Saving 9 – methods for removing stitches

Saving 9 – methods for removing stitches

Bonnie Landsberger

Byline: Bonnie Landsberger

Quick Stitch Removal

A fact of embroidery is that eventually, for various reasons, you’ll run into situations when you have to remove stitches. This can be a frustrating and time-consuming task, but if you have the right tools and know the right methods, the job can be done much easier and faster than you imagined.

A standard seam ripper can be of some use, but is tedious when trying to avoid accidental damage to the fabric. Common tools for removal include Peggy’s Stitch Eraser, or electric razors. Some folks choose sharp, curved sewing scissors, razor blades or small craft utility blades. Bryden Shiels of New Zealand says she chooses to use a suture cutter for removing embroidery because the blade is very sharp and curved. It can be purchased from medical or veterinarian supply companies. The one she uses is called a Stitch Cutter Blade, made by Swann-Morton Ltd. of Sheffield, England. The blade is slipped under the bobbin stitches and curved away from the surface, avoiding possible fabric damage. After the bobbin stitches are cut, the topstitching can be easily cleaned away.

Instead of picking with a fingernail or something that may mar the fabric, Elaine Bakken of Bakken Sewing & Embroidery, Newburgh, Ind., suggests using duct tape to pull away the topstitching. Put the tape over the stitches that need to be removed and press firmly across the tape, leaving one corner free. Then use this corner tab to easily grasp and remove the tape. The stitches are quickly removed, and if all thread doesn’t come up with the tape, clip the remaining bobbin threads and repeat the process. “I’ve removed names in five minutes and added this to my services for companies who pass their shirts from one employee to another,” Bakken says.

Putting Applique In Its Place

Even if you have mastered the art of applique, getting the fabric where you want it can sometimes be a tricky task. Some embroiderers choose to lay down a square of fabric first, allowing the tack-down run stitches to sew, then trim the excess fabric away before the rest of the design sews. Others choose to cut the fabric shapes first, using the tack-down stitching as a guiding cut line, then re-run the tack down on the garment, place the pre-cut piece, matching the tack-down lines, then complete the design. With either method, many folks use pins to secure the applique fabric in place, or even try to hold the fabric down, their fingers dodging the needle as the design sews. A popular method is to use an adhesive spray, but this sometimes can cause a gummy build-up on the machine, leading to further sewing problems.

Linda Dryer of Tempe, Ariz., is the author of several books and CDs for easy digitizing, embroidery and sewing. Being an advocate of simplifying the job, she found a way to speed up the applique process with less frustration and no spray adhesives. “I had a hard time holding the applique fabric in the hoop with my fingers until I discovered a great product,” Dryer says.

She hoops a piece of applique fabric along with a sheet of Steam-A-Seam [superscript][R] , an iron-on fusible web, underneath the fabric, its protective paper intact and facing the surface of the machine. Then, the tack-down run stitch is sewn, the piece is removed from the hoop and trimmed close to the run-stitch edge. The machine is reversed to the beginning of the tack down, the garment is hooped and the tack down is sewn again.

Once this is done, she removes the protective paper from the applique piece and carefully applies it to the garment, matching the run-stitch lines. After the design finishes sewing, she then turns the garment inside out and irons over the back of the applique to permanently fuse it to the garment.

Steam-A-Seam comes in two variations, single- or double-sided, and is available in a variety of sizes. Once fused, it’s washable and dry-cleanable, and the edges won’t lift or fray. It can be found at fabric stores or on the Web at

Scrap Smart!

You’ve removed the backing from the new embroidery and you’re about to throw it away. Stop! Look! Can this scrap be used again? If you automatically assume that it’s of little value, you may be tossing money into the trash. Sometimes, when getting the job done is top priority, little thought is given to what can or can’t be done with scraps that eventually make it to landfills.

Keep a separate, clean container near the production area just for these scraps. When time allows, go through the backing scraps, trimming them into rectangles or squares large enough to use behind names or other small designs. Pieces that are too small for a full hooping, but large enough for the design, can be adhered to, or slipped under, a larger piece of hooped backing when the job calls for two sheets. Small, square pieces can be used for writing notes on or set into various crafts or sewing projects. Even the Christmas tree can be adorned with a chain of rings, using white or different colored backing scraps. Very small squares can be used to secure a button or hold loose pins and needles. Narrow strips, or those too small to be used for anything else, can be saved to use as packing materials. No time to sort through it? Donate a full bag to local organizations that can use them for arts and crafts projects. Not a shred needs to be tossed.

Saving 9 is compiled by Bonnie Landsberger of Moonlight Design, Cannon Falls, Minn.

Readers: Call or write us with your time-saving tips and troubleshooting questions. We love hearing from you! Send them to Profitable Embroiderer , 5680 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., #300, Greenwood Village, Colo. 80111, (720) 489-3225 fax.

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