Search The Purl Bee
Sign up for our newsletter!

Idea Center
Follow The Purl Bee
« Sewing Kit Essentials: Scissors | Main | Sewing Kit Essentials: Thimbles »

Sewing Kit Essentials: Seam Ripper

I worked at Purl, our knitting store, for a few years before Purl Patchwork opened. One of the mantras I was always telling beginning knitters was, "don't worry you can always rip it out." In other words, there was no permanent mistake, everything could be easily unraveled and tried again.

However, I never thought of sewing this way until recently. I approached ripping out seams with brute force and no technique, sometimes using scissors, sometimes using the dull seam ripper that came with my machine. Every time I tried to rip out a seam I ended up with pulled fabric  and a chewed up looking edge. For this reason the ultra sharp Clover Seam Ripper was a revelation. Joelle showed me the proper (and much easier) way to rip out a seam and I haven't looked back. None of my more ambitious projects would have come out well without it!

Follow the pictures below to see this totally simple, totally useful little tool at work:


Here is the offending seam.



Stick the sharp tip of the seam ripper under every other stitch along the seam and  push through the thread, breaking it.


Once you've ripped every other stitch along the entire length of the seam simply pull the thread on the other side of the seam. It should come off of the fabric with very little pressure.


And Voila, the seam is gone. All you need to do is brush away the little bits of thread and try again. It's so freeing to realize that no seam is permanent!

ps- The fabrics used above are from Amy Butler's lovely and luminous new collection Midwest Modern!  --Molly

Reader Comments (24)

Well, I'm glad you found it! Had to giggle though, we used stitch rippers back when I learned sewing in middle school... oh, about 25 years ago. :) Definitely worth their weight in gold!
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTina Mammoser
Another tip...once you have ripped the seam, and have all those little threads sticking out, take a piece of your handy dandy roll of tape you keep in your sewing room (oh, you don't? You should...SO handy for marking wrong sides of fabrics, fronts from backs, etc, and doing this...)and use it to lift out all the little thread shreds. WAY easier than trying to lift them all out manually, lol!
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermuralimanohar
Sometimes you just have to "unsew". I got one of these as a gift several years ago and it is really the very best seam ripper.
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIamSusie
Being the lazy girl I am, you can also pick out every 4-5 stitches and it will still work with cotton thread. Maybe 3-4 with polyester thread. What can I say, sometimes that seam is REALLY long :))
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermishi2x
I use a seam ripper all the time, but I had no idea this was how to do it! Much better than digging at the seam between the two pieces of fabric...
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
I totally use one of those masking tape lint rollers for picking up tiny threads...
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKim
I couldn't be a quilter without my trusty seam rippers.I discovered them about 25 years ago.Clover makes the best of all.
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaryann
I have this Clover seam ripper and it's pretty awesome. Although, sometimes I get lazy and use one of those tiny personal groomers (the type that looks like a pen from the drugstore). You just turn it on and rub it over the seam. It cuts through all the thread pretty quickly & I've never had any issues with stretched out or otherwise warped fabric. It's another great tool to have in your sewing room! :-)
March 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
I've had a few of these but was never quite sure how to use them, so thank you!
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthe pesky bombolino
I never thought I needed a tutorial for a seam ripper, but that was a super helpful tip! I can also see how ripping a seam this way would protect the fabric.
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTerri
Seam Rippers Rule!
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjosie
Nice! I love your blog. Kisses
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChikaboom
Hooray! What a lovely little tut for new seamstresses! I'm going to be sure to bookmark this. Thanks so much.
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNix
I use my clover ripper way more than I would like to! It works fast and fits my hand nice, I get grumpy when I can't find it.
March 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
I have used seam rippers since junior high school home economics when I first learned to sew. I must have missed the lecture on seam rippers because this tutorial was very instructive. Thanks.
March 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterquilterlee
A faster way is to put the red tipped end under the seam and the longer sharp one on top, and just move it along. It isn't like picking, it is like a seam ripper train moving along a rail of ripped seam. The red bead separates the fabric as you go and you don't poke holes in it. It is quick!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBethany
I have maybe 3 seam rippers around the house and one or two in my sewing box. It is amazing how manu uses it has. That itchy label on your neck? The seam ripper. Picking out a burr from the dog's coat - the seam ripper does not hurt him and gets the burrs out without using a scissors. Can't think of any more, but the seam ripper is always at hand.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterb bade
I love your sewing tips and projects, Molly. Thank you!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I have had the same seam ripper since junior high home ec. 19 years and counting.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
i find ripping out seams to be a tradition. it happens at least once on every project no matter how careful i am. i think i'll pick up one of these to replace the tiny one i usually use. at least i'll feel good about the tool - i love anything from clover.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercindy k
You know, it's funny, before I started knitting, ripping a sewn seam seemed so daunting and discouraging, that I really never picked up sewing. When I came back to it after knitting (and frogging) many things, I had a totally different attitude toward ripping seams! Not being afraid to make a mistake has made the whole learning process a lot easier.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOlga
Hihi I happen to view your web!! INteresting knits:) I do lotsa sewing but not so much of knitting. I love the seam ripper. Im from Singapore and we call it"unpicker" keke. Its a total intelligent invention of unpicker i tot.
Love ya stuff. Veyr nice

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSum
You changed my life.
April 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
I keep a seam ripper in the kitchen and laundry and study. They are brilliant for opening things that do not like to be opened, such as any object that has been plastic shrink wrapped. No longer do I spit and curse with new CDs, wrapped reels of cotton and any over-packaged packages
April 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjenny

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.