Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tips and Tricks for Picking Out Stitches

 Ripping out stitches is part of the process of quilting.  No matter how seasoned of a quilter you are, you're going to make a mistake every once in awhile.  The first tip to ripping out stitches is a good seam ripper.  In my early years of sewing/quilting I would purchase the cheapest seam ripper available.  I've learned that spending a  couple more dollars is worth every penny.  Right now my favorite ripper is the Singer Comfort Grip Seam Ripper.  It fits nicely in my hand and it is as it states....comfortable for me to use.  The larger white rubber handle makes holding the ripper much easier.  The rubber also helps to remove stitches after they are cut and you have pulled the fabrics apart.  Lay the rubber handle on the stitch and pull.  It will grab the loose thread and remove it from the fabric.

My next favorite ripper is the one below.  I've been using it for years and have no idea the brand.  It has a nice large handle that is easy to grip.  

This one is used primarily for smaller stitches such as when I'm quilting on the frame.  As you can see in the picture below the point is much smaller and so is the blade part of the ripper.  I love it when I need it but I don't use it unless I have to.  The little point and super sharp blade can cause some damage to a quilt if you aren't careful.  Yes, I've accidentally cut a hole in my quilt with this little bugger. 

In the last few years this lighted seam ripper has been all the rage.  Why?  I'm not sure.  For me it was hard to use.  My best quilting buddy bought it for me because she love it so much.  

Sure sometimes I need magnification for picking out stitches but I prefer to use a larger telescoping lighted magnifier like the one below.  

So what have I been ripping?  Everything on the design wall looks great, right?  I can't tell you how much this quilt tickles me.  I love it!  The pattern is On Ringo Lake by Bonnie Hunter you can find it in her online shop here.  I call mine On Podunk Pond.

After putting all the blocks and sashings on the design wall I was left with these units.  Which is what I thought I was supposed to have....WRONG.

Each block has four of the units, one in each corner.

My error was not reading the pattern correctly.  I remember going back and cutting more yellow because I had several red and green units leftover.  Lesson learned, read the pattern a little more carefully before thinking she or I had made an error.  Her pattern was correct, I was wrong. 

 The extra green and red units are to used for the inset triangles because the quilt is set on-point.  It's an easy fix.  I just need to rip out those stitches very carefully.  The fabric is cut on the bias so stretching them out of shape can happen very easily when handling them to much.  Thankfully I starched the dickens out of my fabrics before cutting and piecing.  Starching helps reduce stretching and fraying.  It also allows me to finger press with great precision.  Finger pressing makes picking out stitches easier.   Setting the seam with an iron pushes the stitches in to the fabric and is supposed to make your piecing more accurate. I almost never use an iron when piecing my quilt.  When the top is complete, if needed, I press the entire quilt before quilting.

If possible, when ripping out stitches I try rip from the side with the least amount of stitches.  I've cut the threads on the piece below but it's hard for you to see. 

So for demonstration purposes only I'm going to pick these stitches from the red and green side.  This allows you to see what I'm doing.  Folding the unit with right sides together as it was when I made the seam makes it easier to get the point of the ripper under the stitches. In the next picture you'll see why. There's no reason press these with an iron.  Leave the crease in the fabric, pressing will only push the thread father down into the fabric and make it harder to get your ripper under the stitch.

If you look below you'll see how leaving the unit pressed makes a ridge on the fabric.  This ridge is in the way of the seam ripper that's why I folded the yellow fabric back as in the picture above.   Then I cut every 4th or 5th stitch.  If you look closely you'll see the cut stitches.  Since I'm working near other stitches on this side(on the green fabric) I'm very careful to not slice the threads on the unit I'm trying to save.  Ripping a stitch or two before and after the intersecting threads I don't want to cut.

Next pull them apart carefully and slowly.  If it doesn't want to pull apart don't force it.  Instead go back and cut a couple more stitches in that area. 

Free at last! With just a few loose threads.  Some quilters would use a lint roller or tape to remove the loose threads.  I DO NOT.  This can cause fraying.  I pick out them with my fingers or use the rubber on the seam ripper handle to help remove them from the fabric.

On the back of the other piece is one long thread.  Give it a little tug and like magic it will help pull out the little cut threads from your fabric.  See them hanging onto the thread?

Of course it almost always leaves one or two small threads behind but it's easy to remove them with the seam still pressed back.

A quick press and the triangle is ready to use in another project. 

From start to finish it took about 20 minutes to disassemble and remove stray threads.  Nothing looks out of shape and that makes me happy.  

I see many quilters ripping out seams by pulling apart the fabrics and clipping the threads on the inside seam or the "V" as shown below.  This can distort the fabric and make it harder to work with after you get the seams out.  Take your time and it will save you time and heartache later.

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  1. Great post! I bought on Ringo Lake pattern after seeing yours. I had it in mind for awhile but seeing your post gave me the push. Still figuring out my color palette for it. I think I like BH's mysteries after the reveal, although the one I did was fun. I just didn't like it when I finished it :)
    Love your blog!

  2. The one point you did not mention was that seam rippers do get dull.....every decade or so at the lest...lol

  3. One thing I've never been able to figure out is why manufacturers usually seem to think that a larger handle needs to have the larger working bit. I'd love to find larger handles with the smaller ripper part!

    As to dull rippers - I've gently used a round needle file or fish hook sharpener with good results.

  4. Thanks for the great tutorial on ripping with out ripping the fabric!


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