I've seen so many people get discouraged because their very first attempt at sewing wasn't "perfect." My friends, there's no such thing as perfect! I'm going to say that again: there is NO such thing as perfect. I make mistakes all the time. Those mistakes do not end up in my booth for sale, but they prove that I'm constantly learning and that a mistake is not the end of the world.
One of the most beautiful things about sewing is that you can redo almost anything. How many hobbies let you do that? Once you glue a photo on a scrapbook page, that's it, sister. You're ripping things to redo it. When you've used orange instead of blue for the sky on a painting--that's a tough one to work around. But, when you make a crooked seam? Attach something upside down? Read the directions wrong? Get distracted? Rip it out and start again! Lovely!
The seam ripper is one of my favorite tools. I'm going to show you some uses today which you may not have considered before.
The green one on the bottom is my favorite. It's a more comfortable shape and size for my hands, plus the light green is a rubber-like grip material that helps me control my movements better. The top one is what you are likely to find in any pre-packaged sewing kit. The upgrade is worth it, take my word. There are also some that light up. For seam repair during a blackout?? Go with the green one if you don't already have one.
The most obvious way to use a seam ripper is to, well, rip out seams. You know that already. Sometimes it's called "unpicking" which you may see in books or online tutorials. It's pretty straightforward: carefully "unsew" a seam that you want to "re-sew" by pulling out each individual stitch, one at a time.
Having the long tip on the top and the red knob pointed down helps me to pull out only the stitches I want pulled out. There is a very sharp blade in the "U" of the seam ripper that will not just cut your threads. It will also cut any fabric or threads of your fabric that it meets. I find if I point that bit down while working on a seam, there is little to no chance that I will accidentally cut something. If I want to snip a thread, flip it around and cut instead of pulling out bulkier thread snips or scissors.
Another really handy way to use a seam ripper is to open up buttonholes once you've sewn them in place. The buttonhole function on your sewing machine basically stitches an enclosed but really narrow rectangle of zig zags.
You need to cut the fabric open to create the hole part of a button hole. Fabric scissors are so big and clunky that it's difficult to create the opening without causing collateral damage. Thread snips or an exacto knife work pretty well, but I've found a seam ripper's point and that handy sharp U-shaped blade work as if they were designed solely for this pupose.
You can carefully use the tip of a seam ripper to make turned out corners of a project crisp. Be careful not to poke holes when trying this! Very very gently tug on the corner you are trying to make sharp.
The last trick that I'm going to show you requires a bit of caution because of that sharp U-shaped part of the seam ripper. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty handy.
I use my seam ripper instead of pinning when I'm topstitching certain things.
Gently, I insert the very tip of the seam ripper into the seam and tug. Just a bit. This makes the seam crisp as I sew the topstitch, making for a very nice neat finish. While you need to stop every so often to reposition the seam ripper, I find this a much quicker method of getting a crisp seam than to pin everything and stop to remove all those pins, one by one, as I get to them with the sewing machine.
There you have it--how I use my seam ripper for much more than just ripping out seams. Happy stitching!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.