Three Quilting Techniques: In-the-Ditch, Outline And Ornamental


When beginning quilting, new quilters frequently feel overwhelmed by all the decisions they need to make. First, they must select a pattern; then, they must select fabrics and threads; finally, they must select battings. It would appear that there are a great deal of options to consider when piecing together a quilt. Don’t get too worked up, but that’s not the end of your choices. You still must decide how you will quilt your project.

Quilting can be broken down into its three primary subtypes: in-the-ditch, outline, and decorative. Many people who are just starting out in quilting select the “in the ditch” method for their first few projects since it appears to be the least difficult. In this technique, the quilter stitches each quilt block’s design in very close proximity to the seam lines. Therefore, you are not quilting “in” the ditch, also known as the seam line, but you are sewing quite close to it. Beginner quilters appreciate this method because it relieves them of the responsibility of marking the lines that they will follow. Due to the fact that this method of quilting follows the components of the blocks, the design is really replicated on the reverse side of the quilt as well.

The outline quilting technique is quite comparable to the in-the-ditch quilting technique. The difference is the amount of room that exists between your quilting line and your seam. Outline quilting refers to the process of quilting that is done around a quarter inch away from the seam. Quilters with more experience might not have any trouble at all with keeping that quarter-inch gap all the way around. However, if you are somewhat new to this form of quilting, it is highly recommended that you locate a method to mark it. It’s possible that you can measure the distance by just using the presser foot on your sewing machine. If it is difficult to see, you may simply indicate the distance using painter’s tape that you place on the quilt. Be very careful not to stitch through the tape, as the glue will clog up your needle if you do so. Instead, sew right up to the edge of the tape on the opposite side. The disadvantage of using this way of taping is that, depending on the size of the tape, it is possible that you will need to pause and retape some sections of your project. The advantage of this style of quilting, which is similar to that of the in-the-ditch approach, is that you can replicate the design of the quilt block on the reverse side of the item as well.

Ornamental quilting encompasses many different styles. Basically, it is best described as decorative quilting. Quilts you have seen with grids, hearts, chains, swirls, and other motifs are examples of ornamental quilting. Stippling is also a form of ornamental quilting. It is created by sewing “squiggly” lines that never close and duplicating them throughout the quilt.

There is no rule that you must pick one or the other form of quilting. As a matter of fact, a lot of quilters combine ornamental quilting with either in the ditch or outline quilting. Often, they use the ditch or outline method within the blocks, and feature the ornamental quilting in their borders or corner blocks. With the exception of stippling, most ornamental quilting needs to be marked on your quilt top so you can follow the pattern. You may use stencils, create the designs freehand, or trace patterns from your favorite source using a marking tool that will wash away. (You also have lots of options in the way of water soluble pencils and pens.)

Don’t let your quilting options side track you from what is really important – enjoying the craft. Select a quilting method and just take your time with it. If your stitches seem a little out of place, stop when as soon as you notice it and remove them. In the end, you will be glad you took the time to re-do it. The first few quilts you make may take a little longer to complete than you would like as you get accustomed to the craft. Don’t let decisions like which quilting technique to use sidetrack you. Try them all to see which you like best.

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