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Stabilizing your quilt with ditch quilting

Do you need to do just one vertical and one horizontal stitch-in-the-ditch line to stabilize the quilt prior to free motion quilting the rest of the quilt or do you need to do multiple lines?


My personal preference is to do as much 'stabilizing' quilting as I can before starting the fun stuff...the feathers or the free motion 'from my brain straight to the fabric' stuff.

Once an area is stabilized, you can remove a lot of the safety pins. Those little buggers get in the way when I quilt...I hate to have to stop to remove them.

Another benefit is that once the blocks are stabilized, you can jump all over the quilt to quilt it.

I like to save the quilting for the center until either I'm fully warmed up, or I'm having a particularly good day quilting. There's a lot of quilt to deal with when you're working in the center. Being on top of your game for the quilting session really helps.

Furthermore, any excess fabric in a block...anything that might bunch up or create a now contained in that block by the ditch quilting. Once you've dealt with the extra fabric, you don't need to worry about it anymore. It won't migrate over to the next area that you're quilting in.

In the quilt below, Rogaland Rosemaling, all the applique is ditch quilted, as are the seams between the borders.

Rogaland Rosemaling, quilt design by Trudy Wasson, applique and quilting by Julie Baird

Small pebble quilting
The pebble quilting I did in the background is obnoxiously small.

Between the wool batting and the tiny stitch pattern, the top wanted to puff up. To tame the puff and keep it from migrating to another area and causing more problems, I went in and would quilt a couple of lines of pebbles, to in essence, stabilize that area. The puff was dealt with where it happened.

If the top started to puff again, I'd repeat with another couple of lines of pebbles. That's how I worked across the whole top. The quilting came out really nice (if I do say so myself!)

What if there are no blocks?

If your quilt doesn't have blocks to ditch quilt between, there's nothing wrong with adding horizontal and vertical lines of quilting with water soluble thread. This will stabilize the quilt and is quite helpful if most of the quilting is on the diagonal.

Once the quilting is finished, wash the quilt following the thread manufacturer's directions to remove those stitches. I did that on the quilt below.

Stabilize your quilt before quilting diagonal lines

You could probably compensate for doing less ditch quilting by using more safety pins. When pin basting, I strive to be able to feel at least two pins with my palm flat on the quilt sandwich. You may want to add more to hold all the layers together...just remember you have to remove them all, too.

Readers! How much ditch quilting do you do before you move on to the fun stuff? Do share your thoughts on this topic. Thank you!


Julie Baird

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