"Stitching in the ditch" is a technique which involves sewing down the channel of an existing seam (the "ditch") to secure pieces of a garment in place without the stitches being seen on the outside. By sewing down the seam line in thread matched to your fabric, the stitches are hidden and invisible to the outside.
Or more simply put by Dixi, "a stitch in the ditch in simple terms is stitching right in a seam line in order to create an invisible line of stitching".
Do you use the Stitch in the Ditch method as often as you could? I used to overlook this as a great way to finish many steps in my garment sewing and instead accomplished steps like hemming, facing, finishing with hand stitches. Stitch in the ditch is used to finish quilts, bindings, waistbands, collars and even cuffs.
While I do like the couture aspect of hand stitching, not all my garment sewing or garment recipients require or notice it. I am quite certain our grand kids never peeked at their hems and admired the handstithing, nor did any wearers of shirts and dresses look closely at those faced and finished fronts and cuffs to see if they were machine or hand stitched - well, except for my Mom who taught me to sew and enjoys seeing the work, and my husband who appreciates the fine details he gets to hear about non-stop while I'm sewing something for him.
You can watch a tutorial for stitching in the ditch by Tilly and The Buttons here.
Here is another recent post on this subject by Melissa Mora over at Blank Slate Patterns. She shares some of the key uses of this handy stitching method and illustrates them with projects created from some of her patterns too. Uses such as using this technique as a fast way to finish cuffs and linings with your machine instead of hand sewing with a blind ladder stitch. It's commonly used when finishing waistbands and front facings on button down shirts too. If you're quilting and making bags you'll find this is a useful technique as well.
Some tips for stitching in the ditch are to use matching thread so your stitching is near invisible. Also, you can pin through the seam line to secure the inside piece in place. Line up your seam line with the needle and hand turn to see exactly where your needle is entering the seam. Be sure to back tack to secure your new seam as well. Hold your fabric firmly to expose the "ditch" you're stitching in.
Read up on stitch in the ditch for bias tape here. Also included is a comprehensive bit of info on the application in quilting.
There are also sewing feet available that facilitate your stitching in the ditch. The key feature is a sometimes floating blade running down the center of foot that runs in the seam line - the ditch - you are following. Your needle should be aligned with this thin blade. These sewing feet are also called joining feet. More on that later. ;)
I hope you're using or will try out your stitch in the ditch sewing and see the benefits to using this method.
Happy Sewing! Debbi