Learn how to use a seam ripper and how to remove straight sewing stitches in 2 different ways as well as how to unpick serged seams. Sewers of all levels (not just beginners) need to unpick. We all make mistakes or sometimes just have a day where we are totally distracted by our family or work life. I've been sewing since I was 5 and even now I have days where things just don't go right. So what is the best way to unpick stitches?
How to Use a Seam Ripper
What is a Seam Ripper?
A seam ripper is a sewing tool designed to undo stitches and cut thread. They have a sharp point and then a U-shaped blade to cut unwanted stitches. A seam ripper also has a red ball on the shorter prong to prevent it from cutting the fabric by mistake. I'm not sure why they are always red but perhaps that makes it easy to see which is the pointy end. The red seam ripper pictured below is fairly typical of how they look.
When to Use a Seam Ripper
Using a seam ripper makes it less likely (although not impossible) for the fabric to get damaged by removing the stitches. Use a seam ripper any time you need to remove stitches where they have become crooked or if you have made a mistake.
Beginners Sewing Tip: Never pull or rip stitches out as it can damage the fabric.
Replacing Seam Rippers
First of all, make sure your seam ripper is sharp. Once it gets dull you risk stabbing yourself or making a hole in the fabric as you will need more force to get it to cut the threads. You will be surprised just how quickly they get blunt. Seam rippers are one of your cheapest sewing tools so always have a few on hand.
How to Use a Seam Ripper For Straight Stitches
You can use a seam ripper from the inside of the seam or on the outside. Here are 2 methods for you to try.
Method 1 - How to Use a Seam Ripper
Start by unpicking every few stitches on the top of the seam. Flip the seam over and pull the bobbin thread. It will come away in one piece. Remove the stray threads from your fabric and you are done.
Method 2 - How to Use a Seam Ripper
Unpick a couple of threads on the outside of the seam. Then open up the seam to be unpicked and start cutting a few threads at a time. The ball of the seam ripper should be pointing down. Don’t try and cut too many at once as you risk putting a hole in your fabric.
PRO TIP – Use a sticky lint remover to remove the last of the threads. This saves so much time compared to picking each loose thread out by hand.
How to Use a Seam Ripper for Serged Stitches
Whether you have used a 3 or a 4 thread serger, at some point you will need to unpick a serged seam that has gone wrong. This might seem like a lot of threads to unpick, but with some practice, you will have the job done in no time. Like many sewing tasks, it looks much more difficult than it really is.
With your fabric facing with the right side of the overlocking stitch facing up, cut both the needle threads every few stitches.
This is the red and black stitching in the photo. If you are doing a 3 thread serged seam you will only have one of these.
It helps if your seam ripper is really sharp. A dull seam ripper tends to drag the threads making it harder to remove the stitches in the long run.
Now my favorite part - Grab the looper threads (the green threads) firmly and the rest of the stitches will unravel.
If you have to resew the seam you have unpicked, don’t forget that the seam allowance will have been cut down by the serger knife.
PRO TIP – Use a sticky lint remover to remove the last of the threads.
How to Use a Seam Ripper - In Conclusion
What is your preferred method for unpicking and using a seam ripper? Please share. This method works on straight stitching and most simple decorative stitching. If you are needing to remove serged stitches it can take a little more time and you will need to change your method.