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Stitch in the ditch quilting with the Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

by Elaine Theriault

It’s great to be back and share more great features and techniques using the Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC  3.

A white and gold sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3


This week, I’ll focus on quilting this week and maybe add a few extra things.

I’ve wanted to use quilt patterns from the Quilt Block Wizard (mySewnet Embroidery Software) on a quilt. So, this week is the perfect time to use the fabulous positioning techniques on the DESIGNER EPIC 3! It sounds like fun, so let’s get started!

I pieced a quilt top using solid fabrics. The squares are 8½”, and I made the quilt five by six squares for a quilt that measures 40½” x 48½”. You can make your quilt as large or small as you wish. Don’t start with a large project if you’re new to quilting on your embroidery machine. We want success, which happens with smaller projects that don’t take as long to complete! Once you understand the process and see how easy it is to manage a quilt on the embroidery unit, you can decide whether to do a larger one.

A quilt of multi-colored fabric squares

A simple quilt top to practice machine embroidery for quilting

I planned the square size to work with the Quilters Metal Embroidery Hoop 200 mm by 200 mm or 8″ square.

A red and white box with a green and yellow floral design; Husqvarna VIKING Quilters Metal Embroidery Hoop 200mm by 200mm

Husqvarna VIKING Quilters Metal Embroidery Hoop 200mm by 200mm

I like to use busy prints for my quilt backs. No one will be the wiser if there are any ‘flaws’ in the machine quilting!

Red and yellow stars on blue fabric

A busy print for the quilt backing

Next up was to prepare the batting. I have loads of batting scraps, and I found two pieces to join to get the appropriate size.

TIP Label your batting scraps before you store them so it’s a breeze to find pieces of appropriate size without opening them up and measuring each time.

Two pieces of beige batting with a paper label and a safety pin; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

Labels indicating size on leftover batting pieces

I’ll join them with a wide zigzag stitch. I was using the Straight Stitch plate for machine embroidery, so I switched to the Decorative Stitch Plate for the zigzag. Imagine my surprise when I removed the stitch plate to find this!

It’s common to find bits of thread in the bobbin area, especially around the cutter. Be sure to check it occasionally to keep it clear. If the buildup gets too much, it can cause issues.

The thread cutter on a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

A thread nest around the thread cutter

I chose a regular zigzag but went for the widest setting, 9mm, on the DESIGNER EPIC  3. Playing with the options is always a great idea – how wide is 9mm? The more times you see it, the better you’ll be able to judge for future projects.

A screen on a computerized sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

The stitch settings for the wide zigzag

I ensured there was a straight edge along both pieces, and I butted them to each other and started to sew. You may need to trim the edges if you don’t have a straight edge. Ensure those pieces feed evenly, or you’ll have a wavey seam. There’s so much room to the right of the needle and loads of room to work; it was a breeze to feed both pieces evenly.

Two white pieces of batting under the foot of a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

Joining two pieces of batting

To make it easy to keep the seam directly in the center of the zigzag, I used the Adjustable Stitch in Ditch Foot for IDF, which has a guide in the center. It’s now super easy to keep the two pieces of batting together and have the seam in the center of the join.

A metal presser foot with a flange in the middle

The Adjustable Stitch in Ditch Foot for IDF (Integrated Dual Feed)

Here’s the 9mm zigzag. It’s a beautiful stitch and probably didn’t need to be that wide, but I’m OK with it as I know for sure that both pieces are well secured.

A wide zigzag stitch on white batting

Detail of the 9mm zigzag stitch

What I like even more is that the join is flat along the entire length of the larger batting piece. That makes it easy to baste the quilt layers together, as I’m not going to fight with a wave.

A large piece of white batting with a seam in the middle

The smooth join in the batting

Now that I have the three pieces (top, batting, and backing), it’s time to baste the three layers together. There are several basting methods, and I won’t go into too much detail. I often use my ironing board to lay out the pieces for small items like this. Then, I press the three layers together on the front and back using my iron and steam.

When using the ‘friction’ method, it’s a good idea to constantly check that no tucks appear on the back of the quilt. Checking for ripples or tucks is a good idea, even if you use another, more secure basting method.

A blue piece of fabric on an ironing surface

Basting the quilt on the ironing surface

I plan to stitch along all the seams in the ditch and then do embroidery on each block. My thread of choice for the in-the-ditch quilting is fine (80-weight) for the top. One of my favorite colors is taupe, which blends into most fabrics. I used a 50-weight piecing thread for the bobbin, and I had a couple of partially wound bobbins, so I used those.

A spool of beige thread with two blue bobbins with blue thread

An 80-weight thread for the top and a 40-weight thread for the bobbin

I’ll use the same foot for the in-the-ditch quilting – the Adjustable Stitch in Ditch foot for IDF System. The guide in the center is perfect for running along the high side of the seam allowance, allowing me to stitch reasonably quickly and still conceal the thread in the valley of the seam allowance.

A metal presser foot on purple and orange fabrics; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

The Adjustable Stitch in Ditch Foot for the IDF System used for in-the-ditch quilting

Since I’m starting and stopping off the quilt, I don’t have to worry about anchoring the ends of the stitching. If I needed to, I could use my Tie-Off function on the DESIGNER EPIC  3 or a shorter stitch length at the beginning and the end of each stitching line.

A purple and orange quilt under the presser foot of a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

Starting off the quilt to stitch a line

A red and green quilt under a metal presser foot; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

Ending the line of stitching off the edge of the quilt

Let me demonstrate how easy it is to stitch in the ditch on this quilt. Instead of stitching around the squares, I’ll stitch the vertical and horizontal lines. One of the issues with quilting is dealing with the bulk of the quilt. What we want to do is reduce the footprint. Even though I have a lot of space on the DESIGNER EPIC  3, I don’t want to maneuver the quilt more than I have to.

Start by laying the quilt on a flat surface.

A quilt with large multi-colored squares

The basted quilt

Fold the outer edges into the center row or the line closest to the center. This simple step has dramatically reduced the footprint of the quilt and the amount of fabric you have to manipulate.

A multi-color quilt rolled to the center

Folding the outer edges in to reduce the footprint

Then we’re going to the sewing machine to stitch this line of quilting. Can you see how I’ve folded the quilt into an accordion style to reduce the size of the bulk further? And yes, I’m quilting with my embroidery arm. I measured the distance between the hoop clip and the needle, which is 20″. That’s HUGE!! I quilted the entire quilt with the embroidery arm, and as long as you’re not banging into the embroidery arm, I find there’s loads of room to quilt.

A multi-color quilt folded on the embroidery unit of a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

The quilt folded into a small footprint, ready to quilt

As you’re quilting, the sewing machine shouldn’t have to labor to move the quilt under the foot. So, I often hold the quilt against my chest and not in my lap. Then the quilt feeds down under the needle, rather than having to be pulled up, which can cause the stitch length to shorten and the sewing machine to work much harder than it has to.

A multi-color quilt top under the presser foot of a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

Let the quilt flow into the needle area

Once I complete one vertical or horizontal line of stitching, I fold the quilt in the opposite direction and do the same thing, so I’m more or less stitching a cross on the quilt. These two lines help to stabilize the quilt in all directions.

A multi-color quilt rolled up

Folding the quilt in the opposite direction

Now, I can start stitching in rows or columns. Starting the stitching from four different directions prevents any skewing of the top. See the diagram below.

A diagram with lines, arrows, and numbers

The order of stitching straight lines on a quilt

Because the sides of the quilt are rolled or folded, I can simply unroll and unfold the edges to move to the next row. I never get to the end, pivot, and stitch in the opposite direction. That can cause ripples, and you need to pivot the quilt. Cutting the thread, bringing the quilt to the front, and starting again is much easier.

A bright-colored quilt under the presser foot of a sewing machine

Stitching the final line in this direction

It’s super easy to keep those stitches hidden, more or less, and you can go at a good pace.

A bright-colored quilt under the presser foot of a sewing machine; Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC 3

It’s easy to do in-the-ditch quilting with the right foot.

This is what a good stitch-in-the-ditch looks like. You can see the stitches if you look closely, but that’s because we’re looking up-close. You won’t see those stitches from a distance, but they secure the quilt layers.

Multi-colored quilt with nearly invisible lines of stitching

Stitch-in-the-ditch quilting is almost invisible.

Even if I goof and don’t get the stitches quite in the ditch, it’s not that noticeable.

A bright-colored quilt with machine stitching

Even when the stitches aren’t in the ditch, they’re not that visible.

What does it look like on the back? Let’s take a look. Wow, that’s pretty impressive stitching. I don’t see the top thread on the back nor the blue thread on the top. That’s a beautifully balanced stitch!!! You can use the JoyOS Advisor to select HEAVY Woven to help with stitch length and tension.

Yellow and red stars on blue fabric

The stitching on the back of the quilt

I want to show you what I meant earlier by not having tucks on the back. Because those quilting lines will intersect, you need to ensure there are no tucks at those intersections.

Starting in the center with a horizontal and vertical line that intersects more or less in the middle makes it easy to keep moving any excess backing to the outer edge. I often take the quilt to the ironing surface after every line of stitching, especially at the beginning, and press the excess out. Of course, that’s a bit cumbersome with a larger quilt, but then I’d baste the quilt more securely at the start.

Red and yellow stars on blue fabric

No tucks where the lines of stitching intersect

If you end up with a tuck, it’s better to know before you get too far so it’s easy to remove some stitches to fix the tuck or rip out the entire row. But that’s better than ripping out all the quilting and starting from scratch.

You’ll see some fullness between the lines, but that’s OK. As I add my embroidery quilting, that fullness will get evenly distributed.

Here’s the finished quilt with all the in-the-ditch quilting complete. I LOVE it, and it took very little time to join the batting, put the three pieces together, and finish the in-the-ditch quilting. With the speed and ease of the Adjustable Stitch in the Ditch foot and the large space on the DESIGNER EPIC  3, it was super easy and fast!

A bright-colored quilt

Step one of the quilting is complete

Tomorrow, I’ll add some quilting motifs in each block using quilt block designs that I can easily create in the mySewnet Embroidery Software and embroider using the Husqvarna VIKING DESIGNER EPIC  3.

Be sure to come back and see how easy that is!

Have a super day!


This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: Stitching out an embroidery design with the DESIGNER EPIC 3


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