No, I’m not throwing out a quilt, I’m stitching in the ditch.
This was one of the first quilt finishing techniques I learned and quickly gave up when I started free motion quilting. But sometimes you just can’t get away with skipping this step, and that’s the case with my 2014 Block of the Month pattern that I loaded onto the longarm this morning.
No, I don’t own a longarm either. I wish I did. I rent time on one at Quilting By-You in Bettendorf, Iowa. It’s awesome, I can still finish my own quilts for less than it would cost to send it off, but I don’t have to purchase and find room for a 12-foot frame in my tiny two-bedroom house.
Back to the quilt. The medallion design called for some custom quilting. I decided to quilt each block separately in the outer border to highlight the different designs that make up the quilt. But in order to get the best results, I first had to stabilize the blocks and borders, which is where stitching in the ditch comes in.
Because sewing straight lines on a longarm is considerably more difficult than with a walking foot on a domestic sewing machine, I used a ruler as a guide. Created for longarm quilting, the ruler is thicker than the ones we use to cut with, so the foot of the sewing machine can just glide right alongside it. It doesn’t make for perfect quilting, but it sure does help.
My biggest challenges in stitching in the ditch were bulky seams. Even though I trimmed every singe piece in this quilt, getting everything square and cutting off dog ears, the points were still pretty thick and that made it difficult for the foot to make it over the hump. I eventually found that slowing down and manually moving the needle up and down near thick seams made for much better results.
I also encountered one seam where it flipped against the direction I pressed it in places. There wasn’t much I could do to fix it once the quilt was loaded on the longarm, so I just had to make the best of it and go slow to try and achieve an even look.
I feel like I haven’t gotten very far. I quilted for four hours and I just finished the top border and stabalized the seams for the next 12-inch section. It has been a year since I’ve been on the longarm (having a baby tends to get in the way of a few things) and I was a little slow and rusty at first. But I feel like I have my groove back and I’m not going to be quite as fancy in the inner borders as the outer one, so I’m hoping to get most of the way done when I go back next week.