Quilt-y Q&A: seam ripping & favorite quilt show

Welcome to a new blog series called Ask Julie: Quilt-y Q&A. Each month, I’ll pick a few questions to answer and feature them in a blog post. We’ve all got questions about our favorite hobby, and here’s a way to answer them for everyone to see.

If you have a burning question you’d like to have answered, email me (see the form at the end of this post) or leave a comment. I’ll add it to my list. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’ll do the research when needed. And, I’m open to your comments. If you know something I don’t, please let everyone know in the comments (another good reason to read them). This may become more of a community forum and I welcome it!

Ask Julie: Quilt-y Q&A for June 2024. This one is all about seam ripping and favorite quilt shows.

Quilt-y Q&A’s for June

I have two great questions this month about seam ripping and my favorite quilt show.

Is it best to seam rip every 4-5 stitches from the top or bobbin thread?

I love this question from Kitty L. because we all need to seam rip from time to time. Sometimes, more often than we’d like! There are several ways to “unsew” a seam. The best practice is to break the thread every 4-5 stitches with a seam ripper. This is a gentler method than most, and it’s well-suited for quilting cottons and more delicate fabrics.

Traditional seam ripping technique breaks the thread every 4-5 stitches.

To answer Kitty’s question, it really does not matter whether you cut the top thread or the bobbin thread. If the tension is uneven, it may be easier (not better) to cut the looser side. Whichever thread is NOT cut will leave a long thread tail. The other thread will leave little bits scattered on both the front and back.

In the images below, I used black thread on top and taupe thread in the bobbin (which is hard to see in the photos). The last photo (bottom right) shows the long bobbin thread.

How to seam rip a seam. The best practice breaks the thread every 4-5 stitches. It doesn't matter if you cut the top or bobbin thread.

Other seam ripping techniques

We quilters are always in a hurry and don’t have time to fiddle with slow seam ripping. What I often end up doing is cutting the first few stitches of a seam; just enough to create an opening. Then I cut the thread from the middle of the fabric layer and pull the fabric layers apart until I feel resistance. Repeat this process until you get to the end of the seam. This is usually quicker because some of the work is being done from the tension of pulling the fabric apart.

An alternative way to seam rip is faster. Read about it at The Crafty Quilter.

The absolute quickest way to un-sew a seam is by sliding a seam ripper through the stitches as you hold the layers taught. This is also the most dangerous technique because it’s easy to tear the fabric if you’re not careful. This method requires a SHARP seam ripper and a little practice!

You can read more about this technique and see a short video I made here.

The quickest way to seam rip is here! Details at The Crafty Quilter

Seam ripping tips and favorites

My best tip for seam ripping is to use a sharp seam ripper. If you haven’t replaced yours in a while, it’s worth buying a new one. My favorite seam ripper currently is the Clover Seam Ripper. It’s simple, effective and inexpensive. I also like the Dritz Seam-fix Seam Ripper.

Favorite seam rippers

Favorite quilt show I’ve attended

This was a fun question submitted by Margaret. She asked, “I’m interested in knowing your favorite quilt show that you’ve ever attended. Where was it and why did you love it?”

I will admit that I haven’t traveled far to attend many quilt shows. If they happen to be in my hometown, I’ll be there! However, I do have a personal favorite based on my limited experience.

In 2015, I went to the second ever Quilt Con in Austin, Texas. This quilt show is presented by the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG) and I was thrilled to be there. I loved the energy, the classes, the speakers, the vendors, the fabric and the quilts. It was very different from other shows. It felt more interactive, it was well-organized and it was just more fun. There are lots of free presentations that you can attend and plenty of classes to choose from. You can read Quilt Con from my perspective for more insights and photos of some of my personal favorite quilts from the show.

QuiltCon 2015 in Austin Texas
Booths at QuiltCon 2015

I’ve since been to two other Quilt Con shows and they’ve both been equally exciting and fun. I love that they alternate between the East and West coast, and occasionally somewhere in between.

I don’t consider myself a true modern quilter. I know that I’m drawn to the use of color in modern quilting. I love the solids, the low volume and the rainbow colors. I also find that I like the combination of vintage and modern together. I think Quilt Con has something for everybody, and I can’t wait to go again.

Julie Cefalu wearing her MQG bucket bag @ QuiltCon 2015

That wraps up my first Quilt-y Q&A. Thanks for the great questions! These make great conversation starters. If you want to chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Each month, I’ll pick two questions to answer. I keep a list of submitted questions, so let me know if you’ve got a question you’d like to add. You can email me using the form below.

Thanks for reading and happy quilting!

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  1. Regarding Betsy’s comment on using a shaver, I purchased a mustache trimmer. After I start by using my regular seam ripper, I place the end of the mustache trimmer in a spot of my Stash and Store, turn it on, and rip away!

  2. Once I’ve started ripping the seam I rotate the seam ripper and insert the ball end into the seam. This allows me to continue ripping the seam with little damage to the fabric.

  3. Thanks, Julie, for reminding me to buy a new sharp seam ripper! I’ve been using some of your techniques and will be sure to try the ones I haven’t.

  4. I use my husband help me seam rip. He hols the 2 sides apart and I just run right down the stitches with my seam Ripper or I have one of those scalpel ones.

  5. I have a friend (who is an instructor) who uses her rotary cutter to “unsew”. I cringe every time I see her do it. To my knowledge, she’s never had an accident. I am not brave enough, so I just stick with the regular seam ripper

  6. Many years ago Eleanor Burns demonstrated on tv what I consider to be the best way to unsew any long seam – get the first few stitches out with your seam ripper, hold the 2 fabrics apart, and CAREFULLY use your rotary cutter to just tap the stitches as you use your fingers to keep pressure to pull the 2 fabrics away from each other. Takes only seconds, and I have never cut into the fabric. (or my fingers/hand for that matter)

  7. Hi Julie 🙂 and friends –
    Re ripping – I clip every 4-6 stitches *always* from the top thread. Because of the way the stitches are formed by the machine, assuming proper tension, the bobbin thread is more straight after stitching than the top thread is. Clipping the top will then allow you to pull the bobbin thread straight out – and you will see that it is still almost completely straight (which makes it easier to pull). When you clean up threads afterward, you’ll see that the top thread pieces are very curly, and the bobbin thread is straight.

  8. Julie,
    Thank you for the tips on seam ripping. invariably I have to remove seams and never thought about the sharpness of my ripper. Mine is years old, so now is the time for a new one, I tried the one that you said could be dangerous, not terribly successful, will have to practice more.

  9. Hi Julie,
    I tried the method you mentioned above as the quickest way to un-sew the seams and yes, you definitely need to be very careful. I ripped my fabric so it’s back to the slow way of doing it for me! I am planning on attending Quiltcon for the first time next year. My tastes definitely run more towards traditional, but I am really looking forward to going to this show.

  10. I found an even faster way to seam rip from someone on instagram. You get one of those inexpensive electric shavers from the grocery store, the kind that with the flat end that does personal hair trimming with the guard for different lengths. Remove the guard. Get the seam started with your regular seam ripper and then use the electric shaver between the layers. Be careful if there are a lot of stitches in one place because it can slip and maybe cut fabric if you pull it unevenly. I’ve had it cut my fabric one time when I was being impatient, but that happens even more if I use a seam ripper. This method is quick and easy, and is now my go-to for longer seams.

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