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How do I “stitch in the ditch”?

A reader wants to stitch in the ditch on her first quilt, but needs advice. The Patchwork Twins get her started right.

Answered by Amy Sandrin and Ann Frischkorn

How exactly do I go about quilting my first quilt with my sewing machine? Someone mentioned stitch in the ditch, but I’m not sure what that means or how to do it.

- A Quilter’s Review reader

Amy Sandrin and Ann Frischkorn


Stitching in the ditch is great for beginning machine quilters. To stitch in the ditch you use the walking foot to create long, straight lines of quilting along the seams (or “ditches”) of the quilt top.

When you stitch in the ditch you must keep the stitch in the ditch at all times. You should not see the stitches wander away from your seam. Therefore, it is important that your seams all butt up perfectly so that your stitch will be in a straight line.

How you press when you put your blocks together is extremely important when you stitch in the ditch. If you have not done a good job pressing you will have trouble when quilting the seams. Press seams to one side. Make sure there are no pleats that stop the needle from getting as close to the seam as it can. Make sure your blocks are perfectly flat and smooth before layering your quilt.

When stitching in the ditch you need to watch your needle and make sure it is rubbing the seam for every single stitch. It doesn’t matter where your foot is lined up — just watch the needle. You should always practice first on a small sandwich.

Start quilting with the seam that runs with the batting’s and lining’s lengthwise grain to avoid any stretching or distortion. And don’t push or shove your quilt through the machine. The walking foot is made to feed the top of the quilt evenly with the backing. Work with the foot — resist the urge to push and pull.

Machine quilting feels awkward at first. It takes practice, practice, and more practice. Don’t give up!

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5 Responses to How do I “stitch in the ditch”?

  1. My question is on “Stitching in the Ditch”. Someone that I met in the Quilt supply shop told me to stitch 1/4 inch from each seam in each block. But if you press all seems to one side how does this work? Do I stitch the whole length of the Quilt, or just inside a block? I do not have a vehicle to take a class right now. I have tried Quilting Books but they are not helpful.

    • I am doing my first quilt. I am at the point where I have it pin…it’s a block quilt…I started in the middle with stitch in the ditch…than I went and did the first two rows. It looks good, but am I doing it the right way…It is not easy trying to keep it smooth…

  2. magnificent post, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector don’t understand this. You should proceed your writing. I’m
    confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  3. I was told to always press my seams open when quilting. If I quilt in the ditch, the only thing holding my stitching is the thread used to join the pieces. I have put my quilt together and wondered what I should do about quilting it instead of doing quilt in the ditch. Should I just quilt very close to the seam on one side of the pieces? I would appreciate your assistance. Thank you.

  4. each time i used to read smaller content which as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this paragraph
    which I am reading at this place.

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