Stitch in the Ditch Quilt Binding (Looks Hand-Sewn)

Learn how to do stitch in the ditch quilt binding that looks like it was hand sewn. Get a professional clean machine binding finish!

Sewing binding on a quilt is the last step to finishing your quilt. And as rewarding it can be, it can also be kind of a chore. Especially when you have a whole list of other quilt patterns to make!

But I promise you, taking some extra time to do machine binding right can really take your quilts to the next level!

One of the ways to elevate the finished look of your quilts is by using the so-called stitch in the ditch quilt binding. Because there’s no visible seam on the front of the binding this method gives the quilt a truly professional and minimalistic finish.

If you love the look of a hand-sewn binding, but don’t have the time (or patience) for it, the stitch in the ditch quilt binding for you!

There is some skill that goes into sewing binding this way. So I wouldn’t recommend it for your first few quilts. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you stick to our beginner friendly Machine Binding Tutorial

But if you’re up for (a bit of) a challenge, this is an excellent method for creating a beautiful machine binding finish!

What is Stitch in the Ditch Quilt binding?

With this method, we begin by attaching the binding to the front of the quilt. We then fold the binding over to the back. Then, we use the stitch in the ditch sewing method to attach the binding to the back. We sew from the top, but because we sew in the ditch, this front stitch is practically invisible.

If done accurately (which can admittedly be hard, that’s why I don’t recommend this for beginners) the stitch on the back runs right along the edge of the binding. So you get a neat finish on both sides. Here’s an example of a quilt finished with the stitch in the ditch quilt binding method:

stitch in the ditch quilt binding finish

Do I Need a Stitch in the Ditch Foot?

There is a special stitch in the ditch foot you can get for your sewing machine. The foot typically has a guide or a groove on the underside that fits neatly into the groove between the binding and quilt top, helping to keep your stitching aligned. This ensures that your stitches fall precisely into the groove.

While this can be useful, it is absolutely not necessary for the stitch in the ditch quilt binding method. We don’t use it ourselves, instead, we use a walking foot.

NOTE: This stitch in the ditch quilt binding tutorial will show you how to attach binding to the quilt. Before you do this, you will need to make a continuous binding strip. We explain how to calculate and sew a quilt binding strip in our tutorial: How to make binding for a quilt

Stitch in the Ditch Binding Tutorial

Here’s how to do invisible stitch in the ditch binding. Many of the steps here are very similar to our regular machine binding method, so if you’ve done that before, you shouldn’t have much trouble here.

Stitch In the Ditch Quilt Binding Tools:

– Sewing Machine
– Walking foot
– Clips
– Pins
– Ruler
– Iron & Ironing Board


Materials:

– Finished quilt top (quilted and squared, edges are left raw)
– Binding strip – I make it 2 ¼’’ wide
– Thread

Stitch in the Ditch Binding Instructions:

Step 1: Attach the binding to the front of the quilt

Lay out your binding strip along the edges of your quilt to make sure you have enough length. You’ll need about 8-10 inches more than the perimeter of the quilt.
Begin attaching the binding strip to one side of the quilt. Leave about 8 inches of the strip at the beginning (this is needed later for joining the ends of the strip).
Align the raw edge of the binding with the edge of the quilt. Use clips to attach the binding along the first side of the quilt.

Step 2: Sew the binding

Place the quilt under the walking foot and lower the foot. Lock the stitch and sew along the edge of the quilt with the desired seam allowance. For 2 ¼” binding we use a generous ¼’’ seam allowance (about 5/16″) – read our tip for determining the seam allowance below.

DTQ TIP

Before sewing the binding all around the quilt, I suggest you check if your seam allowance will produce the same binding width on the front and the back of the quilt. I like to sew the binding for about an inch or so, then fold the binding over to double-check if the width of the binding is the same. If you see you’re getting wider binding on the back, you’ll need to sew a wider seam allowance. If you’re getting narrower binding on the back, you’ll need to sew with a narrower seam allowance.

Step 3: Make a corner fold

As you’re approaching the corner of the quilt, slow down and slowly sew up until ¼’’ from the edge of the quilt. (I recommend you mark the ¼’’ point with a pin or a marking tool.) When you reach the point, stop sewing and lock the stitch. Fold the tail of the binding over the edge of the quilt (over to your right). Then fold it back over to the left, aligning the fold with the edge of the quilt. Clip the fold to keep it in place.

Step 4: Continue sewing a ¼” from the edge

Rotate the quilt so the next side is ready for sewing. Start sewing at the corner ¼’’ from the edge. This means your needle will go through just the binding and not the fold! You want to position the needle so it starts sewing right NEXT to the fold. Lock the stitch and start sewing along the edge of the quilt towards the next corner. Repeat this method on the remaining corners.

DTQ TIP

We have a great tutorial on how to get perfect binding corners that I recommend reading for some further guidance!

Step 5: Mark the connecting point

As you approach the point where you started attaching the binding stop about 10 inches before. Fold both binding tails and lay them neatly along the side of the quilt, leaving ¼’’ between them. Press with your fingers.

Step 6: Connect the binding ends

Open the left tail of the binding (in my case blue) and slip a pin through the center where the creases intersect. The pin will go through on the wrong side of the blue fabric and come out on the right side of the blue fabric. Now, grab the right tail of the binding (in my case yellow) and slide the pin through the center where creases intersect. Only this time, start from the right side of the yellow fabric and come out on the wrong side of the yellow fabric.
Pin the binding strips together, and remove the center pin.

Because we used solid fabrics it’s a bit hard to see how exactly to position the binding ends and the pin. We have another binding tutorial where these steps are easier to follow. See how to connect the binding ends (Step 3 – 6) in our Machine Binding Tutorial.

Step 7: Sew the binding ends together

You will get a cross shape with the binding ends facing right sides together. Check that the binding ends intersect at a 90-degree angle and the creases are lined up.

Sew diagonally from one corner to another and make sure that you hit the center mark. Trim the excess binding tails with a ¼’’ seam allowance (be super careful to trim on the correct side of the seam!). Press the connecting seam open.

Step 8: Sew the connected binding on the quilt

Align the binding strip with the quilt edge. Continue sewing along the quilt side until you’ve reached the start of the binding seam. Don’t forget to lock stitches at the beginning and at the end of the seam.

Step 9: Press binding

Gently press the binding using a hot iron.

Step 10: Clip the binding over and fold the corners

Fold the binding around the quilt edge to the back of the quilt. I like to use clips to keep it in place. When folding corners, fold the right side first and then fold the top over to get a nice mitered corner with a 45-degree fold.

Step 11: Finish the binding by sewing ‘stitch in the ditch’

Now it’s time to attach the binding to the back of the quilt. This is really where all this stitch in the ditch quilt binding magic happens.
We’ll be sewing stitch in the ditch with the front side facing up. This way the stitch will be barely visible on the front (because it will be hidden in the ditch). 
Start sewing in the ditch at about the middle of one side of the quilt. Continue sewing until you almost reach the corner. Before you hit the corner, double-check if the corner fold on the back side is still in the right position. When you reach the corner, stop sewing, but leave the needle down. Lift the presser foot and turn the quilt 90 degrees. Now lower the presser foot and continue sewing in the ditch. Repeat these steps until you’ve reached the beginning of your stitch. Secure the stitch.

DTQ TIP

Because we’re sewing in the ditch from the front, we don’t see what’s happening with the stitch and the binding on the back of the quilt. This is why it’s really important to be as precise as possible throughout this process. Otherwise, you might get lots of missed areas, where the stitch doesn’t catch the binding edge on the bottom. Or uneven stitching that really doesn’t look good.
I recommend you check from time to time if your binding is continuously attached along the quilt. If you see you’ve missed a part, lock the seam, go back, and repeat the part you missed.

Voila, your quilt is beautifully bound and – finished! Yaaay! It takes some time to master this stitch in the ditch quilt binding method, but it really produces a perfect finish, don’t you agree?

In case you want to try an easier, perhaps more beginner-friendly method, make sure you read our beginner machine binding tutorial.

And make sure you practice, practice, practice. After all, finishing your current quilt is the first step to starting your next one!

IS THIS USEFUL?

Share it with your quilty friends!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top