Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you seam-rip?

Funny that I've never actually thought about the question. Nor have I ever looked it up. When I started reading sewing blogs, at some point someone mentioned what a seam ripper looked like. When I first needed to rip a seam, I grabbed the one that came with my sewing machine, proceeded to insert it into the seam, found out by trial and error that the blade wasn't the side of the pointy bit, but the area between the two points, and ripped the seam. After a while, I found out that there are other methods, that didn't produce as many shreds of thread. And at some point, I stumbled over the method I mostly use now (at least with stable fabrics, and ripping out a straight stitch), as it's delightfully fast and almost fun to use. It's actually more like unravelling than seam ripping. I'm going to describe it to you in a moment, and maybe you don't know it yet and it'll make seam-ripping more fun to you. :)

Ok, sorry for the rambling, I'm just a bit excited.

I'm not a big fan of unsewing, except maybe when I take apart an RTW garment for refashioning/fabric harvesting. That's fun for some reason. ;) I usually cut the seams off, especially in knit garments, because they are almost always overlocked, and who wants to deal with that many shreds of thread?? But hems are a different story. Sometimes you need the hem allowance because there's not enough fabric otherwise. And usually, it's a coverstitched hem.

So. I just found out that my usual method of seam ripping/unravelling works with coverstitched seams. For some reason this really makes me happy, because it took almost no time to open the hem of a dress and its sleeves. If you already know this method, feel free to giggle condescendingly at my exitement.

So this is how I do it:
First, use the seam ripper to loosen a few stitches, until you have a tail, as below.
Then take the tail and pull a bit, as when you're gathering something.
I usually pull a bit, then "distribute" the gathers, then pull some more.
If it's a long seam, or has a high tension (meaning the pulling isn't easy and you're likely to break the thread), you'll want to break the seam some way from the gathers, pull out the thread carefully and start the process again from the breaking point.
If it's a short(ish) seam, or if you tension isn't very high (and if there's no backstitching at the end), you may even be able to carefully pull out the whole thread in one go. Then you can turn the fabric over and unravel the other side of the stitching in one go.
If it's a cover stitch, of course you need to pull out both lines of topstitching before the bobbin thread comes away. I've also found out that the stitching seems to come out more easily in one direction, than in the other, sometimes. So if you thread is constantly breaking while you're trying to pull it out, you may want to try pulling from the other end of the line of stitching. In my cover stiched hem, funny enough, the two lines of stitching needed different pulling directions to come out easily...

So, did you know about this method of seam ripping? Do you know the "official" one (or at least the one with the most google results)? Which method do you use?


  1. I love when I'm able to use this method! I found it one day by mistake.

  2. What a fun post! Seam ripping is something we have to do from time to time, and I agree with you that it seems like the thread often is easier to rip from one way or the other. Might have something to do with the way the seam has been stitched in the first place, perhaps?

    Another really fast, but a little scary, method, only recommended for stable fabric is to insert the seam ripper inbetween the two layers of fabric from the right side, holding both fabrics, abd then "push" it. Very fun and fast, but can easily tear the fabric...

  3. I've never tried this before, but now I want to. Usually I seam rip the "official" way, but it's annoying!

  4. I hate seam ripping too. Often I cut the seam off but usually I do it your way. It is always the last thing I do for the day because I lose my zest for sewing when I have to seam rip an entire piece because I sewed it on backwards...

  5. I like this kind of post! Tiny snippets of how others sew are interesting. I use a seam ripper, and sometimes tweezers for pulling tiny bits and sometimes nail scissors for avoiding snagging fabric. :) xx

  6. I use a similar method, especially on straight stitching, where I pull out either the top or the bobbin thread. The thread usually breaks, but then I have a tail I can pull from the other side. I've definitely noticed that it will be easier to pull one side or the other (due to the tension being slightly unbalanced is my guess) but I haven't tried pulling the thread in the other direction, I'll have to try that next time.