Tips on How To Remove Embroidery Without a Seam Ripper

There are a number of reasons to remove embroidery. Maybe you bought or were given an article of clothing such as a ball cap or work shirt, and you don’t care for the manufacturer’s design, or it has the wrong name embroidered on it for work. 

If you’re not a sewer, you may not have a seam ripper near at hand. And even if you do hand embroidery, you may not keep such a sewing notion around. Luckily, there are other ways of removing unwanted stitching. 

Removing Hand or Sewing Machine Embroidery Stitches

Every embroiderer needs to remove stitches from time to time. You may find a particular stitch or color just isn’t working for your project. Although a seam ripper may work for some of these stitches, it may be tedious for others. Here are a few different options to consider.

Use a snipper

Use the smallest scissors you have to snip through heavy embroidery work. You can also use sewing snippers. You may have to cut the stitches on both the front and backside of the work. Tweezers may help pull the clipped stitches from the fabric.

Use a blade

You’ll need to use extreme care when using a sharp blade to cut stitches. You want to avoid damaging the fabric. If possible, use a razor blade, x-acto knife, or even a very sharp pocket knife to remove solid areas of stitching. Slip the blad under the stitching and try to cut away from the fabric. Or slip something between fabric and knife edge, such as the end of a small flat-blade screwdriver or a butter knife.

I’ve used a razor blade made for removing excess paint from window glass as a seam or thread ripping tool for years. The blade is too wide for some projects, but I like the little plastic handle that’s easy to control. Fiskars also makes a Fabric Knife with several blade options that can tackle most embroidery snafus.

Use a straight pin

Unstitch straight or simple embroidery stitches by clipping an end stitch, then pulling the stitches up one or two at a time with a straight pin. If you’re hand embroidering, this is also an excellent way to reclaim the floss for another project. It may sound time-consuming, but it’s pretty quick once you get started. I’ve found it to be quicker than a seam ripper and a lot less wasteful. If your embroidery floss is relatively thick, you could use a large sewing needle instead of a pin.

Straight pins are also one of the better ways to pick out a few stitches where there is a mistake in hand stitching or a flaw in machine work. The small point of a pin can grab a single stitch without pulling other stitches or grabbing the fabric.

Removing Manufacturer’s Embroidery

Some manufactured embroidery is not much different from that done with home machines. However, these machines are sometimes built to use a heavier thread and programmed to repeat a design hundreds of times with precision. 

Factory machines often produce tighter, denser stitching than home machines. Still, The methods mentioned above may be enough to remove many store-bought decorative stitches. However, if the stitching seems impossible to remove without damaging the fabric or fraying your nerves, here are a couple more methods to try.

Use a hair trimmer. 

You can try a hair cutting or a facial hair trimming device for this. Keep the fabric as flat as possible as you slide the blades beneath the embroidery design. Try to move the trimmer in an upward direction so as not to run it into the fabric. 

This is a creative way to remove an appliquéd name or symbol from a hat or other article of clothing. You need a trimmer with a straight edge across the end that will fit under the embroidery stitching. A comb-style trimmer will not work well for stitch removal.

Hair trimming or grooming devices can be bought at reasonably low prices. I don’t recommend  

“borrowing” a family member’s groomer without permission and using it on embroidery floss.  

Some pet clippers are basically the same as people clippers. Look at the blade without an attachment and judge for yourself. I’ve seen some smaller trimmers for around a pet’s ears and paws that have piqued my interest, but I haven’t tried one yet. I’m just pointing out the possibilities. 

Use a Stitch Eraser

If you find that removing embroidery stitching is becoming a regular habit, it may be time to purchase a device made just for the task. Stitch erasers are helpful but are an investment for the budget-conscious, as most that I’ve seen run around $80. 

I see little difference between a stitch eraser and other trimmers. But the eraser is a device to keep specifically for embroidery use, so there’ll never be any questions about it, if you think it could be a problem in your household. 

how to display embroidery

15 Creative Ways to Display Embroidery

traveling with sewing machine on airplane

Can You Take a Sewing Machine On An Airplane? (Travel Tips)