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Seam Ripper


Tool with a handle and hook-shaped blade used to remove stitches.

To remove stitches and seams quickly, use a seam ripper. Having one at hand when your seam veers off track, when the fit isn't just right, or when the stitches aren't balanced will save you time and enable you to pick out stitches without damaging the fabric.

The most commonly available type of seam ripper has a U-shaped blade, with one long and one shorter leg. The cutting edge of the blade is in the U area. The longer, pointed end slides easily into a seam or beneath a stitch, enabling you to cut only the thread. Many seam rippers have a small plastic ball on the shorter leg to protect from accidentally cutting into the fabric.

Resist the temptation to insert the pointed end of the seam ripper blade into the seam and run it through the stitches. It is too easy to cut into the fabric as you push the blade between the layers.

If your fabric has loft or texture, making it difficult to see the stitches, gently pull the seam allowances apart to reveal the stitches; then slide the point of the seam ripper between the layers and cut one stitch at a time. Usually, a gentle tug on the fabric will release several stitches. But be careful not to pull too hard and tear the fabric along the seamline, where the fabric has been perforated by the needle.

Keep a number of sharp seam rippers on hand. Since the blade becomes dull with use, you may need to replace your seam rippers periodically.

Tips & Tricks

For very tight seams, or for seams in delicate or textured fabric, gently spread the seam allowances and, with the point of the seam ripper, pick up one stitch, being careful not to catch the fabric itself. Proceed stitch by stitch until the seam is removed.

Some fabrics have a smooth surface and are sturdy enough that you can remove stitches in the following manner: Working from one side of the seam, cut one stitch by gently sliding the tip of the seam ripper under the thread and pushing the U portion of the blade against the thread. Remove enough stitches to create a thread tail. Move several stitches along the seam, and cut another stitch. Pull the thread tail to remove several stitches. Turn the fabric over and repeat the process, using the now existing thread tail. Repeat until all stitches are removed.

Quilters do it this way: On one side of the fabric, cut every fourth or fifth stitch as described above. When the entire seam has been cut at intervals, pull the two pieces of fabric apart to release the remaining stitches. Note: This method works only where the seam joins two layers of fabric and where the fabric is sturdy enough to withstand the tugging without tearing.

Because the tip of the blade is quite sharp, point the seam ripper away from fabrics on the table or at the sewing machine to avoid accidentally creating a hole.

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