Another Way to Rip Seams

 

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If you’re going to make anything, it’s fairly certain that you’ll have to un-make and re-make part of it at some point.  It’s not bad, it’s just part of the process.  In sewing, this involves seam ripping.  It’s an essential skill for makers, and especially those who are interested in refashioning, repairing, upcycling, etc.

Although some folks rip stitches fast and furious with razor blades, I have always stuck to my trusty seam ripper.  Recently I’ve been using it in a slightly different way on straight and zig-zag seams, with really good results.

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The photo at left shows classic seam-ripper technique.  Slide the seam ripper into the seam, use the pointed part to pick up a stitch or two, and slide them into the blade in the middle of the ripper to cut.  Once you have a couple of stitches cut, pull the seam open and you will be able to see and cut more without harming the fabric.

 

 

 

seam ripping 2014 1For this technique though, everything stays flat, which is especially nice if you have a delicate fabric or it’s hard to see the stitches in the seam.  Use the ripper to cut a stitch, and then another one 1 -2 inches away, creating a small thread section with cut ends.  Then use the long prong of the ripper to pull a few stitches up and out of the back thread without cutting them.  You may need to do this one by one if the stitches are small.  The object is to get a little tail that’s long enough to hang onto with your fingers.

 

Once you get a tail, grab it with one hand, hold the fabric with the other, and pull the the thread section out in one go!  Pulling close to the plane of the fabric, instead of straight up, will make it easier.

 

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If you flip the fabric to the back you’ll see that the stitches on the other side, which were held in place by the ones you just pulled out, are now free.  All you have to do is cut a stitch a little way down the seam and you can use the free thread to pull out another section.  Every time you pull out a section, flip the fabric over and you’ll find a tail ready to pull out the next section.  I find this quite fast, and it also creates fewer tiny thread ends that you’ll have to clean up.

 

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If you are ripping out a specific part of a seam, such as between the pins here, you may want to have a longer thread to work with when you get to your stopping point, so you can tie a knot to hold it in place.  In this case, pull up the last inch or two of stitches without cutting either side.  It may help to turn the seam ripper so the stitches don’t slide into the cutting part.  Once a stitch is loosened, you can also use your fingers, the whole handle of the seam ripper, or another tool to pull the stitches up without cutting them.

 

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When you get to the new end of the seam, pull on the thread to get the last stitch from the back side to pop through onto your side.  Slide the point of the seam ripper into this new stitch and pull it up so that both ends are on the same side.

Tie a knot or use backstitch, and bury the ends if they’ll show.

 

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Again, this last part is only necessary if the end of the old seam won’t be crossed by or stitched over with a new seam, and so you need to secure the end.

This way of seam ripping works great on zig-zag seams, too, although it won’t work with seams where the thread crosses back over itself.  Sometimes I’ll get lucky and pull the right thread on serged seams, but I don’t have a sure-fire formula for those yet.  Maybe you do?

I’m sure that others use this technique, I just discovered it recently and I’ve been using it all the time …

 

How to Sew on a Button

And make a thread shank, for a better-working button.

 

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As promised, complete directions!  Anyone can do this.  All you need is some thread and a sharp needle.  Start with a piece of thread about as long your arm, and put it through the needle so you have a double length.

Start by anchoring your thread.  The conventional way to do this is by tying a knot in the end.  But sometimes a big knot on one side is too conspicuous or would catch on things.  Instead try backstitching.  A backstitch is a stitch that makes the thread loop back on itself, it’s very secure.  On the wrong side, slide the thread between the fabric layers and come up near where you want the button to be.  Pull the needle though, leaving a thread tail at the start.  Take a small backstitch.  Put the needle out nearby, then take another backstitch in the opposite direction.  The thread is ready to go!  Pop the needle up to the right side where you want the button.

 

sewing on a button 1Click on any of the photos to enlarge if you’d like.

 

The next part is pretty much self-explanatory, except for one thing.  Use a spacer to make room for a thread shank underneath the button (ignore this part if your button already has a metal shank on the back—just stitch through that).  This makes room for the fabric (where the buttonhole is) to fit underneath the button.  I often use a toothpick which I keep in my sewing stuff.  You may want a bigger or smaller spacer depending on the thickness of the fabric and how curved the button is.  Just sew over the spacer as you go in and out through the holes of the button.

 

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Go through each part of the button a couple of times.  Pull out the spacer and pull up on the button, see how there’s now extra thread underneath?  Bring the needle up from the bottom under the button.

 

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Wind the thread a few times around the thread bars under the needle—but not too tightly.  If you make this whole thing too tight, the sides of the holes in the button can rub and wear through the thread.  Stab the needle straight through the thread shank a couple of times from different directions.

 

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Secure the thread either just under the button, or on the back side with a couple more backstitches, then trim the thread tails.

 

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So the next time a button pops off your shirt, you don’t need to send it off to Mom or stuff it in the back of your drawer, you can fix it yourself!  Feel free to post other button questions, too …

 

Fix a Ripped Out Button (or Other Small Hole)

 

 

This is a sweater/jacket I picked up at the thrift store the other day, I thought it would be good for our upcoming ski trip to Bend (and also because I’m cold basically all winter long).  Only one or two small problems, the original buttons are some crazy unique things, more like a snap with one large flared button side and a flat back, and two of them are missing, leaving holes where they ripped out.

But small holes like that are pretty easy to fix, especially since the result will be covered by a new button.

The fabric here is a sturdy (not very stretchy) knit.  I happen to have some sturdy black knit fabric to cut little circles from, but if I didn’t I would use a woven rather than something too thin or stretchy.  The fixed place is going to have lots of stitches in it and not be very stretchy anyway.

The easiest way to get the patches to stay where you want them is to baste them in.  (Basting just means stitching that’s not permanent, but meant to hold something in place while you sew.)

 


 

Because I want this spot to be super sturdy, I put one small patch directly behind the hole and another one on top to back a larger area (both on the wrong side of the jacket).  I used contrasting thread for basting, but you may want to try matching, it will make pulling out the smaller stitches later not as necessary.

Next, smooth the sides of the hole down and as much back where they came from as possible, and sew using your machine.  If the fabric has a distinct color on each side, you can use different color top and bobbin thread – I used cream on top and black in the bobbin.  (A picture of me sewing this would show nothing, since it’s all under the foot!)  I used a short stitch length and went back and forth over the hole, mainly in the same direction as the knit ribs of the fabric, and then a bit side to side.  Make sure to catch all the raveling edges.  When you’re done it should look something like this:

 

 

Pull out the basting threads, bury the sewing thread ends, and you’re done!  Next week: how to sew on the button.

One final note, only one of these cuffs had the button come off.  But as you can see, the other one is about to go.  And besides, it will look more natural if they’re symmetrical.  Sometimes it just feels good to pull something off with pliers – rawr!

 


 

Got something you would like to fix?  Not sure how?  Leave a comment!