Can You Stitch in the Ditch Without a Walking Foot? Easy Guide to Stitch In the Ditch

Image of Walking foot sewing machineOne of the most exciting sewing techniques, stitch-in-the-ditch involves sewing along the channel of the existing seam, known as the ditch. Thus, you secure the fabric on the wrong side while the rights side has no visible stitches. Indeed, the main reason why people love the stitch-in-the-ditch technique is because of the stitches’ invisibility. Sewing the stitches using a thread of color that matches the fabric would keep the stitches hidden on the outside. But while this technique is undoubtedly useful, the main question is can you stitch in the ditch without a walking foot.

Yes, you can. Despite being a remarkable asset, the walking foot is not irreplaceable. There exist several foot options for stitching in the ditch. One of these is the stitch-in-the-ditch foot, which has specialized features for this particular purpose; a center blade to help keep you accurately on the seam.

So many sewers, especially quilters, prefer the walking foot because of its ability to handle large and bulky fabrics efficiently. It works wonderfully in sewing materials with thicker or more layers as it can go up and down these layers faster and easier than most other fabric feeding mechanisms. Below, we take a comprehensive analysis of the different techniques you can use to stitch in the ditch without a walking foot.

How Do You Sew Without a Walking Foot?

The walking foot is undoubtedly helpful when sewing heavy or cushioned materials where other sewing mechanisms may be inadequate. However, there are still multiple options for those looking for ways to sew without using a walking foot, depending on your preferences.

The easiest way to sew without using a walking foot is to use other presser feet, depending on what you are sewing. For example, if the sewing speed at which the fabric layers move through the machine is not your biggest concern, then you can easily avoid using the walking foot. Some of the other presser feet you can use in its place include:

  • The darning foot for free motion quilting
  • The stitch-in-the-ditch foot for stitch in the ditch
  • The all-purpose foot for general sewing

Getting different feet for your sewing machine should not be a problem. Most devices today come with Snap-On presser feet, which you can temporarily replace with other purchased feet. Remember to check the machine’s manual to ensure that any foot you buy can fit the sewing machine.

Apart from using other presser feet, you can also decide to sew by hand. This process will take longer than using a sewing machine, but it is still a valid option for those without sewing machines. The products made by hand are also unique, with each piece having a distinguishing characteristic. A stitch in the ditch quilt can also be done quickly by hand using a variety of stitches.

How to Stitch in the Ditch Using the Edge Joining Foot?

The edge joining foot, also known as the stitch in the ditch foot, is an excellent foot for edge work. Some of its uses include:

  • Stitch-in-the-ditch- A technique where you use it to sew along the seam line ditch.
  • Edge-stitching- Stitching extremely close to the fabric edge.
  • Applique- This foot can be used with success to topstitch the applique piece to the background fabric.
  • To accurately join together two pieces of lace or fabric.
  • To add a line of decorative topstitching along the seam line. You will need to adjust the needle position to the side where you plan to sew the decorative stitch.
  • To make a baby hem that is best suited for sheer fabrics and fabrics with curvy edges.
  • To attach trims evenly to the top of this fabric.

So, with all these uses, how exactly do you use this foot to stitch in the ditch?

Step 1: Attach the foot to the machine.

The edge joining foot is a universal low shank, Snap-On presser foot, and you can use it with any such machine. However, you will need to acquire a low shank adapter for some sewing machines first before you can use it. Such adapters include a high shank adapter for devices with a high shank, and a low shank, a Snap-On adapter for a low shank, screw-on machine.

Step 2: Set up the fabric.

Next, you will have to create the wadding sandwich on your fabric and hold it together using long stitches or pins.

Step 3: Align the center blade.

The edge joining foot has a center blade (not sharp) that allows you to sew constant and neat stitches without much effort on your part. You will need to align this center blade with the seam stitches before you start sewing.

 Step 4: Sew.

After aligning the center bar, you can then begin sewing. Ensure that the blade does not get attached as you cross other patchwork rows at any right angles.

While you can stitch in the ditch with varying success using other feet, you may find that you encounter several problems including, the stitches not staying in the ditch and going over the seams. Such issues can cause you a lot of wasted time and effort, especially if you must undo the stitches and restart your work.

Watch this video for more about Edge Stitch:

How to Stitch in the Ditch Using the Regular Foot?

Although there are other presser feet better suited to stitch-in-the-ditch, a regular presser foot can still work well for you. However, to use a standard presser foot, you will need to have a certain level of experience, and skill for the best results, so most sewers do not recommend it for novices.

One of the main problems with doing this stitch using a regular presser foot is that it has no guiding line. This lack may cause a less experienced sewer to stray from the seams as they sew and try to go straight, which would be beside the entire point of stitching in a ditch.

However, if you feel confident that you can stitch-in-the-ditch, here is a comprehensive guide on how best to do it when quilting.

Step 1: Join the patchwork pieces.

The first step when doing ditch quilting is to sew together all the patchwork pieces on your machine or by hand.

Step 2: Reveal the ditch.

After you finish joining the patches, heat your iron and pass it through the stitched seams. The ironing will help press the seams open and reveal the ditch.

Step 3: Batting

You will then cut and trim the size of batting you need and tack or pin it to the quilts.

Step 4: Stitch

Using a quilting sewing needle and the presser foot, carefully stitch into the seam’s center. Sewing with a versatile fabric here could cause a few skipped stitches. Remember to backstitch the ends and beginnings of seams to keep them from unraveling.

Should You Stitch in the Ditch Foot or Use a Walking Foot? 

You can use either the stitch-in-the-ditch foot or the walking foot, according to personal preferences. There is no definite, universal choice between these two feet, though most expert sewers recommend using the stitch-in-the-ditch foot for garments and the walking foot for quilts. However, they have differences and various advantages that may make you prefer one over the other.

Advantages of the stitch in the ditch foot

  • Accuracy-The stitch-in-the-ditch foot has a center blade that will be vital in helping you stay along the line you choose to sew on for accurate and consistent stitches.
  • Ease of use- Using a stitch-in-the-ditch stitch is a relatively easy part, again, because of the center blade that allows you to sew without fear of missing the line.

Advantages of the walking foot

  • Heavy fabrics- The walking foot is designed to handle thick and multi-layered materials. Therefore, it can easily take bulky fabrics without creating wrinkles due to the even feed mechanism.
  • Sewing long seams- This happens when you are sewing together fabric strips that are very long at one time. When sewing long seams on a standard home machine, the fabric feed will eventually cause the fabric to bunch and ripple as it accumulates. A walking foot can help you avoid all this with its even fabric feed.

Can You Stitch in the Ditch When Quilting?

Not only can you stitch in the ditch when quilting, but it is also a preferred technique for many quilters. Stitch in the ditch is a technique of machine quilting that involves following the seam lines. You will need to stitch along the seams that join the fabric blocks in the ditch. There are two primary methods you can do stitch in the ditch quilting.

First, you could stitch precisely in the ditch that your seams create. With this method, the lines are nearly invisible when you look at the fabric from the right side. This technique is best with seams that you have not yet pressed open. For it to work well, you need to press the seams to the side to secure the top fabric to the batting.

Secondly, you can do dome outline quilting. This technique is an excellent idea for quilters who prefer a seam pressed open or if you want visible quilting lines. You can aim the needle just to the side of your seam and stick to the side you choose to get a consistent line.

Below are some of the advantages of using stitch in the ditch when you are quilting.

  • Durability

With tiny patchwork quilting, stitch-in-the-ditch stitches add strength to your pieces, increasing their ability to stand wear and tear.

  • Easy to use.

Creating stitch-in-the-ditch quilts is not an intensive and challenging job. You already have the seam lines, for starters, which will give you a clear path to follow. Also, a stitch-in-the-ditch foot as a center blade aligns the fabrics for you, so all you need to do is sew.

  • Aesthetics

You can use stitch-in-the-ditch quilting to either secure the fabrics without interfering with your design plan or add to it. The invisible stitches are an excellent way to keep them from ruining any project, while you can do the outline quilting in such a way as to complement the overall design.

Below, you can also find some tips to help you perfect your stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.

  1. Keep your eyes focused on the point where the needle punctures the fabric- the ditch. As mentioned above, stitching along this ditch is much easier with a stitch-in-the-ditch foot.
  2. Secure the stitches at the end of seams to avoid unraveling.
  3. There is no need to rush. If you cannot sew well at high speeds, lower the machine’s rate until it gets to a point where you can stitch comfortably and accurately.
  4. You can stitch-in-the-ditch by hand for heavy fabrics if the batting makes it impossible for it to fit under a presser foot.
  5. Keep from turning bulky fabrics under the needle at corners to prevent bunched material from breaking the sewing needle.

What is the Difference Between a Walking Foot and a Quilting Foot?

Although fabric feeding is not at the top of the list of concerns sewers have when quilting, it contributes significantly to the value of your final project. A poor feeding mechanism can lead to problems such as mismatched patterns and garments that fit poorly. Choosing the right foot for your project is therefore essential to getting the right results.

You can use both the walking and quilting foot for quilting, but they may have some differences that make each of them suitable for specific projects. Before discussing these differences, we must first understand how sewing machines move the fabric.

The feed mechanism is mainly responsible for moving the material at a steady speed through the machine. A sewing machine’s feed mechanism consists of three main parts; the throat plate, feed dog, and the presser foot.

Sewers use the presser foot to constrain the fabric’s movement as stitches are formed by applying adjustable downward pressure. It works together with the other two parts to achieve proper stitch formation and precise fabric movement.

The Quilting Foot.

Image of a quilting footThe quilting foot, which is more commonly known as a darning foot, is used for free motion quilting, a technique where you lower the feed dogs, and it is up to the quilter to direct the fabric entirely. This foot comes in various shapes and sizes, which are a matter of personal preference. Some of the main things to look for when choosing a free motion quilting foot are:

  • Is it an open or closed-toe?

This distinction is made by whether the needle sits in an incomplete square or whether the area is enclosed. A foot with an open toe will have better visibility as there is nothing between you and the needle and make it easier to thread the machine. On the other hand, a closed-toe foot has no edges and offers an advantage if your project has parts that would easily catch.

  • Does it have a spring or not?

The presence or absence of spring in the foot will determine the amount of movement you get. A foot with spring allows the fabric to move much more freely as it hops up. Feet without a spring would be a better choice for quilters working on fine, precise work where you need as little movement as possible.

  • The foot contact area

If the foot has a higher contact area with the fabric, it will provide you with more stability; a feature that is always useful when quilting fabrics with a thick batting layer as you hold it in place. You also reduce the chances of puckering.

The Walking Foot.

Image of a walking foot but Can You Stitch in the Ditch Without a Walking Foot?A walking foot attachment is a necessity if you want to sew in a straight line. The manufacturers specifically designed it to prevent puckering by moving multiple fabric layers through the feed dogs at the same rate.

With a walking foot, straight-line quilting is a more straightforward, more efficient process.  Despite not coming with this attachment, Most home sewing machines have a standard connector that will allow you to add on a walking foot.

The Differences

The main differences between the walking foot and the quilting foot include:

  • The purpose- A darning foot is mainly used for free motion quilting and embroidery, while you use a walking foot for stitching multi-layered or thick quilts.
  • Movement- With a darning foot, you can move the fabric in any direction you desire, while the walking foot is suited for straight-line quilting.
  • Price- The walking foot is more costly than the darning foot, which costs less.
  • Results- Manufacturers specially design the walking foot with avoiding puckering in mind. Due to the even feed this foot offers, you can move the fabric with minimal to no puckering instead of the darning foot.

Final Thoughts

Stitching in the ditch without a walking foot requires a fair amount of patience, practice, and skill. When it comes to thick fabrics, such as those in quilting, a walking foot can be crucial. However, if you do not have one, do not despair. There are several other efficient ways you can do it without a walking foot. So, the question remains,

Can You Stitch in the Ditch Without a Walking foot?

Yes, you absolutely can. There are many other specialized and general feet you can use to stitch in the ditch. These feet include the all-purpose foot and the stitch-in-the-ditch foot. When used skillfully, they can produce results that are just as good.

We appreciate you for taking your time to go through this article to the end and hope that it has been informative. Our comment section below is always open to receiving questions, comments and suggestions.

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