Saturday, November 3, 2012


Do you unsew?  Or unstitch?  Or rip seams?  Or pick out threads? That thing we do when the needle and thread went the wrong way or did something we didn't intend?  It probably has other names, too.

I learned to unsew not long after I learned to sew.  I was about five when my mother showed me how to sew on a button, then put a needle and thread into my hand.  In the process of attaching the button I realized there was some problem:  with the thread coming out on the bottom, I had moved it around to the top and sent the needle back down again instead of coming up from the bottom.  I attempted to put the thread end of the needle back into the whole from whence it came.  Somehow I succeeded and was able to fix my mistake and begin sewing properly again.

My father had a watch repair business in our home (in addition to his regular job).  When people came to drop off or pick up watches they came in through our front door, walked through a section of our living room, and into the room where my father worked.

Once when I was still new to sewing I was sitting in our living room unsewing another button when a man came to pick up his timepiece.  He greeted me, stopped to watch me, squatted, then asked what I was doing.  I explained that I needed to get the needle and thread back through the hole.  He laughed.  He told me it wasn't possible, that I would need to cut the thread and begin again.  Unfortunately, he left before I succeeded at my task or he would have learned that it was, indeed, possible.  Not easy, but possible.

My mother used a needle to unpick threads until she became acquainted with a seam ripper.  She once used it unwisely and ripped not just the threads in the seam but the fabric on one side of the seam.  Knowing the power of a seam ripper, she was much more careful from then on.

These days I use different methods to unsew.  I usually use a seam ripper, a little tool that's probably well known to everyone who has ever sewn on a sewing machine.  Sometimes I use small, sharp scissors to cut the threads if the stitches are large enough and I'm able to begin unstitching at the end of the seam.

Now I have a new unsewing tool, recently introduced to me by Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville.  I was watching Bonnie on Quiltcam one evening when she was ripping out a seam.  I can't remember if another viewer asked her what she was using or if she instinctively knew that some would want to know.  She turned to the camera and explained that she was using an eyebrow shaper:  not too sharp but sharp enough to cut the threads without cutting the fabric.  She told us that they came three to a pack for under $3.00.  At Wal-Mart, in the cosmetics area.

I like tools as much as the next gal so when on an errand at Wal-Mart I went over to the cosmetics area and found them.  I would have preferred to buy just one until I knew if I liked them, but the eyebrow shapers came three to a pack, so three I bought.   I wasn't sure I liked them until I realized it takes a one way sawing motion - downward only, for me at least.  Perhaps they work differently for different people.  They're very effective and, I think, less risky than a seam ripper.

I'm pleased to have one more tool in my arsenal of unsewing equipment.  The less I need to use any of them, though, the better.

Do you unsew?  What tools do you use?


  1. I unsew with a seam ripper or occasionally a sissor, but I may have to check out that eyebrow shaper!

    1. I hope you like the eyebrow shaper if you decide to try one. Most impressive to me is that it doesn't cut fabric! Thanks for visiting, Nina.

  2. I have used both a seam ripper and scissors, and several times have had "accidents" and ended up cutting the fabric. Ouch. I put eyebrow shapers on my Wal-Mart list. Thanks for sharing a great hint!

    1. When my mom cut the skirt she was sewing I have no idea how she repaired it. I think she cut about 4 inches - all in about half a second! If you try the eyebrow shapers, I hope you like them, Karen.


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