Stitch in the Ditch Foot vs Walking Foot (Helpful Guide)

For beginners, it can be hard to keep up especially when the experienced sewers do not explain those often used terms. It's easy to get lost following a tutorial when it does not explain the meaning of the terms it uses to those trying to learn how to sew.

Using a walking foot may be preferred by experienced sewers. The reason for that is that walking foot grabs the fabric a lot better than a stitch in the ditch foot. That better hold translates into an even feed for both the top and the lower layers.

To learn all about the stitch in a ditch, just continue to read our article. It gives you the meaning of the term as well as information on which style of sewing is better than the other.

What does Stitch in The Ditch Mean When Quilting?

Once you learn what the term stitch in the ditch means it looks very self-explanatory. All stitch in the ditch refers to is sewing along the seams of all the square blocks you have placed in your quilt.

Stitching in the ditch can also have you separate different colors when you are making something simple like a mug rug. What the stitch lines do is keep each square or color separate from the other ones next to it.

In the end, if you are using square blocks you end up with a nice quilting grid that has definite borders between those squares. Your quilt will look a lot better and have that professional touch you want when you are done.

It is a good method for beginners to use because the lines are usually nice and straight throughout the whole procedure.

Why do You Stitch in The Ditch?

There are four good reasons why you would stitch in the ditch:

  • 1. It is very easy sewing to do - this is a good thing for beginners who need to build their confidence. A stitch in the ditch already has clear paths that are straight lines so you save on marking your materials.
  • 2. It makes design choice easier - the design is already built into your quilt and you do not have to spend too much time deciding how you want it to look. The design is done for you.
  • 3. The technique makes the quilt stronger - that is something you want. The stitch in a ditch technique helps the quilt stand up to heavy use a lot better.
  • 4. You get a better look - who doesn’t want that? Once you are done the visual effect can be stunning if the technique is done correctly.

It may take some time to master but once you get it down your quilts should be a lot better, a lot stronger and a lot more beautiful.

Do You Have to Stitch in the Ditch?


The answer to this question will depend on who you talk to. There are some experienced sewers who say yes you need to do this technique all the time. Then there are those experienced sewers who hold an opposing view.

For the latter group, distance lends enchantment. What that means is that certain sewing techniques used on quilts and replacing the stitch in the ditch method will look good from far away.

Then if your quilt is designed to go from edge to edge then you do not have to use that technique and your quilts will look good both near and far. One of the problems with avoiding using the stitch in the ditch method is that the fabric may shift on you when you get to close to it.

This could cause you more problems than you want to tackle. While the stitch in the ditch method may be too difficult, practice does make perfect in this case.

What Does a Stitch in the Ditch Foot Look Like?


To present you with a clear picture of what this foot looks like, image two mini skis placed side by side with an ability to be spread wider apart. Not all stitch in the ditch feet can be adjusted to wider or narrower positions but some look like they can.

The design is created in that fashion so that both sides of the two blocks can be fed evenly through the needle. This should make sewing those quilting or other dividing lines much simpler and easier to do.

Adding one to your sewing machine should only take a few seconds and when you are done, they should come off just as easily. One of the things you do not want when sewing quilt blocks together is a difficult time adding or removing the tool you need the most.

Do You Stitch in the Ditch Before Quilting?

Actually, it is done at the same time. There are two ways to stitch in the ditch and quilt simultaneously. These techniques should save you a little time as you do not always have to add more quilting afterward.

The first way to do this, and this will require more quilting after you are done, is to use the stitch in the ditch as a basting technique. This is done to hold the fabric together and before you do any ore intricate quilting.

The second technique is to simply quilt the seams and stop there. The stitch in the ditch is your finished quilting pattern and once that operation is done, you are done that tough job.

There is a little good news, any quilt can be completed with a stitch in the ditch method. The only exception seems to be the whole cloth quilts. This is because almost all quilts have some type of seam you can follow.

Where to Start Stitch in The Ditch


Even this part of quilt making seems to have two sides to the issue. One side says you start right in the ditch and sew the seam. The other side claims that you start slightly to one side or the other.

Where you start depends on your preference and what is easiest for you to handle. There is no real rule where you need to start the stitch in a ditch. If you use a sewing or quilting machine to handle the stitching, then your stitches will be nice and even no matter where you begin.

But if you are doing it by hand, the size of your stitches may not be that small and you may leave gaps in your seams allowing the batting to sneak through. The advantage of stitching in the ditch is that the stitches are not seen that well.

Your quilt will also look good on the front as well as the back. The key here is not to debate with yourself where to start. Forget what other people say and do it right in the ditch and save yourself some hassle.

Can You Stitch in the Ditch With a Walking Foot?


Yes, this is quite possible and it is one of the more highly recommended sewing tools to use. There is a very good reason to remain with the walking foot and not replace it with a stitch in the ditch foot.

The former foot seems to be able to gab the upper and lower fabric a lot better than the latter foot. That ability makes it easier to feed the material through the needle and keep both sides nice and even. It also keeps both layers moving at the same speed.

Of course, which foot you use will be up to your preference. With quilt making being tedious at times, it is nice to have something give you a break while still getting the quilt done properly.

There is nothing saying you have to switch to a walking foot but use your own judgment. Go with the foot that is best for you and what you are trying to do.

What Foot do You Use for Stitch in the Ditch?


Technically you should use the ditch in the stitch foot or what is called the edge joining foot. The thinking behind this is that those feet are designed to sew very close to the edge of the seam.

The fabric is joined together better and you should end up with a nice seam. Yet, there are those experienced sewers who would rather sacrifice that benefit and use a walking foot. They prefer to have both layers of the fabric going through the needle at the same speed and not worry about how close to the edge they get.

Which one you should use is totally up to you and how you like to sew. The walking foot is basically easier and faster. Plus, you do not have to worry about the edge of the seam as much.

Go with what works with your style of sewing and your schedule. You may not always have the time to use the stitch in the ditch foot.

Can You Stitch in the Ditch Without a Walking Foot?

Yes, the walking foot is not a mandatory sewing tool. You have options and it will depend on how you want your seams to look. The stitch in the ditch foot gets closer to the edge of the material so you have cleaner looking seams.

Also, if you are not worried about the speed that the lower and upper layers go through your quilting machine, then you can avoid using the walking foot. The good thing about the stitch in the ditch technique is that the lines are all straight and easy to follow.

That allows you to be more flexible when it comes to using which foot.

How to Stitch in the Ditch Without a Walking Foot


One way to do this is to buy a Bernina sewing machine. You want the one that comes with the ditch guard as that makes your sewing more accurate and a lot easier. Of course, you can use any brand of sewing machine that has that same guard.

There is a drawback to that guard though. It does not seem to feed the top and bottom layers through the needle at the same speed. This can cause you some problems if you cannot make adjustments for this diversity in speed.

One sewer did a lot of basting before using a non-walking foot but even those extra pins did not help keep the fabric inline and moving at the same time. So if you are going to use a non-walking foot to get your quilt stitched in the ditch, then be prepared for some extra work.

Can You Stitch in the Ditch With Open Seams?

If you want to use open seams on your quilt then go for it. It is possible for you to stitch in the ditch and have open seams. This is a little extra work but in the long run, it may pay off for you.

The process is quite simple. You need to press your seams open first. Then set your quilting machine to a smaller stitch and then sew away. You can stitch as close as 1/8 inch away from the edge and still come away with a nice looking stitch pattern.

Like another stitch in the ditch techniques and methods, there is always another side to the issue. Some people do not like the look of the open seam as it shows the thread too much.

This option will be up to your preference as well. It will also depend on how you want the quilt to look once you are finished with it.

Stitch in the Ditch Foot vs Walking Foot


There seems to be a lot of agreement about where to use the stitch in the ditch foot. The experienced sewers fell that this foot is best used when you are making clothing and it is not a great tool to use when making a quilt.

That conclusion may be the same one you hold and feel that using the stitch in the ditch foot is inferior to using the walking foot. There isn’t any doubt that the walking foot is easier to use. You do not have to worry about layer speed and your sewing time goes a lot smoother.

It is probably a better sewing experience when you do not switch the walking foot out and replace it with the stitch in the ditch foot. Yet there are those who think that the stitch in the ditch foot is still the best one to use and they may have the technique down pat so it is harder for them to switch to another foot.

Your experience and preferences will be the determining factor here.

What Stitch Length for Stitch in the Ditch


The key to stitching in the ditch is not to make the stitch length too long or too short. It is the Goldilocks principle that applies to this sewing technique. You want the stitch length just right to make sure the quilt lasts for a long time and is strong.

The recommended stitch length is 3 to 3 1/2 mm. That should make your quilt nice and durable as well as keeping it looking its best. But as usual, not everyone is going to agree with that recommendation.

Some people go as low as 2 1/2 mm and as long as 4 to 4 1/2 mm. Others use the imperial system and say they range between 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch and sometimes as short as 1/16.

Do some practice runs to see which stitch length does the best job for you.

What Color Thread for Stitch in the Ditch

The best color of thread for you to use would be one that is as close to your quilt fabric color as you can get. Or you can try to match the predominant color of your quilt as well.

If those options are not possible then you should use a neutral color to hide the thread and keep it from detracting from the look of your quilt. If you follow the seam lines, your stitching no matter their length, should disappear and become invisible.

Some Final Words

Stitch in the ditch techniques are very simple. A beginner should be able to master the technique quickly and start building their confidence. One reason for that conclusion is that quilting usually has nothing but straight lines.

It is possible to use a stitch in the ditch foot but from what we have been able to uncover is that the walking foot is the best sewing tool for this job. It grabs the fabric better on all layers and makes sure it is fed through the needle at the same speed.

It is possible to do an open seam but that adds a little more work and does not hide the thread very well. Go with the closed seam so your quilt design is the star of the show and not the thread you used.

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