How to Remove and Replace Sewn Stitches

  • 01 of 06

    Tools to Remove Sewn Stitches

    Seam ripper
    Joseph Clark / Getty Images

    Removing sewn stitches is not something anyone wants to do but knowing how can save you and your fabric from damage.

    The sewing tool that you need to remove stitches is a seam ripper. Seam rippers come in a variety of shapes and forms and some are safer than others. Most sewing machines come with the type of seam ripper that is shown here.

    A seam ripper is designed to do the job safely, like no other sharp tool can do. One point of a seam ripper is sharp while the other has a safety tip coating it which prevents unintentional injuries and prevents ripping the fabric.

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  • 02 of 06

    How to Start Removing Stitches

    How to Start Removing Stitches
    Debbie Colgrove

    There are many reasons to remove stitching. Perhaps you have sewn the fabric with the wrong sides together or maybe you joined incorrect pieces together. But the most common reason for removing sewn stitches is that they are not straight. When that happens, it is only necessary to remove the stitches that aren't straight, rather than all of the sewing.

    Start at one end of the stitches you would like to remove. Insert the sharp tip of the seam ripper between the thread and the fabric, keeping the seam ripper perpendicular to the fabric.

    Gently pull the seam ripper upward away from the fabric to cut the thread. Repeat at the opposite end of the stitching you want to remove.

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  • 03 of 06

    Removing Stitching

    Removing Stitching
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Keep the side of the fabric that you cut the ends of the thread on top or toward you.
    • Move the seam ripper a few stitches in away from the cut thread, in the area you want to remove the stitching. Use the seam ripper to tug the thread out of the fabric.
    • Most of the time, the thread will stay intact and pull out of the sewn stitches but it might break. If the thread breaks, move to the stitches between the two cut thread ends and try tugging it again.
    • If you have sewn with quality thread, many times you can pull the thread, as if you were gathering the fabric, to remove the area of stitching. Continue until you reach the end of the stitching you want to remove.
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  • 04 of 06

    The Other Side of the Removed Stitching

    The Other Side of the Removed Stitching
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Turn the fabric over, if the thread still appears to be sewn, rubbing the area will usually bring the thread to the surface of the fabric. If the thread remains in the fabric, use the seam ripper to lift the thread out of the fabric.
    • Cut the thread at the beginning and ending of the stitch removal. Stitches that remain in the fabric can be removed as described in the previous step.
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  • 05 of 06

    Be Careful

    Be Careful
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Remember that a seam ripper is not designed to plow through stitching. Sometimes you will confront stubborn stitches. Remain patient as plowing through those stubborn stitches is apt to cut your fabric and render the fabric unusable.
    • Start removing the stitches as previously described. At an area where the stitches are removed, open the seam so that the stitches are exposed in the seam line. Use the tip of the seam ripper to cut the stitches in the seam line. Pull the seam-ripper away from the fabric rather than toward the remaining stitches. It takes more time than plowing the seam ripper through the stitching but it is much less likely to cut the fabric.
    • If a cut in the fabric does happen and it is not in an area that is visible, immediately use fusible lightweight interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric with the cut closed as closely as possible. Waiting to do this step can cause the edges of the cut to fray and the cut will always be visible. The cut will weaken the fabric no matter what, but in most cases, the fusible interfacing can mend the cut if it is inside the item you are sewing.
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  • 06 of 06

    Resewing the Removed Stitching/Repairing a Seam

    Repair a Seam
    Debbie Colgrove

    To resew an area of stitching that has been removed, re-pin or baste the area that is now not sewn. Insert the sewing machine needle in the existing stitching a few stitches back from the removed stitching area.

    Sew until you reach the end of the area where the stitches were removed and sew over a couple of stitches the same as where you started. Lastly, trim the tail threads.