to make it easier to keep your needle lined up with the seams. After you stitch in the ditch over the entire quilt, finish your quilt by trimming away excess batting and binding the edges.

About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.