There is one tool in my collection of quilting notions that I use more than any other. Among all of the quilt clips, pins, tapes, rulers, cutters, templates, irons, and variety of other devices my number one go-to thing is my seam ripper!
I chalk this up to a combination of factors including my underdeveloped skills as a sewist, a propensity for getting distracted, and just a smidge of perfectionism. I want the finished product of a pro, but I make too many mistakes—wrong sides together, wonky seams, blocks out of order, blocks upside down, blocks where no blocks should be…I could go on.
This is a quilt I’m making for my local charity organization, Quilt Works, that will go to a foster youth in the San Francisco area.
This quilt has 42 blocks. To create each block, you sew a white triangle in the lower corner of a 10″ x 5″ rectangle and then sew two of the rectangles together. Of course, you have to alternate between sewing the white triangles on the left and then the right to create the look of the finished block. The left side AND the right side.
But, what did I do? I oh-so-happily sewed all the little white triangles in the lower right side of 84 rectangles. Sigh…
Every time I do something this colossally wrong, I feel the lump in my throat and the frustration rising into anger. My mind grasps for ways to turn it into an advantage of some sort. Maybe I can just change the design a little. Maybe I can find a way to NOT rip out all of those stitches, NOT undo hours of work that I’ll just have to turn around and redo.
It’s at this point that I have to stop myself, walk away, and tell myself it’s going to be okay. I take a deep breath and I remind myself that it’s all part of the creative process. Then I go back, grab my trusty seam ripper, and settle in to the task ahead. Depending on the situation, there are several ways I proceed.
1. I try to make it fun
If the stitches aren’t too tiny and the fabric isn’t too delicate or dense, I use it as an excuse to watch my favorite TV show. Right now, that’s Hell on Wheels. While I watch, and contemplate the manly manliness of Anson Mount, I can happily rip out every third or fourth stitch on the top side of the seam and then pull out the thread on the other side of the seam.
2. I get Zen about it
If the stitches are tinier or the fabric harder to work with, the situation may call for my full attention (no Anson for me). Deep breaths are key here. I settle myself down in a place with good lighting, usually with some calming music, and I let a Zen-like calmness wash over me as I concentrate all of my attention on picking out each stitch one-by-one.
3. I make it quick
If the seam is not too long or tricky, I just get it over with as quickly and as carefully as possible. For this it’s important to keep my seam ripper out on my sewing table, ready to go when needed. If I have to dig around in my sewing basket for a minute too long, I just prolong the pain. It’s better to make it quick, like ripping off a Band-Aid.
Whenever I come out on the other side of a difficult stretch, and all the stitches have been ripped and replaced I know the joy of overcoming a challenge. Making things can be hard, but the sense of accomplishment is the best boost you could ask for.