As someone passionate about embroidery, I would never want to remove embroidery from clothes.
But there are instances where you have to. When the embroidery is in an inappropriate place on a fabric for sewing – say, on a seam line where you do not want that un-necessary thickness. Or when you have a good clothing with the embroidery gone bad. Then there are good uniforms from old companies that you wish to wear again but for their unwanted logos. Why advertise these companies after you have resigned from them. I have these good t-shirts with promotional embroidery which I would like to remove. You may have your own reasons.
Actually this is not a subject big enough for a post – with just a pocket knife, seam ripper and a tweezer you can remove the embroidery if you add a little patience also to the mix.
But like anything in life this is one job that could do with some tips – because in the process of removing embroidery threads you may start something and then there is this big mess which you do not know what to do with. Sound like the story of my life.
How to remove embroidery properly
This is how I removed the embroidery from a very inexpensive cap I bought on a hiking trip. The neon green piping against the grey cloth was alright but I did not like the neon green logo.
I decided to use my hair trimmer for removing the stitches.
Actually, the best tool to remove embroidery is a stitch eraser. It is a handy professional embroidery-stitch-removing tool to have; especially if you have to do this regularly. If you are a professional who runs an embroidery business this is a good investment . Mistakes happen. You have got to remove that mistake and that too fast. Time is money in business. This tool makes it all easier.
About the stitch eraser – this is specialized tool with sharp blades, and looks a little like a hair clipper/razor but with some special tricks. It works on power (with rechargeable battery). It is used to remove machine embroidery stitches without damaging the fabric at all. It actually gets under the stitches stitches, grabs the thread and clip them.
You can also keep a number of cutting tools – seam ripper, small scissors, tweezers.
A seam ripper is a great tool to have to remove embroidery that is not too dense. It just needs to be in top form. You will need a seam ripper that is sharp enough. A seam ripper is useless if not sharp for any job
First I turned the hat to the back of it. Then used the hair trimmer on the middle of the stitches in a back and forth motion, taking care that no extra pressure is applied to touch the fabric. i.e perpendicular to the way stitches are done. When you make small jerky movements across the stitches through the middle they get cut. That is how you get those stitches out.
If you do not have the stitch eraser tool or even the hair trimmer you can cut satin stitch with a small blade carefully and then use the seam ripper to complete the job. But some times the lines are too thin to cut with the seam ripper or the hair clipper.
Do you have a disposable razor at home ? Keep the embroidery curved on your finger and use the razor to shave off the thread from the back of the work- just be careful that you are not overzealous or using extra pressure. Gently go back and forth on the embroidery till you have cut the thread. Stop when you see the stabilizer or the fabric itself.
It will look like this when all the stitches are cut. So much lint and fuzzy thread.
Use tweezers or the seam ripper on the front of the garment and back to remove the now fluffy thread. Use a tweezer with pointed ends to remove the thread that is stubborn and stuck and any stabilizer stuck at the back (or front)
Remove the whole thread lint stuck on the garment. Use a clothes brush to brush the last of the thread pieces away. After everything is removed you may find some more embroidery stuck – do the whole thing again. The corner of designs are difficult to come off – you will need to pry it out with the seam ripper or any sharp tool/pin. Some embroidery have multiple layers. I told you about patience.
Looks much better now. Press to bring the holes down.
Some tips on removing the embroidery stitches.
First and foremost, use any sharp tools on your fabric with real caution. If you pull the thread with extra force than is necessary, even inadvertently, it might leave holes. In fact, there may already be holes and when you pull on the embroidery thread you will manage to make the holes bigger.
Whatever tool you use, use it from the back of the garment, whenever possible. This way no damage is visible on the front of the garment.
When thread is wet, it is weak. So dampen the embroidery thread.
Use the tools with out too much pressure. If you are using a blade and you are exerting pressure the least it would do is unsightly puckering on the surface.
Stop the work, when you meet the stabilizer that will become visible as you remove the embroidery. Beyond that is just fabric.
You may also want to keep the area with the embroidery taunt as you work. Use an embroidery hoop or a round surface or even your finger to keep the work tight and projected.You need the threads to be visible as you work.
If you are thinking of removing embroidery (of course you are, why else are you reading this) practice your skills on a garment you do not mind loosing. Do not use that good shirt to practice your cutting skills. Never say I didn’t warn you.
If you do not have time, keep the job for some other time. This is a work that needs a lot of patience and some time.
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