Have you found yourself happily chain piecing away only to get to the pressing table and discover your seams are not quiiiite matching up as you wanted?
And all that after you’ve taken the time to pin everything carefully into place.
Whether you’re a new or seasoned quilter, these things happen to all of us. This is why having a seam ripper on hand is an important notion in any quilter’s toolbox (see my Top 10 Notions to get started quilting). But there are times when busting out your seam ripper isn’t the right choice. This is why I wanted to share 3 things to consider before you rip a seam.
I remember taking a quilty quiz and getting the Seam Ripper as my quilting personality, but I’m not willy nilly about my seam ripping habits. I’m actually quite calculated about it, here’s why:
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1. FABRIC TEARS
First up, fabric tears.
Yup! I’ve had it happen AND I was working on a commission when it happened.
Cue the panic.
Thankfully, I managed to eke out enough fabric to fix it, but it was a good lesson to learn – what if I didn’t have extra fabric on hand? If you can wait and order more, great, but what if you’re on a deadline. Or, have a gift you need to finish in time for Christmas? Disastrous, right?
So, before I rip a stitch, I first consider whether I have backup fabric in case things go awry.
2. TIME INVESTMENT
Second, ripping could also mean a lot more extra work to ‘replace’ that damaged block/ unit/ strip. Consider the time investment required to get back to moving your quilt ahead. Especially if you’re working on a timeline, like a quilt for your best friend’s wedding. Ask yourself whether you have sufficient time to fix the mistake without causing yourself undue stress.
3. HOW OFF IS OFF?
And, lastly, but definitely important is “How much is this really going to bug you?”. If it’s slightly off, I often let it go. Otherwise, I’d be unpicking alllll the time and that would kill my joy. So, consider how much that quilty imperfection is really going to bother you in the grand scheme of your quilt.
TYPES OF SEAM RIPPERS
When I started sewing all the way back in 2011, I thought there was only one kind of seam ripper. Little did I know all the options this basic sewing tool comes in.
Here are just a few that I’ve tried and/or my quilty friends swear by:
My original seam ripper is *this basic one I picked up as part of my basic sewing kit. I’m happy to report that 10 years later she’s still going strong 😊
I’ve had my eye on this *ergonomic one as so many of my quilting friends rave about theirs.
This funky *purple one has a dual action of not only ripping seams, but that nifty rubber cover acts as a loose thread remover. Love a dual-action sewing tool!
If you want maximum slicing capabilities, then look no further than this surgical-grade one (also available in this fun *pink version). Seriously, this one is sharp. Your stitches don’t stand a chance. You only need the slightest pressure to slice through your stitches, so be mindful of how you proceed.
TOP SEAM RIPPING TIP – 3 MAX
While seam ripping is a natural occurrence and necessary evil (ha!) in any quilting practice, over the years, I’ve set some ground rules for myself.
To keep my sanity at bay, I have a maximum of 3 unpicking rule.
Sometimes pieces are just never going to line up or the quilty fairies are just not on your side that day! I say let it be what it will be.
If by the third time of seam ripping and restitching my block hasn’t hanged the results, then I accept that I either need to go back to square one and start with fresh pieces or just accept that this one block won’t line up as precisely as it should. There’s no right or wrong here, this is your quilt journey. If you want to keep seam ripping until it’s just right, then go for it! Just keep in mind that the more you unpick the same seam, the more likely you are to distort your block.
For more quilty inspiration, check out:
- Top 10 Tips to Improve your Quilting on a Domestic Sewing Machine
- How to Bury Threads
- Best Tips for New Quilters and How to Get that Elusive Scant 1/4″ Seam Allowance
I like to think of quilting as a balancing act between wanting things to be as ‘perfect’ as possible while also enjoying the stitching journey. Having to repeat the same step several times to move forward is a sure-fire way to kill my sewjo, so I like to be mindful of how and when I use my seam ripper.
Do you have any seam ripping tips or philosophies you live by? Share them in the comments below 😊
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