How to use a seam ripper properly

(not for dummies)

Do you know how to use a seam ripper? I bet you think you do, right? We all are much more familiar with this than we would like to be.  But I am pretty sure you can find some new ideas in my guide. So, bear with me. I hope this tutorial will be useful not only for beginners but for experienced sewists also.


Table of content

  1. Best seam ripper

2. How to remove sewing stitches

3. How to use a seam ripper for different fabrics

  • Ripping seams on silk
  • Ripping seams on fur
  • Ripping seams on lace

4. How to use a seam ripper for hems

5. How to unpick 4 thread overlock stitching with a seam ripper

6. How to remove a coverstitch hem

7. How to use a seam ripper for cutting buttonholes

8. How to cut clothing tags


If you prefer to watch the tutorial go to my YouTube channel here. 

If you like to sew you need to use a seam ripper from time to time (or all the time, it depends). As for me, I may have earned a master degree in seam ripping. Even now, after 30 years of sewing I still make mistakes and need to correct them. Also, if you like upcycling (making something new from old clothes, for example) you may need to rip lots of seams to be able to use old garments.

You know, there are different methods to rip seams with a seam ripper. What method to use? It depends on the weight of your fabric, how tightly seams are stitched and stitch settings of your sewing machine. But I would advise you to always have a proper light so you can see individual stitches of the seams.

Best seam ripper

I would like to show you this very interesting seam ripper, called seam-fix. It’s not a common seam ripper – it has a thread “eraser”. I never knew such a thing existed until I bought this. Let me show you how to use it.

Hold your fabric tight and just slide the part with a red ball under the stitches you want to remove. Carefully push the seam ripper through the seam and the blade will cut the thread easily. As you see in the video clip below ripping is quite easy and fast. If you are using it this way you don’t have to worry about making holes in your fabric because the red ball protects the fabric from getting ripped.

Now we are left with many tiny pieces of thread. Before I spent so much time picking those little threads. But now I have this yellow rubber tip – it’s awesome!  I just rub the eraser over the fabric – and voila! No more picking cut pieces of thread!

How to remove sewing stitches

 This “magic eraser” seam ripper is especially useful when you have to rip long seams or decorative stitches.

Here is a stitch (check the video clip below) I made with my overcast foot, the needle was going to and back a few times, so there are plenty of stitches to be ripped. Not a problem – the seam ripper is a good tool to break the thread. But now you can see million pieces of the green thread. Picking them by hand is a tedious work. And with my “magic eraser” I will get rid of them in a few minutes. So, did you know about this kind of seam rippers?

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

Buy a "seam-fix" seam ripper here

Dritz 665 Fix Seam Ripper, Large, Purple

$9.95  in stock
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  • Dritz-Seam Fix Seam Ripper Purple
  • A seam ripper that quickly cuts threads and a rubber tip on the end that grabs and removes threads
  • This package contains one seam-fix seam ripper

Seam Fix Seam Ripper & Thread Remover #653563 ~ Cut Loose Press ~ 1 per pkg ~ Teal

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  • A tool as useful as a pair of scissors.
  • Seam ripper with sharp blade, safety ball and lid.
  • Innovative thread removers on each end.
  • Erases threads that have been ripped. Innovative plastic tip that grabs and removes thread.
  • Closes holes left from needle.

Dritz Seam-Fix Seam Ripper, Purple (2 Pack)

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BindingOffice Product
EAN ListEAN List Element: 0688944401154
Item DimensionsHeight: 160; Length: 790; Width: 310
Package DimensionsHeight: 126; Length: 776; Weight: 9; Width: 276
Package Quantity1
Product GroupHome
Size2 Pack
TitleDritz Seam-Fix Seam Ripper, Purple (2 Pack)
UPC ListUPC List Element: 688944401154

Perhaps, you should read my tutorial on finishing raw fabric edges with a regular sewing machine (without a serger)

Seam rippers can be used successfully even if you already pressed seams open. It’s even faster to rip this kind of seams.

How to use a seam ripper for different fabrics

Now let me show you how to use the seam ripper for different fabrics. In all available tutorials they just show you how to rip seams on medium or heavyweight cotton. But what if you need to rip 100% silk fabric? Or lace? Or velvet and fur? And how do you rip hems?

Ripping seams on silk

Here I have 100% silk fabric I used to make silk pillowcases. The fabric is very soft and slippery. I can try to use the seam ripper the regular way. Nope, it just doesn’t go.

Let use another way to do it. I just cut with my seam ripper every third or fourth stitch on one side of the fabric. After that, I just pull out the thread from the other side of the fabric. And after that, I brush the magic eraser tip of the seam ripper across the fabric to get rid of bits of threads.

But unfortunately not all silk fabrics can be ripped that easily. Sometimes if the sewing thread is stronger or thicker than the fabric you can break the fibers and make holes in the fabric. So I would advise you not to rip stitches if you are using silk chiffon, habotai, georgette, organza.

Ripping seams on fur

The next way of ripping is suitable for fur and velvet. These fabrics can’t be ripped the regular way with the seam ripper because we are going to cut the fabric pile. Let me show you how to rip the seam on this pink fur fabric. Count 4-5 stitches without cutting them, slide the tip of the seam ripper under the six’s stitch and cut it. Pull the thread and take the thread out of the seam.  Turn the fabric and repeat the process on the other side of the seam until you remove everything.

Ripping seams on lace

Sometimes the thread if you choose it to match the fabric is getting practically invisible. It happens when you sew lace fabric for example. So, what is the good way to rip the fabric in this case? I usually try to pull the thread a little like for making gathers and cut the thread at the other end of gathers, sometimes it’s quite long so a big piece of the thread can be taken out from the seam quite easily. I turn the fabric and repeat the process on the other side of the seam.

How to use a seam ripper for hems

Now let’s rip the hem on this silk shantung fabric. I am not sure why but the regular way to rip stitches with a seam ripper doesn’t work for silk. So I rip it like this: I pick out a few centimeters of stitches without cutting. After that, I pull the thread like for making gathers in the fabric and cut the thread at the other end of the gathers. This thread can be easily taken out. Now I have a long piece of thread on the side of the fabric and I do the same to take it out.

How to unpick 4 thread overlock stitching with a seam ripper

Did you ever try to rip serged stitches? I mean overlock stitches sewn by a serger. It only seems that it would take an awfully hard work to do. This is actually much easier than it seems. You don’t need to spend hours to do that if you made a mistake. But you have to make sure you don’t pull the wrong thread or you may have a big mess otherwise.

Here I have a four-thread overlock stitch made with two needles.  You can see these loops and here there are 2 rows of needle threads. The easiest way to remove serger stitches is to cut these needle threads. So the first thing to do is to break these two needle threads between the loops with a tip of your seam ripper.  Repeat this cutting every 3-4 stitches. Remove those cut threads.

Once you remove those needle threads the looper threads will just fall away.

The other way to do it – pick out a few centimeters of stitches without cutting the thread. Then pull this thread a little like for making gathers in the fabric and cut the thread at the other end of the seam. Take the thread out from the seam, sometimes it’s coming out quite easily. Do the same with the second needle thread. And the looper threads will again just fall away.

If you need to remove serger stitches from 3 thread overlock stitch you would do it the same way except you would only have one needle thread to cut.

By the way, do you have a serger? If not, I would advise you to buy one. I use my serger all the time – it trims, stitches and overcast the edges at the same time, it’s so much faster than my home sewing machine. And it gives me really professional results. 

Get more info on sergers

Brother Serger, 1034DX, 3/4 Thread Serger with Differential Feed, 3 or 4 Thread Capability, 1,300 Stitches Per Minute, Color-Coded Threading Guides

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  • METAL FRAME SERGER: The Brother 1034DX is a durable serger made with a metal frame
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE: A high performance 3 or 4 thread serger that can handle multiple layers of denim and other thick materials
  • 1,300 STITCHES PER MINUTE: Serge more in less time by sewing up to 1,300 stitches per minute. Control speed with the included foot pedal
  • EASY TO THREAD: Easy-to-learn with the included instructional videos, color-coded thread guides and numbered upper and lower thread loopers
  • INCLUDED ACCESSORY FEET: Standard, blind stitch and gather feet are included with the 1034DX along with a soft, protective machine cover

Janome MOD-8933 Serger with Lay-in Threading, 3 and 4 Thread Convertible with Differential Feed

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  • Janome MOD-Serger Overlock with 3 and 4 Thread Options
  • Lay-In Threading System with Color-Coded Thread Guides
  • Quick Change Rolled Hem and Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure
  • Differential Feed helps prevents stretching and puckering
  • Easy Accessible Lower Looper with Pretension Setting Slider

Janome MyLock 634D Overlock Serger, with Self Threading Lower Looper, Differential Feed, 2 needle, 2/3/4 Thread Overlock Stitching with FREE BONUS PACKAGE!

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  • 2, 3, or 4 thread serger, Lay-in thread tension dial, Threading chart, Color coded thread guides
  • Tension release device, Easily accessible lower looper guides, Changeable thread guide, Quick change rolled hem
  • Lower looper pretension setting slider, Easily retractable upper knife, Adjustable foot pressure, Snap on presser feet
  • Adjustable stitch length 1mm to 5mm, Differential feed ratio 0.5 to 2.25, Adjustable cutting width 3.1mm to 7.3mm, Maximum speed 1,300 spm
  • Bonus Kit Includes: Beading Attachment, Blind Stitch Foot, 1/8” Piping Foot, 3 Pack Needles – Serger Size 14

SINGER 14CG754 ProFinish Serger

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  • SINGER SEWING MACHINE: The SINGER ProFinish 14CG754 Serger has 2-3-4 thread capability providing a wide selection of stitch options for all types of projects with professional results every time
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  • PORTABLE SEWING MACHINE: Carry handle makes it easy to transport your serger
  • FREE ARM SEWING MACHINE: The optional free arm lets you easily sew sleeves and cuffs. At 1, 300 stitches-per-minute with automatic fabric trimming, this machine will have you zipping through projects from day one
  • 4 BUILT-IN ROLLED HEMS: Converting to the Rolled Hem sewing mode is effortless. An easy access lever moves the stitch finger in position for rolled hemming

Juki Pearl Line MO-654DE 2/3/4 Thread Serger with BONUS I WANT IT ALL PACKAGE! Includes: 8 Piece Foot Kit, Serger Tote, 8 Thread Cones, 50 Needles, Electronic Workbook, Instructional DVD!

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  • Snap-On Presser Feet
  • Disengaging loopers for fast, easy threading
  • 2/3/4 Thread options | Micro Safety Switch
  • Sewing Guage built-in for accurate seams
  • Bonus Pack Includes: Juki MO-654DE 2/3/4 Thread Overlock Serger, Juki Serger Electronic Workbook CD, Juki Serger Instructional DVD Video, 8 Foot Kit , 50 Needles, 8 Cones of MaxiLock Thread & Serger Tote Bag

How to remove a coverstitch hem

Now let me show you how to remove coverstitching. Do you know what is coverstitching? It’s a stretchable seam finish used mostly for knit garments – t-shirts, underwear, leggings, bathing suits, etc. On the right side of the fabric there are usually two rows of straight stitches (sometimes 3)  and on the wrong side of the fabric, there are loops. This is the coverstitch.

Do you have a coverstitch machine? I have a Janome coverstitch machine and I like it. I use it a lot and sometimes I make a mistake and need to unpick the stitches and redo them properly. And ripping coverstitching is quite easy and fast, it’s not a problem at all.

You can get more info and buy a coverstitch machine using my links below. Some sergers have a coverstitch option and I had a Brother serger with the coverstitch but I didn’t like to switch between 2 settings so I got rid of it and bought a Janome coverstitch machine – it’s doing ONLY coverstitch and chain stitch and works perfectly.  

Buy a coverstitch machine here

Janome Cover Pro 1000CPX Coverstitch Machine with Exclusive Bonus Bundle

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  • Bonus Includes: Elastic Gathering Foot Narrow and Wide, Size 12 Needles
  • It's the perfect companion machine for home decore, quilting and garment making. When professionals in the fashion industry finish a garment, they don’t just hem it on a sewing machine. They use a cover hem stitch. Now you can achieve the same professional finish with the CoverPro 1000CPX from Janome. The CoverPro 1000CPX innovative design is based on the marriage of an industrial-style cover hem machine and a convenient home machine.
  • 1.) EXTRA LARGE BED SPACE WITH EASY ACCESS: The largest sewing space available anywhere: 4" x 5.5". 2.) VERTICAL NEEDLE DROP: Extra space around the mechanism makes switching out needles fast and easy. 3.) GREATER VARIABLE STITCH LENGTH AND DIFFERENTIAL FEED: stitch length control (1mm- 4mm) and differential feed ratio (0.5-2.25). 4.) Finish hard-to-reach seams faster and with better handling.
  • 5.) ONE HAND THREAD CUTTER: you can clip your thread tails in one easy motion. 6.) SUPERIOR NEEDLE SYSTEM: Uses the Schmetz ELX705 needle system, It's more reliable than the HAX1SP needle used in most competitive models. 7.) PERFECT FOR ACTIVEWEAR: Save money and boost the creativity of active wear creations. 8.) SEAM TIGHTENING SYSTEM (STS): Seam Tightening System employs a spring instead of the looper thread tension dial to reduce slack in the looper thread.
  • Janome America, Inc. warrants this Janome sewing machine for a period of 25 years from the date of original purchase against defects in materials or workmanship with the exception of electrical and/or electronic equipment, which is warranted for a period of 2 years from the date of original purchase. During the first year from the date of original purchase, defective parts will be exchanged and labor will be provided free of charge.

Juki MCS-1500 Cover Stitch and Chain Stitch Machine

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  • Cover stitch. Perfect for various applications such as simple hems, sleeve cuffs and necklines. Since the stitching stretches, it is ideal for stretch fabrics
  • Chain Stitch. Since the lower thread forms a chain on the wrong side of the fabric, the stitch is strong when it is stretched making it ideal for stitching the waist and side seams of pants. It also does well as decorative stitching for necklines
  • Presser Foot Lifter. The presser foot is higher as its tip in order to allow the fabric to be easily inserted at the start of sewing. In addition, raising the presser foot lifter to the first position raises the presser foot to 10mm
  • Adjustable differential feed - Adjust the differential feed to sew beautiful finishes, even with stretch fabrics such as knits and georgette
  • Simple looper threading - The looper can easily be threaded since it can be lowered at the press of a button

So, to remove coverstitches first cut both needle threads at one point and next cut them again in about 5-6 stitches. Remove the threads. If you turn the fabric over on the other side you will see that the loops got undone. Pull the threads from the loops and identify the direction that you should be further pulling threads from to undo the whole coverstitch.  You will see that the looper threads will easily go in one direction but will not go in the other direction at all.

After you pulled a few inches of looper threads easily they may get stuck at some point especially if a wooly nylon thread was used like I have (see the video clip below). In this case, just stretch the fabric a little bit and the threads will be released again so you can continue to undo the stitch. Once you have removed the looper thread, the two needle threads can be easily pulled off the fabric also.

How else can we use the seam ripper?

We can easily cut buttonholes with it.

How to use a seam ripper for cutting buttonholes

Before cutting insert a pin to each side of the buttonhole. This will prevent you from cutting too much through the threads at the end of the buttonhole.  Pierce the fabric between stitches in the middle of the buttonhole with a seam ripper. Cut the fabric inside of the buttonhole from the center to one end and then again from the center to the other end. Trim the buttonhole with sharp scissors.

How to cut clothing tags with a seam ripper

I use my seam ripper for cutting itchy clothing labels. If you are wondering how to remove tags from clothes check out this video clip. You have to do it very carefully so you don’t make any holes in your clothes. A small mistake – and you can ruin your garment. Slowly cut each stitch with which the tag was sewn to the garment. Sometimes the tags are sewn with very strong threads and with a few rows of stitching so removing them is not that easy.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this tutorial later when you need to rip stitches and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!

Ready to take the next step in your sewing journey?Check out more step-by-step tutorials from my blog and don’t forget to share!