Stitch in the ditch, or the seamline, seems to be the default method of quilting for modern piecers who are afraid of ruining their quilts. I am not sure when this started, as most vintage utility quilts are either tied or have all-over quilting, often in a shell pattern.
Personally, I think that the idea of “ruining” your quilt with stitching in the wrong place is ridiculous. When was the last time you heard somebody say, “Wow, that would have been great if she had just stuck to stitching in the ditch!” I’ve never heard it.
To be sure, there is a point where too much stitching keeps a quilt from being cuddly, but that level of stitching is extremely difficult to attain when working on a shortarm. Let’s face it: it’s hard to get carried away while working on a full size quilt when your machine only goes at a rate of less than a thousand stitches per minute!
So, what is an intimidated home quilter to do to get out of the ditch?
Start by shadow stitching. You can use your machine foot as a guide to stitch next to the seam. It becomes as safe as stitching in the ditch, but it looks more sophisticated.
You can stitch diagonally all the way across the quilt. Many times this is easy because quilts are constructed in blocks.
You can stitch parallel lines lengthwise down the quilt. This is one of the more contemporary designs, and it is once again so simple.
Next time you are sitting in front of the machine, looking for a way to get that quilt sandwich together, just make a promise to yourself to stay out of the ditch!