Seam Ripper – Types and How to Use Them
A seam ripper is a tool used by seamstresses to remove stitches, open seams, cut threads and open buttonholes. As "unsewing" is just as important to a quality finished project as putting in the stitches, a seam ripper is an invaluable tool for anyone who works with needle and thread.
Types of Seam Rippers
The most common type consists of a "u" shaped blade attached to a handle. One side of the "u" is longer than the other and is pointed. The other side of the "u" often has a small plastic ball on it for protection. The inner curve is the sharp cutting edge of the seam ripper.
The difference in most seam rippers consists of the design and length of the handles, the thickness of the cutting point and the "extras" included. You can find them with built in needle threaders, lights, ergonomic handles, and other tools.
There are also seam rippers for taking out serger and embroidery stitches. These "c" shaped blades are generally surgically sharp and can remove a lot of stitching quite quickly. (They can also make holes in your fabric very quickly, so be careful.)
How to Use a Seam Ripper
- There are a few different ways to take out a seam with a seam ripper. Consider the weight and strength of the fabric you are using when deciding which method. Always make sure to work in good light so as not to nick your fabric.
- One quick way to remove a long seam of stitching is to use the seam ripper to cut every third stitch on one side of a seam. Once that is done, you can simply pull out the thread on the other side of the seam.
- If a seam is not stitched too tightly, you can cut the thread on one side of the seam and pick out an inch or two of stitches. Grasp this inch or so of thread and gently pull to make gathers in the fabric. Just before the thread feels like it's going to break, cut it at the other end of the gathers. You should now be able to pull this thread right out of the seam. (It depends on the weight of your thread and fabric, and the length of your stitches just how much you can pull out at a time.) Now, you will have a long thread on the other side of the seam and you can repeat the process until the entire seam is removed.
- Some seams that are tightly stitched will have to be picked out one stitch at a time. Slide the tip of the ripper under each stitch to cut it. A piece of masking tape can be useful for picking up stray bits of thread.
- To cut open a buttonhole, pierce the fabric at one end of the inside of your buttonhole with your seam ripper. Bring up the point of the ripper at the other end of the inside of your buttonhole and cut. Doing it this way prevents over cutting your buttonhole. If you have a particularly long buttonhole you may want to do this in two steps, working from the edge to the center of the buttonhole.
- To use the "c" type ripper, slide the blade under the stitches, being careful to keep the point away from your fabric.
About the author, Sandy Huntress
With over 30 years of sewing experience and more than 20 years of crafting I've rarely met a craft I didn't like, and have all the gadgetry to prove it. You'll often find me in my sewing and crafting room where I design and make garments, quilts, scrapbooks, cards, paper crafts, dolls, home decor and jewelry; just to name a few. I'm always interested in trying the next new thing and love to share my knowledge with others. For great sewing and crafting inspiration, ideas and tutorials, check out Keepsake Crafts.
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