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.

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