[ Quilting Tips ]

Ripping out seams – is there anything to like about it?

We all make mistakes. No one enjoys it, and certainly not when someone else points out our flaws!  But we know when something we have created is not quite right.  An essential tool for every quilter is the seam ripper.  Whether you own the classic blue version, an ergonomic style or an elegant wood-turned piece of art, the act of ripping out seams means we have to face our mistakes.

Various seam ripping tools seam ripper from OffTheWall Quilt






Look on the bright side…at least with thread and fabric, our mistakes are temporary.  The seam ripper is a beautiful tool, a chance to improve our work.  Once the seam ripping is over, no one even has to know it happened!

When do you rip out seams?

  1. Rip out the seam if your seam allowance is wrong.

    One crucial element in quilting is the seam allowance.  Sometimes the fabric pieces are not aligned, so there will be a weak spot in the quilt since there are very few threads holding it together.  Rip it out and start over!  If your seam allowance varies from the standard quarter inch, your block will end up too big or too small, which affects the ovreall size of the quilt and the amount of fabric you need for the project.  If your units don’t meet the specified dimensions, go ahead and rip them out.

  2. Rip out the seam if your points don’t match.

    Granted, this is open to interpretation.  I am actually a fairly lazy quilter, and lots of points get chopped off in my quilts.  Some quilters have higher OCD tendencies and strive for the utmost perfection in their piecing.  Their seam rippers might get more use than mine and that is perfectly okay.  Take a look at your quilt blocks from a few feet away – if you still see the mistake, rip it out and try again.  Some quilters live by the rule that if you can’t see it from a galloping horse, then it doesn’t matter!

  3. Rip it out if you just don’t like it.

    Sometimes our fabric choices don’t allow the block design to shine.  Maybe you cut an animal motif in half and the wrong end of the horse shows up in the center of your block! Even if a quilt block is constructed well, the seam ripper may be called upon for aesthetic reasons.  This is purely a personal decision, but life is too short to put up with “meh” quilts.

How do you use a seam ripper?

Yes, you can actually rip out seams the wrong way!  Don’t worry, the worst that can happen is perhaps an extra hole in the fabric or a slower process.

Keep the blade flat against the fabric.

The blade is sideways as it slides under the line of stitching, then you turn the blade upwards and it cuts the thread. My friend Mel has a great tutorial on using a seam ripper.

Use a small rotary cutter.

rotary cutter and seam ripper

Yes, a rotary cutter can quickly rip out seams!  I demonstrate in this video from my Facebook page.

Seam rippers are like doctors: we appreciate having them close by but we hope we don’t see them very often!

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Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher


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