Quilting Tips: Stitching in the Ditch

Oftentimes, you might want to use lines of machine quilting that surround your blocks to anchor the three layers of your quilt top together, or you may just enjoy the pattern created from these lines of machine quilting. Regardless, there is a method of quilting called “in the ditch” which uses almost-hidden lines of machine quilting to anchor the key seam lines in your quilt.

This method involves stitching right next to the seams between the blocks, sashing and borders in your quilt top, on the side with the least bulk. If you pressed your seam allowances to one side of the seam, then your needle is kept on the opposite side without the seam allowances.

It is important to stitch as straight (or evenly on curves) as possible, keeping the stitching line as close to the seam as possible. This is a good place to use your machine walking foot. The following photo shows the correct positioning of the presser foot and needle in relation to the seam.


Here is an example of how not to stitch in the ditch.


This next photo shows a well-executed result.


The method is described in the book Machine Quilting with Alex Anderson.

Happy Quilting,

The Tech Editors

This article is part of the Quilting Tips from the Tech Editors tutorial series. Recent tutorials include:

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  1. Ann
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the pictures as well as explanation. I have problems with not stitching in straight line and will try this method and hopefully my quilting will look great!

  2. Posted December 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Common longarm misconception: "I don't want to spend a lot having this quilted, just stitch in the ditch." Ditching on a longarm can be very time consuming! Way easier on a domestic (normal) machine with the feed dogs engaged!

  3. Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I soooooooo need that book!!!

  4. Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    When I "stitch in the ditch" using my walking foot, I look at the opening "line" in the center created by the two sides of the foot and keep that over the seam line. This works really well for me.

  5. Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    If your machine has an edge-stitching foot (#10 for a Bernina) it will make stitching in the ditch easier as the edge-stitch "blade" sits in the "ditch" guiding your stitches. However, using this foot does not give you the walking foot benefits.

  6. Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately I have no suggestions on stich in the ditch, Just want to let you know it is really difficult. I am anxious for answers to your question too.

  7. Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Is it just me, or is stitching in the ditch hard to do properly? Anyone know a trick (other than stitching REALLY REALLY SLOW)?

  8. Posted November 30, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Hey! how did you get a hold of my old quilts for the "don't do this picture?" LOL

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