Reverse Sewing

I love that phrase.  Sounds so much better than ‘ripping’ or ‘unpicking’.  Steph was discussing the merits of certain seam rippers / quick unpicks over at her blog 3 Hours Past.

I’ve ordered and received one of her Cake Roll Kits having fallen in love in January when she was tweeting about them.  She’s carefully provided everything you need to make a robust sewing roll as well as some of the tools to go inside, including a ripper.  Generally I don’t travel with my sewing but there are occasions when it’d be handy to heft some pins, markers, needles etc (bridesmaids dresses loom large here…) and I loved the idea and robustness of the design.  Plus it’s a fun mini project and sometimes I need those for a bit of instant gratification!

Anyway, back to seam ripping.  In the comments of Steph’s post there were a number of discussions about preferred seam rippers and that some people use rotary cutters to slice open seams (in quilts I think rather than garments?)!  There were also discussions about replacing them so that the blade stays sharp as well as the psychology of ripping out or reverse sewing.  Mrs Mole uses a No12 scalpel blade (which is curved) when ripping out the seams on wedding dresses (no pressure there, then!).

As you know, my Peony needed some reverse engineering and shortly after reading Steph’s post that is exactly what I was doing.  Reverse Sewing.  And I realised that my seam ripper was a little bit blunt.  I prattle on about sewing to my Mother occasionally and I think we got around to the subject via bridesmaid dresses (gonna be a common theme around here for a while, sorry!) and I mentioned I needed to get a new unpicker.  I explained to my bemused Mother what it was and she replied “Oh, like a suture cutter.” (she’s a nurse).  Yep, that’s exactly what they’re like and a little light bulb went off.

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I have a love affair with Gingher products and their seam ripper is a thing of beauty, but it also looks exactly like a suture cutter; a small curved blade.  A short Google adventure ensued and resulted in the expenditure of £20 and this is what I bought:

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Swann Morton No3 type stainless steel scalpel handle
100 Suture blades that fit the above
Two blade removal boxes

Now, my usual quick unpick destruction rate is about once every six months.  I don’t spend more than about £3 on one, so this outlay is about four years worth of unpickers, but they’ll last me about 50 years!  At £0.15 each I’m happy that each project will get a new needle and a new unpicking blade (I always have to rip something…).

These little beasties are super sharp and as a result I’ve changed the way I reverse a seam.  I used to cut the bobbin thread and pull as much out as I could.  Now I just cut every few stitches and pull the whole thread out on the other side of the seam.  Like this.  A bit of tape picks up the tufts of cut thread.  With the length the scalpel handle provides and the sharpness of the blade the ergonomics work for me and it’s also faster than pulling the bobbin thread.  It also doesn’t stress the fabric in the same way, if at all.

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The only caution I’d give about this tool is due to how sharp they are.  If you have small people of curious creatures you do NOT want to leave this where they can find it as the blade can’t be retracted and they don’t come with a lid.  The handle I’ve chosen is magnetic so I’m going to attach a magnet where boy can’t reach and keep it on that.

You also want to be careful when attaching and removing the blades as again – scalpel blades are sharp.  So sharp that you don’t actually notice you’ve cut yourself (I just had to test it on the pad of my thumb, didn’t I!).  So I’d really really really recommend getting one of the removal and storage boxes.  They’re not expensive and it’ll keep you and everyone else safe from the blades.

I’m curious though, have you ever taken something and used it for a purpose for which it was never designed or envisaged?  And how do you reverse sew?  Do you cut each stitch, pull out the bobbin thread or plough between the two pieces of fabric?

Finally, Happy Valentines day to you all; whether you’re loved up, drowing in red roses or avoiding this most Hallmark of holidays like the plague.  We’ve nixed the cards etc but a nice dinner will be made tonight and maybe a movie…  If I don’t fall asleep!

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29 thoughts on “Reverse Sewing

  1. I stick with my trusty little hemline seam ripper, but I replace it at least every year, the damage a blunt seam ripper can do is not worth talking about. As for the technique, it depends on what I’m ripping out! Mostly i loosen the bobbin threads and then pull them out. I hate picking out all the fluff that ensues if you just rip through the seam. Good luck with your box of lethal weapons!

    1. Thank you! I’ve just cut buttonholes with it too and had so much control! I know what you mean about blunt rippers. Too much force and what was a precision job is now a massive tear that needs repairing!

  2. Very clever, though I don’t have enough faith in my abilities to use one of those without injuring myself! I just got a new seam ripper with my machine and was surprised by how much sharper it was than my old one. But now I’m so used to a slightly blunt one as I used it to ‘hook’ the threads and pull them out as well as to cut and the new one just cuts. However I think I may have developed a ‘wrong’ way of using the seam ripper, if that’s possible!

  3. Cool! I know if I had that I’d spend more time in A&E than in the sewing loft. Clumsy, much?
    Happy Valentine’s day to you too. Dinner and a movie at home for us too. I’d much rather do that than face the world on a day like this….far too busy.

  4. that’s a great idea for a seam ripper! i have acquired an old pair of needle drivers (another surgical tool) which have proven so handy when turning smallish things right-side-out (it fits in where my hand won’t, and works so much better than a safety pin), and they’re pretty good for poking corners out. so are my sadly unused paintbrushes…
    i’ve found that some dollar stores sell surgical instruments, so folks may find scalpel handles and clamps/needle drivers there.

    when i’m reverse-sewing, i usually try to pick and then pull the bobbin thread, though sometimes it’s easier to pick between the layers.

  5. That’s a deadly looking device…. it’s any wonder the seams don’t leap out of the fabric of their own accord upon being approached by it! LOL. Seriously, I manage to cut myself with my rotary blade on a regular enough basis that I probably shouldn’t have something like this lying around, but it’s a dynamite idea – very cool! 🙂

  6. My goodness, I got the shivers about slicing myself just by reading how sharp the blade is!! I’m sticking to the conventional seam rippers!!

  7. Wow, a scalpel! I didn’t know you could buy one if you were not in the medical field. I think I would be afraid of cutting the fabric with these. My seam rippers, however, get dull VERY quickly.

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