Sunday, March 18, 2018

Why Stitch in the Ditch?

Why stitch in the ditch (SID)?  Well, you don't HAVE to, so let's review the choices that impact the decision.

Have you ever noticed what a tied quilt looks like?  Big, fluffy bunches between ties.  Same thing happens when a sandwich is pinned with safety pins.  This is not bad or good.  It just is.  It looks like this photo of the ice from my hike last week:

The ice on Dream Lake.  The wind blows it as it freezes,
but we still hiked across the lake on the ice.
The question is:  Are your seams going to bubble up this way?  Do you like the piecing seams to behave this way?  They will if you are quilting designs into areas defined by the seams.  On the other hand, an all-over design will cross seams in an irregular way and keep them from bunching and creating unsightly ridges.

So...why bother?
Stabilization.  Basting will stabilize your quilt.  I hate basting, but I do pin.  I SID to stabilize the quilt before doing the fancy quilting.  The pins can all be removed and there is no worry about the quilt going wonky when you are concentrating on the decorative free motion quilting (FMQ).  Once the quilt is stabilized you can work anywhere you want without distortion.  I stitch with Superior MonoPoly thread (clear or smoky) for SID.  This can be a great way to learn to control your FMQ technique.  You can also use any thread of a color that disappears into your fabrics.  For straight lines and borders I use my duel feed foot, and it is awsome. It gobbles up excess fabric and smooths it all into the puff.

No bubbly seams, tucks or puckers.  I have 28 pieces in each block of my quilt and they will mostly be quilted with enclosed designs.  I do not want seam ridges so I am SID-ing in every single seam.  Time consuming, yes, but WOW does it ever make it look nice.  My quilt would look fine with only the SID, but since I like the fancy stuff I know I won't have to worry about the antics of recalcitrant seams or tucks or puckers.

Before:  Rumpledy, bumpledy before SID

After:  All seams stitched down.
Straight borders.  Borders look best when they are nice and straight.  Show judges will nail you for crooked borders every time.  SID will set the borders nice and straight from the get-go whether you quilt on them or not.

You want to show your quilt.  Take careful note of all of the above because the judges will be looking for straight seams and borders, smooth curves, no crumples and perfection in the hanging.  This is impacted by blocking after all is done, but you can't block out internal wiggles after they are set in stone....errr thread.  They will notice the track of your SID especially any stitches that stray from the ditch, so if you choose to do it, learn and practice to do it well.  There are many online tutorials so I am not going into the "how to."

Don't bother:
If your quilt will be a "dragger" to be loved and washed repeatedly.  It won't matter.  The exception would be if you choose to do all the quilting SID and don't want to mess with the fancy stuff.

If you are going to quilt an all-over design that tramples and ignores seams.  In this case the seams generally disappear into the quilting motifs.

If you don't show your quilts.

If you don't care....and that is OK.  It is your quilt.  Do what suits your style, your time, your passion.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to practice some stitching-in-the-ditch.
PS.  Last week's hike:
Hallet and Flattop peaks from Dream Lake.  Rocky Mountain NP.


  1. Thanks for the picture comparison. As a new quilter, I appreciate this kind of information.
    xx, Carol

    1. I am glad my blog was helpful. There is so much to learn, but quilting is so gratifying.

  2. Hi Mardi,
    I appreciate the photos as well! I am making a queen size quilt for myself (Postcard from Sweden), and am going to tackle quilting as well when it is complete. I think it may benefit from SID before deciding what to do in all those triangles. It would certainly take the pressure off with all the pins out and no worries of wrinkles on the back. I am just beginning with rulers and find that they are a big help for SID - perhaps unwittingly for me. ~smile~ Roseanne

    1. I have not gotten into rulers, but as I said, I love the dual feed foot on my machine. Best walking foot ever. All my little points though mean a lot of turning of the quilt with that foot so I have done it free motion. Mostly it has worked well. Good luck on your big quilt,

  3. I wish someone had told me this when I started quilting 10 years ago. Great information and the way you explain the reason for SID, it makes so much sense! Not the easiest thing to quilt on a longarm, but definitely doable, especially with rulers! Curves are more difficult to SID, even with rulers because the ruler curve is never the same as the sewn curve. I'll definitely work on this because I adore custom quilting.

    1. SID is never easy, but like most things, you get better with practice. It is tedious, and constantly challenging, but I LOVE the results so I am motivated to do it. Someday I may get to rulers, but so far I don't have the foot or the rulers.

  4. Thank you for writing this up. It is so helpful. :-)

  5. Thanks this was very timely as I'll be tackling a large quilt soon and had thought to do some stabilising SID stitching but you've helped me realise I will need to do more.

  6. You are an exquisite teacher and writer...more more more!!

    1. Many thanks. It is always great to be appreciated.


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