Basics Tutorial : Unpicking Stitches

In our discussion last week tutorials about some of the basics were suggested. And after yesterday’s post this seemed like the perfect place to start! I don’t remember learning this, I’m guessing it was learned as girl and has been ingrained since. (I learned to sew garments at 10)

On the wrong side of fabric, place the long end of your seam ripper under a stitch.
Cut the thread on every 2nd or 3rd stitch, on one side only.
Turn over and gently tug on the thread with your fingers, not the seam ripper.
All of your stitches should release, if not turn over and find the problem child, and cut. Continue on and clean up the little bits of thread.
Clean seam, with no tugging on your fabrics!
Same goes for a zig-zag stitch too. Run your seam ripper up the seam cutting as you go.
Turn over and clean up your seam.
Press your fabrics and you are ready to go again!
I will add that if I am sewing rows together and have trouble with one junction I will take out a few inches on either side only and re-sew, careful to lock my stitches, not the entire thing. Like many of you said yesterday, it depends on what I am working on, and this time around it really matters! So I keep working it until I’ve got it right!

I hope that this is useful information for you! Anyone have something to add?


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By |2017-11-17T09:14:32-07:00November 19th, 2009|Tutorial|27 Comments


  1. Vicki November 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    If you have a lot of loose, tiny threads, you can use wide tape to keep them all in one place.

    Also I usually use clippers instead of a seam ripper (right now I only have a broken seam ripper though, and sometimes you need a seam ripper instead of clippers.)

  2. Natalia November 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial! It's great to get back to basics sometimes! :)

  3. Amy November 19, 2009 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I always try to cut as few threads as possible because I HATE all those little tiny bits of thread everywhere! It's impossible not to have them all over the carpet, clinging to your elbow, in your hair…. :)

  4. Lesly (aka Shadrach Meshach and Abednego) November 19, 2009 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    I cannot sew sets of flying geese without doing at least one goose upside down. My seam ripper and I are close personal friends!

  5. SewCalGal November 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    I've also fallen in love with a pair of very fine tweezers, available at I HAVE A NOTION (, that really help to grab and pull fine threads when removing threads from sewing and/or machine embroidery projects.


  6. DeeRoo November 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks Amy, that was great advice but what I really what to know is….what is that fabric…wowser!!:)

  7. Jessica November 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I always love learning these little tricks–they make such a difference!

  8. Jean November 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    In a mystery series I have read, they refer to ripping out stitches as frogging. Rip-it, rip-it. It always makes me smile when I have to frog if I think of this.

  9. Lisa Ann November 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Great Turorial! I just wanted to point out all seam rippers are not created equal. Some have a really big fat point and it makes it really hard to get under a stitch. I think the clover seam rippers are the best. They have a nice slim tip and are nice and sharp. I have been getting a lot if practice with my seam ripper.

  10. Diane J. Evans November 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Isn't is discomforting to know that we are so knowledgeable about how to take out mistakes??? I know I'm an expert at it!


  11. Zarina November 19, 2009 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I like your way better. Have to remember you when I hold onto the seam ripper.

  12. The Calico Cat November 20, 2009 at 6:20 am - Reply

    If you are doing a pattern like trip around the world or bargello where you are sewing loops & unsewing on purpose – hair clippers make quick work of seam ripping. I have also seen a stand for a seam ripper – so that you can "pull" open you seam with both hands & slide the stitches down the seam ripper.
    Seam rippers get dull too – so don't forget to preplace them everyonce in a while.

  13. Katie B. November 20, 2009 at 7:24 am - Reply

    Thanks for this! I was picking out stitches last week and thought, "I'm sure I'm not doing this right." And I wasn't! Thanks for the tips.

  14. Tipper November 20, 2009 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Neat- I learned something : )

  15. Rebekah November 20, 2009 at 10:57 am - Reply

    thanks for the tutorial! I'm still wishing seam rippers came with an easy button to rip them out with one click, though :)

  16. Rita @ Mochi Studios November 20, 2009 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Great tutorial! I didn't know there was actually a smart way to unpick stitches! Thanks, Amy!

  17. Cheryl Arkison November 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial, and bang on!

  18. Cheryl Arkison November 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial, and bang on!

  19. Cheryl Arkison November 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial, and bang on!

  20. Andrea Louise November 22, 2009 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Perfect tutorial!!!

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