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How to use a Seam Ripper?

Updated on by Sarina

The question really is, “How do you rip seams with a seam ripper without damaging the cloth?”. The ‘damaging’ part needs a double emphasis. I have seen that, done that – ripped the fabric instead of the stitches.

seam ripper

Everyone owns a seam ripper, ie everyone who sews. It needs absolutely no introduction. A seam ripper is a cutting tool with a specific use – that of cutting open stitches and removing the unwanted threads. It is ‘the’ number one sewing tool, just after the most essentials – sewing needle, thread, sewing machine, chalk and scissors. And for some one who is a beginner, as essential as a sewing machine.

It is not only for taking apart the wrong sewing turns; it is also used to remove those deliberate stitches you have made – the basting/gathering stitches used in gathering, quilting, etc. It is also an unavoidable tool for alterations – you have to take out all those old stitches. It removes unwanted embroider Yet another use is as a buttonhole cutter.

Parts of a Seam Ripper

seam ripper - red ball
Parts of seam ripper- red ball, point and the blade

Do you know what the different parts on a seam ripper are there for?

The sharp point is used to lift the stitch off the fabricr; it also reaches corners easily and also picks up the stitches

The side blade edge is used to cut stitches.

The red ball (This is not there in all seam rippers) is called the safety ball; it is used to slide along the seam as you cut the stitches continously, gliding down easily. 

The best one have these characteristics –

It is very very sharp

The most important thing is to have a sharp seam ripper. A dull seam ripper is a disaster – it can frustrate you and also cause damage. If it is sharp, it will cut cleanly without the need to apply extra pressure.

It is made of surgical steel

No other reason than safety.

It is ergonomically designed.

If you need to use it a lot, buy ones with an ergonomic grip – yes, they are available and in a suitably big size. The small ones can get tiresome after a lot of ripping.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is common among crafters and sewists. These specially designed ones have a nonslip surface. With this handy (literally) tool, you can lessen the pressure on your wrist and finger joints. Very useful if you are into alterations. The kind of ripping this involves is mad.

It is relatively long.

The main complaint about small rippers is that you cannot reach some long tight corners with them. Long sizes is useful here.

It lasts long

Some become dull very fast and become useless. There is no way you will know in advance; even some very expensive ones fail in this section

Other bells and whistles

seam ripper with a brush on the other end

I love my seam ripper (one of my many seam rippers) with a small brush at the other end. After doing the ripping, there will be small thread pieces lying all around. Use this brush to brush them off.

cover of the seam ripper
Cover the sharp pointed tool whenever it is not in use

Another plus is a cover – if you have the habit of rummaging inside your sewing box and this sharp tool is left open, you know what will happen. I do not think you want blood shed involved in your hobby.

How to use the seam ripper?

The best start in successful unpicking is to keep the fabric taut as you cut. Best if you have someone to keep it taut

In the book Fabric Sewing Guide, it says to clip the needle thread every 5th stitch and then pull the bobbin thread out.

Pick the stitches with the pointed edge, and Try to lift and cut the tiny stitches on your seam blade. Ensure that  you are sliding the point of the seam ripper between the thread and the fabric.

The problem arises when you start picking the fabric thread rather than the stitching thread, especially if the color of the thread and fabric match perfectly. One trick I have read is to rub some contrasting colored chalk on the seam – this will keep the stitches vivid against the fabric.

After cutting the stitches, do not forget to remove the small threads remaining

Sometimes it may be so tightly stitches that you cannot get inside the seam stitches at all – in this case you will have to pull apart the seam and rip the stitches from the front.

How to use seam ripper on a jeans?

This is not a functional question but a decorative one. Ripped jeans – the mainstay of fashion for a long time can be possible with your super simple seam ripper. Just cut off the blue thread and pull them out leaving the white threads there (or just pull everything on sight and leave a hole there).

Some extra questions and answers:

What is the use of the small red colored ball in a seam ripper?

The ball protects the fabric and slides easily along the stitches, and makes you move fast, as you rip.

Can you sharpen a seam ripper?

I do not know. Considering how inexpensive it is, I would buy a new one with polished edges. If you absolutely want to your best bet is to try to sharpen it with the knife sharpening stone. 

Can I rip seams without a seam ripper?

Nothing beats a seam ripper, but you can use a thread snipper if you are in a tight corner; you can use these dangerous tools as a replacement – at your own risk.seam ripping tools

Related posts : Essential sewing tools

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