Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Subtle Art of Un-Sewing

We all do it. Merrily you sew along on your precious Christmas gift, until you realize you have sewn all of the white blocks where you should have sewn the red ones. After spitting out a four letter word too low for the children to hear, you search through your overflowing basket of sewing tools until you find it. Your seam ripper. Some of them are white, some of them are blue; I even know a lady who bought one originally intended to don a surgical table. You suddenly find yourself knee deep in pieces, parts, and teeny threads.

Years ago when I first began sewing heavily I ripped the way my Mother taught me. I pulled each piece apart at the seam, ripping the threads as I go to separate my blocks. There is nothing wrong with this method of ripping and I know many ladies who have been quilting twice as long as me who still do it that way. But I should explain that my Mother is a seamstress and so the seam allowances she works with are 5/8" as opposed to us quilters who are working with 1/4". The problem I encounter with ripping the way our Mothers taught us is that by the time I'm finished the seam edge fabric is bare and distorted from all the stress of being tugged and prodded every which way. I simply do not have enough seam allowance to be torturing my nine dollar per yard fabric in this manner! I have even heard some quilters express that they avoid ripping at all (well, of course we all do that, often without success) so that the strength and quality of their quilt will not suffer.

Really, it probably is not that important. I'm very often too lazy to rip at all. At times I would much rather change my quilt design than rip it apart to do it all over again. But the older I get the less rebellious I become, and instead of breaking rules I find myself wanting to create a quality piece of art. Some day when I muster the courage and find the time I might even like to enter a show or two. So here is a little tip I discovered to make ripping not only easier, but much less traumatic for your fabric.

Now I usually use an inexpensive Dritz seam ripper from Jo-Ann Fabrics, but I murdered mine trying to fix my featherweight. I will save that story for another post. Anyhow, in a fix this Fons & Porter thread clipper will do until I can get to the store for a new ripper.

Instead of beginning by pulling the two pieces apart, I go along the seam I'd like to rip on the outside, and every three or four stitches I break one.


If I have taken my time the pieces just smoothly pull apart without putting much if any stress on the fabric.

Now I have a touch of carpal tunnel, so by this point my wrists are usually beginning to ache and my fingers are a little tingly. So I am left with this...

a nightmare for sore fingers! Instead of spending my precious sewing time pulling every itty bitty thread off of this fabric, I pull out my scotch or masking tape.

The itty bitty threads will be snatched up by the tape, and all you will be left to pull is the single long thread underneath.

See - cat hair and all!

5 comments:

Jen in NY said...

Nice! I "unsew" that way too, but never heard of using tape to catch those little threads. Great idea!

katie said...

TAPE what a great idea. I do my share of corrections, but never thought of the tape.

thank you

Jean said...

Don't we all hate it!!! I unsew the way you do, that is the best for me...though I try to do it as little as possible!

I love the little candle mats, so cute and a nice gift. They would make cute tablemats too.

Welles Tan said...

interesting blogging!

Quilt Rat said...

An "unsewing" tutorial. Excellent.

I love the way you have shown the steps to easy un-piecing