Learn how to sew a rip. A rip or tear, in a favorite article of clothing, does not mean the end of that part of your wardrobe. It is possible to take some repair tactics into your hands and add a few more years onto that precious item you love. If you have young children growing up, a rip in an item of clothing is inevitable and you will need to learn how to sew a rip or throw the torn clothing out. Here I will show you a couple of methods depending on the type of rip.
How to Sew a Rip
Here are the steps you should you take to repair a ripped or torn garment.
Types of Rips
First, assess the damage. Is the rip just a ripped seam or is it a large hole in a garment. Generally, there are straight rips that just pull down or across the fabric. There are L shaped tears that as the name suggests look like the letter L. Then there are larger and more open tears or rips that are usually found on the knee or elbow of a garment. The first step then is to assess the type of rip.
How to Sew a Rip - Types:
- Clean Rips - Long rip or L shape rip where there is no fabric missing so the edges can be brought back together.
- Open Rips - Open tears with fabric missing and needing a patch. For example large tears in knees and elbows where the fabric is shredded.
- Clothing Seam Rips - Rips in clothing where the stitching from a seam has come undone. These items can be turned inside out to repair the seam.
- Other Seam Rips - Rips in the seam of items that can't be turned inside out to repair. Eg, toys, beanbags.
How to Sew a Rip - Clean Rips
Long or L-shaped rips only have minimal fraying and the two edges of the fabric are able to be brought together. In order words there is not a hole that needs patching.
These simple rips are easily mended with needle and thread and hand stitching or with machine stitching.
Learn how to sew a rip which is clean cut:
- IRON - Place the garment on the ironing board and press the fabric to flatten the area that is torn.
- NEATEN - Trim any loose threads but be careful not to make the hole larger.
- REINFORCE - A rip that is not in a seam may benefit from some iron-on interfacing at the back of the rip to close the edges together. This will prevent further fraying and enforce the delicate torn area. If you don't have any interfacing, use a strip of fabric. This fabric will be temporarily pinned while you sew the rip closed.
- STITCH - Stitch over the rip either by hand or with your machine.
On the right side of the garment, stitch over the ripped area. This can be done using a zig-zag stitch or straight stitch. You will be stitching through the interfacing or fabric at the back. My preferred method is number 2 which is a wide zig-zag over the rip. I often go over it numerous times. Of course, using a matching thread color will give the best results.
Ways how to sew a rip with a sewing machine:
- Straight stitch around the rip. This catches in the fabric or interfacing at the back. You may still find you have some fraying of the fabric at the edges.
- Zig-zag over the rip. This seals the edges of the rip. If it is a really clean cut and the edges come together nicely, this will be almost unnoticeable when you use a matching thread. You can choose the length of the zig-zag to suit your taste. I used a 6 width and 1 length.
- Photo 3 shows a 3 step zig-zag gone over a few times. This is a good method when the surrounding fabric is quite weak as it will add further reinforcement to prevent the area from ripping again.
- A straight stitch can be used in a zig-zagging motion. Like photo 3, this method reinforces the surrounding area as the stitches go through to the fabric or interfacing underneath. Do a straight stitch and then keep pressing reverse to go back and forth. If the fabric bunches up, lift the presser foot to release and then start again. It is reasonably time-consuming compared to other methods but the results are good.
With hand stitching, it is possible to get a nice clean finish to the ripped area.
- Thread a needle double and knot one end (how to thread a needle).
- At the bottom of the rip, insert the needle underneath the fabric and come to the top.
- Take a small stitch to secure the end.
- Move the needle across to the other side of the rip and take a small vertical stitch. (smaller the better)
- Move across the rip and take another vertical stitch.
- Repeat until you get to the top of the rip.
- Taper the last stitches so they become closer together.
- Gently pull the thread and the rip will close up and the stitches will disappear.
How to Sew a Rip - Open Rips
If the rip is not straight and clean, you will need to patch the area before sewing. Using a patch is especially popular on ripped elbows and knees where there are wear and tear. Read my full article on how to sew a patch.
TIDY - The first thing to do is press the torn area and tidy up loose threads.
SELECT PATCH - Select a patch of the same fabric if you have some or similar fabric from your scrap box. Choose the same weight and durability for the patch. If you are feeling creative you could select a patterned or sequined fabric. There is no hard and fast rule that the patch has to be invisible.
POSITION - Cut the patch to size and fit it under the ripped area, right side up, matching any patterns or grain of the fabric. It should be around 1 inch (2.5cm) larger than the hole all the way around. You can always trim it smaller once you have sewn it in place.
PIN - Secure the patch with some basting stitches or pins and stitch around the outside either by machine or hand. If the patch is going to be in somewhere awkward to sew, you may find it easiest to hand baste it in place to stop it slipping out of place.
STITCH - Stitch around the torn area with a machine stitch or hand stitch.
FINISHING - Press your repair and look at the reverse side. Neaten the reverse side of the patch by trimming off any unnecessary fabric from the back.
Use a zig-zag stitch or straight stitch to sew around the edges of the rip. Press again to keep your patch and rip as flat as possible. A matching thread will make it blend in or contrast will make a feature of your patch.
You can use any hand stitches to secure the patch behind the hole. Suitable stitches include running stitch, backstitch and blanket stitch.
You can decide to make the rip and patch a feature with contrasting thread or to try and make it as invisible as possible. The patch will have its right side showing through the ripped hole and the sewing will be visible on the right side of the fabric.
How to Sew a Rip in a Clothing Seam
Rips in clothing seams are very easy to mend.
TURN - Turn the garment to the right side and match the seam edges.
STITCH - Stitch along the seam where the stitches have broken. You can do this with a machine straight stitch or a hand stitch.
PRESS & TURN- Turn the garment back to the right side and give it a good press.
The best stitch for mending a seam rip is the simple straight stitch. Go over it a couple of times and make sure you overlap the existing stitching so the gap is completely closed.
If you need to hand stitch the broken seam, use a running stitch or a backstitch. Running stitch is considered the simplest for beginners as it is just an up and down stitch. Backstitch is a little harder (but not by much) and will be the stronger option.
Running Stitch for Complete Beginners
- Thread the cotton through the eye of the needle and double it over and tie a knot at the end. (how to thread a needle)
- Put the needle through the fabric and pull the thread through. Continue in an up and down motion. The smaller the stitches the stronger your repair will be.
How to Sew a Rip in a Toy Seam
Where you have a rip in an item you can't turn the wrong way out, you will need to use an invisible stitch (also called a ladder or slip stitch). This is commonly used to mend toys, beanbags, handbags and furniture.
I have a full tutorial on how to sew an invisible stitch.
- Thread a needle double and knot the end.
- Insert the needle from inside at (1) which is in the crease of the seam where it has ripped.
- Cross to the other side of the opening and insert the needle in the crease of the seam allowance from (2) to (3)
- Repeat on the other side
- When you have a small section sewn, gently pull the thread and it will close the gap. You can see how neat this looks even with my thick red thread. When you use matching thread it really is an invisible technique. The smaller the stitches the better.
How to Sew a Rip - In Conclusion
Mending a rip in a garment is a great way to lengthen the life of an item of clothing. There is no need to say R.I.P. to some of your favorite jeans or dresses. There is no need to say R.I.P. to your children’s play clothes or good quality ‘hand me downs’ just because the elbows and knees have seen better days. Learning how to sew a rip or tear in a garment is a quick and easy way to add a few more playdates and life to the best-loved clothes in your closet.