A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing – Part 5

Removing Stitches with a Seam Ripper

Whether the row of stitches is loose, off track, or just didn’t turn out the way you expected, there are times while sewing when you will need to remove the stitches and start over. Luckily, with your handy seam ripper, this process isn’t too difficult. As a beginner, I prefer to work with fabrics that are little bit stronger so if I make a mistake (which happens regularly), I can easily follow these steps and start again. Unfortunately, when working with more delicate fabrics such as silk or chiffon, it may not be possible to remove a row of stitches without tearing the fabric.


1. Prepare the fabric by clipping the starting and ending stitch of the seam that is going to be removed. Take the seam ripper (the nifty tool usually included in the lower compartment of the sewing machine) and slide the two prongs through a single stitch at the beginning of the seam on one side. Repeat on the opposite side. Once the stitch slides into the sharp center of the seam ripper it should break.

If you back-stitched on one or both sides, you will need to cut through each of these stitches before you will be able to make your way down the seam.

*Make sure to always face the seam ripper in the opposite direction of your body, as the prongs are sharp enough to cut through skin.

2. Going back to the beginning cut stitch, lightly pull the two ends of the fabric away from each other creating tension in the seam. Place the seam ripper between the two sides of fabric where the seam is resting in the center of the blade.

3. Move the seam ripper down the seam gently cutting through the stitches, increasing the tension of the fabric as you go.

4. If the seam ripper has difficulty cutting through the stitches, follow the above technique from the opposite side of the seam. Continue doing this on each side until the seam is completely removed.

5. Once the seam is removed, pull off the loose thread that is sticking to the fabric.

6. Voila! The two pieces of fabric are now separated again and hopefully, with little or no damage to the fabric.

For more sewing tutorials, please visit our Sewing Basics page!

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