10 Top Tips For Stitching in the Ditch

Going by the number of views and comments my 10 Top Tips for a Bias Bound Neckline post received I thought another 10 Top Tips wouldn’t go unappreciated. This time I picked ‘stitching in the ditch’ a catchy named technique describing machine sewing directly into the channel made by a previously sewn seam.

1. Use it wisely

I much prefer this technique to hand sewing (catch stitch – meh). Great places to use this technique (whether the pattern instructions say to or not) include on shoulder seams to stop neckline facings flipping out, on trouser side and centre back seams to stop the waist facing flipping out and on dress waistbands to hide all the bodice and skirt seam allowances.

Facing attached to shoulder seam by stitching in the ditch.

Facing attached to shoulder seam by stitching in the ditch.

2. Press well

There are three pressing stages to prepare for stitching in the ditch: Press on the wrong side to get the seam allowances going in the right direction, press on the right side to really open up that seam and a final press on the wrong side to get your facing (or whatever you’ll be invisibly catching) laying flat and in position.

3. Pin on the right side

Line your pins up right in that ditch. You’ll be sewing from the right side so pin from the right side considering the direction of the pins.

Stitch in the ditch 01

4. Flip to the wrong side to make two visual checks

Firstly check that you’ll be catching the facing… my example here is a waistband on a dress (my skirt lining is silver). You can see below that my ditch-placed pin catches the waistband facing perfectly. Adjust the depth of the folded under part of the waistband facing if your pin doesn’t catch it or if it overshoots by more than a few millimeters.

Stitch in the ditch 02

The other visual check is that the facing is laying flat with no bumps, lumps or misaligned areas. Just re-pin if you find such defects.

5. Start sewing a little way in from the edge

A smooth and pucker-free result can be gained easily by starting your stitch in the ditch sewing a little way in from the edge.

6. Don’t backstitch

The potential for pucking and messy threads is greatly reduced if you don’t backstitch.

Stitch in the ditch 03

7. Presser foot selection

Dedicated stitching in the ditch feet are available for some sewing machines but they’re not necessary for this technique. A simple clear plastic foot will allow you to see where you’re sewing. And on that note…

8. Position carefully

Lower the needle first so that it’s just hovering above the channel made by the previous seam. Adjust the fabric left or right accordingly. Then lower your presser foot. If you see that you need to adjust the fabric again, lift the presser foot and tweak it in the right direction. Finally, when you are confident your first stitch will be directly into the ditch, make it manually by hand turning.

9. First gearStitch in the ditch 04

Like driving a car, the slower you go, the more control you have. Steer left or right making small adjustments to your road positioning as you go instead of waiting till you’ve hit the kerb to correct your direction.

Stitch in the ditch 0510. Knotting

When you’re done, and it’s best to sew in one go so check your bobbin thread is sufficient to see you through before starting, don’t backstitch. Take home message from my top ten tips is no backstitching… got it?! Instead, from the wrong side, pull the loose thread end until the thread from the right side starts to come through. Use a pin to hook it and pull it though, then knot both loose threads on the wrong side before trimming close to the knot.

Have you avoided this technique in the past? Or like me, are you a stitch-in-the-ditch fangirl (anything to avoid hand sewing) and can add a tip of your own for this technique? I’d love to hear from you.

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10 responses to “10 Top Tips For Stitching in the Ditch

  1. I never knew there was stitch in the ditch foot. That makes me happy and I will soon be searching for one for my pfaff!

  2. Some great tips here. I have ‘stitched-in-the-ditch’ a number of times now and it definitely gets easier with practise. I actually like hand-finishing my garments though so don’t mind having to hand-stitch if it’s too bulky for the machine.

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips! I’ve only tried the technique a couple of times because I worry about making a mess of it. It’s definitely quicker than hand stitching!

  4. Pingback: Sewaholic Lonsdale New-To-Me: a knot and a bow | The Monthly Stitch

  5. I love this technique, but not for clothes; for my quilts!!

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