What is “Stitching in the Ditch?”

Quite often I will notice new quilters starting to hand quilt, and mentioning how hard it is to learn how to “Stitch in the Ditch.”

So what IS stitching in the ditch, and why would you do it?

Let’s look at the simple, sweet block shown here.

IMG_1269 There are three areas of hand quiting in this picture.  There is a star in the middle of this block which has been sewed onto the muslin fabric using a good applique’ stitch.  About one-eighth of an inch outside of that star is a line of quilting that almost – but not quite – touches the gold and navy blue print star.  That line of quilting echoes the shape of the star.  A little bit outside of that line of stitching is ANOTHER line of quilting that echoes the star shape and the inner line of quilting.  As your eyes work themselves past the star shapes, you will see another line of stitching that is in the shape of a square.  Do you see how that square line of stitching is more difficult to see?  That’s because it is stitched “in the ditch.”   That is, there is a seam that frames the block, and the quilting falls into that lower area of the block. Because it is right alongside the seam, it almost disappears.

As a beginner, this is NOT the best way to start learning how to quilt.  You want you stitches to be seen so that you can improve your skill with every stitch.  If you can’t see your stitches, how can you improve?

On this little block, there is one line of stitching that I love… it’s the outer line of stitching around the star.  Can you see how as a new quilter you would be very careful to stitch that line?  That’s because that line of quilting is the EASIEST TO SEE.  It is not tucked next to another piece of fabric where it tries to hide away.  It is right out there, waiting to be seen.  A new quilter who stitches that can’t help but be careful, and, in doing that, is learning how to make a good stitch. Go try this yourself!

NOTE:  This little block is a part of the quilt “Yes We Can, Jane” quilt which was made for President Obama.  The quilt will be given to him when he leaves office.

The Importance of Good Photography

IMG_6578 In the late 1970’s – early 1980’s, I was a stay-at-home mom.  I loved to hand quilt, and was asked if I would hand quilt a beautiful quilt called “Bird of Paradise.” I assigned a monetary value to the project, and it was accepted by the maker of the quilt top.  Hand quilting this quilt took about six months to complete, and it is a miracle that I ever finished it.  I used a batting that was so thick my hands hurt everytime I stitched.  I marked the quilt with a very light pencil line. To quilt, I stitched around every applique shape.  Then I added a checkerboard grid background on the muslin portion of the quilt, with squares about an inch in size.  I applied the binding, and my husband and I photographed the quilt hanging it on the wall of our garage.

Back in the late 70’s – early 80’s, we were saving all our photographs in slide form.  In the picture shown here, the tan that you see is the cardboard part of the slide.  You can also see the bottom of the garage and a little bit of the deck which butts up to the garage.

This is the only photo I have of this quilt.  The owner lived (at the time) in the northwest portion of the United States.  I don’t recall her name, and I never bothered to write it down to keep for posterity.

I would LOVE a better picture of this quilt!  I’d love to know how it was used, who slept underneath it, and that it was well cared for.

So, how did I get this photo to share with you on my blog?  I laid the slide on my Kindle which was set to a plain white brightly lit background.  Then I used my iPhone to take the picture of the slide.  I know, it’s not very good quality, but it is all I have.

As quilters, it is important that we keep good photos of the quilts we make or come into contact with.  It is a history that someday others who follow behind us will want to see.  Today, we can open books, magazines and look online at antique quilts.  Who knows what people will do 50 years from now, or what quilting images will remain that we left behind.  Alas, I wish I had done my due diligence.

If you know the whereabouts of this quilt, or if you have a photo of it from a quilt show somewhere, I would love to hear from you!