Friday, January 11, 2019

How to Use a Seam Ripper

Seam ripping. It's certainly not one of our favorite sewing activities. But it is a necessity, 'cause stitching mistakes happen. So let's make friends with that handy-dandy seam ripper tool to make those stitch mistakes not so painful to remove.

How to Use a Seam Ripper

First, it's important to find a seam ripper that's comfortable in your hand, as they came in several sizes and lengths. I find the short ones too small to handle, but that's my preference.

different sized seam rippers

There's also different point sizes, widths, and sharpness, and even the ball for blunting can vary - try different ones till you find a favorite. My go-to ripper is the large Clover one, as its size makes an easy tool for my hands to use.

The #1 goal of seam ripping, aside from removing stitches, is not to rip a hole in the fabric! One could just slip the seam ripper point under each stitch to cut it, but that's a tedious process. Instead, use the tool as it was designed to do - rip the seam!

And just how do we do that without creating a hole in the fabric? Well, it's all in the orientation of the seam ripper in relation to how the seam is held.

The first holding position has both fabrics held together at the seam, with the point end exposed on the seam allowance side, so as not to make a hole. The seam ripper is then guided between the fingers. 

seam ripping with fabrics held together

This places the red ball against the fabrics to prevent  damage (the black fabric is lifted up to show that), and the sharp point on the seam allowance side, lessening the chance of a hole.

seam ripper blunting ball against keeper fabric

Guided by the fingers, the seam ripper is pushed through the seam. Here's a video to see the seam ripping process iaction, with the fabrics and seam held together. 

Sometimes those stitches cut easily and the seam ripper can zip along the seam really fast! And sometimes, those stitches are a bit stubborn, requiring ripping an inch or two at a time. This is one of those seams. Patience is what's required, with the goal being an un-stitched seam with no fabric holes.

The second holding technique lays the fabrics apart, with the seam allowance and one fabric between the finger and the thumb. For this open technique, the red ball is placed on the seam allowance side, leaving the sharp point free and clear of any fabric on the top.

seam ripping with seam open

It's totally a matter of preference and/or convenience as to how the seam is held and which way the seam ripping is attacked. Either way, the goal is to remove the stitches and not make a hole.

If this is outside your comfort zone, notice the two ways to open up a seam:  by slipping the point end under the stitch, either on the outside of the seam, or the inside, then cutting it in the curve of the tool. Picking stitch by stitch will get the job done, but is time consuming and better saved for starting a seam for ripping or for just removing a few stitches. 

Now I know mistakes happen and a hole occurs. So what to do? 
I recommend placing a tiny bit of fusible product and matching fabric over the spot, just enough to cover the boo-boo. But if it's too big to repair, then the only choice is to use another piece of fabric. So rip with care and keep that sharp point away from the 'keeper' fabric as much as possible!

Happy Quilting Everyone - may your seam ripping produce lots of thread fuzz balls!

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. Thank you for posting this! I have been carefully cutting each stitch. Your videos are great, but I will use the second method (slower but less likely to stab myself). Love your posts on quilting.

  2. I love that there are so many ways to do everything in quilting! I keep my fabrics right sides together and use my Clover seam ripper (love mine too) to cut the thread every 5 or so stitches. When that is finished, it is easy to pull the fabric apart. I've never torn a hole in my fabric doing it this way. Of course, if you are working with a bias edge, this way will stretch that baby out for you!!

  3. Thanks lots for the tip, especially using the red ball down.

  4. Oh my GOODNESS, that's TERRIFYING!! I mean it's cool, and I might do it like that if I'm opening a seam in a garment that I'm planning to take in anyway, but I'd never be brave enough to try that with patchwork that I'd spent a lot of time piecing. But this is because I'm a wimpy little scairdy-cat! ;-)

  5. I love my Clover one. I know that's the correct way to do it, but I haven't tried it yet.


Thank you so much for just made my day!