Sewing tip: Unpicking

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know by now that unpicking is not my favourite part of the sewing process. When you don’t like unpicking you basically have two options:

  1. Don’t unpick and accept sloppy seams as your sewing signature.
  2. Unpick when necessary.

I aim to have perfectly matched seams and great looking topstitching in my garments and as a consequence I have to accept that:

sewing + perfection = unpicking

Over time I’ve learned to unpick quickly and selectively and this helps to make unpicking less of a chore.

I’ve found that the fastest way to unpick a seam is to rip every 5th or so stitch on one side of the seam (don’t count, you want to do this quickly, if it is the 4th or the 6th stitch you’ll also be fine!). In the places where you backstitched you’ll want to unpick more stitches. After you’ve done this for the entire seam, you can then turn to the other side of the seam and place your seam ripper under the thread. You should be able to pull out the whole thread on this side of the seam in one go. All that is left now is to remove the smaller pieces of thread on the side you unpicked first and you are ready to redo the seam.

image showing how to quickly unpick stitches with a seam ripper

If I’ve sewn a seam and there is just a tiny little pucker somewhere while the rest of the seam is absolutely perfect I am not going to unpick the whole seam. I’ll only do a couple of centimetres around the pucker so that I can smooth that area out and resew it. I’ll backstitch and partially overlap the original seam. I used to feel that this was a bit like cheating, but I’ve seen several Craftsy instructors use this technique as well so I refuse to feel guilty about it. Selective unpicking will save you a lot of time and a lot of frustration.

image showing how to remove a pucker through selective unpicking

Do you have any other tips that make unpicking more enjoyable?

October 3, 2013

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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  1. dragonpearlthreads

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has to do this on a regular basis! I find it is a much better experience to add a glass of wine and a good show to the mix while unpicking mistakes. Then I can do the task with a bit of a distraction and it seems to go faster especially if it is a large area I need to take out!

    • Emmely

      I am pretty sure that people who claim they never have to unpick are either lying or completely uncritical of the work they turn out! Distraction is a good strategy as well, I often do handsewing tasks while watching tv and I might have to try that for my next major unpicking event as well.

  2. ukcitycrafter

    I’m not sure if this tip makes unpicking more enjoyable – I think that might be asking too much! My tip is to unpick straight away even if you don’t then re-sew it until later – at least the worst part is over 🙂

    • Emmely

      Yes, that is something that I should do. Now, I often get so discouraged that I sometimes leave the project for weeks if I have to do some serious unpicking.


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