Find out why Cindy’s Seam Ripper gets my recommendation for an ergonomic seam ripper that you’ll want to use in all your sewing and quilting projects.
One of My Most Used Sewing Tools
I use a seam ripper on every sewing project, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. It can be as simple as unpicking a few stitches to correct the direction of a seam allowance, or making another attempt at getting some stubborn points to line up on a quilt.
I also use a seam ripper for opening zipper openings, and cutting open button holes. On other occasions I have used my seam ripper to disassemble some old cushion covers to salvage zippers and piping for another project.
But perhaps the time when I’ve most used a seam ripper was a number of years ago. It was still early in my quilting journey, but it had been a little while since I made a quilt. I was making a quilt as a gift, and when it came time to sew on the binding by machine, I forgot to start sewing it to the back first.
I believe that partway through beginning to stitch the binding to the front of the quilt, I realized my mistake. But I carried on because I thought, “It’ll still turn out fine!” Rookie mistake. Once I finished turning it to the back and stitching it down again, it looked very untidy and terrible.
I didn’t want to gift a quilt that looked so bad. So I unpicked the whole binding all the way around the quilt, removed all the little threads, and sewed it back on properly. So much better! And my seam ripper really got a workout that day.
What is a Seam Ripper?
A seam ripper is a small and handy tool used frequently by sewists, quilters, and stitchers for tasks including:
- Cutting and removing previous stitches
- Opening up seams that were previously sewn together
- Trimming threads
- Opening up buttonholes
- Opening basting stitches when sewing in a zipper
- Disassembling sewn items to salvage materials
It is absolutely normal that seam rippers are used often as part of the process of fixing sewing mistakes. However, special care needs to be taken when unpicking or ripping to avoid cutting the fabric around the stitches. Also be sure to work in good light so you can see the stitches you are cutting.
What Are the Features of a Seam Ripper?
A typical seam ripper has a handle and a forked metal blade. One prong of the forked blade is longer and pointy, and the second prong is shorter and blunted with a red plastic ball to protect your fabric. The inside of the fork curves in a gentle U shape where the sharp blade can be found.
As well, a seam ripper usually includes a cover for the blade.
Ripping or Unpicking – What’s the Difference?
There are two different ways to use a seam ripper, and we often incorrectly refer to them interchangeably.
If you have a small number of stitches to remove, you will likely choose to unpick them. This involves sliding the pointy, longer end of the forked blade under a stitch, either from the top or the underside of the fabric, until you cut it with the blade.
The tightness of the stitches will determine how many stitches you’ll need to cut before you can pull out the threads. Usually I cut every 1-3 stitches. Then I pull the thread away from the other side of the fabric. A lint roller can help remove all the little thread segments left behind from the cut stitches.
When you have long seams to undo, and if your fabric is not super delicate, you can try ripping a seam instead. This means turning the seam ripper upside down so the blunt end of the blade with the red plastic ball is at the bottom.
You can slide the seam ripper between the two layers of fabric, with the line of stitches in the U of the blade. The red plastic ball on the underside can protect the fabric, as you watch the long point above the fabric.
Then you can zip it along and cut the threads between the two layers, almost like gliding a pair of scissors across wrapping paper. But you will need to take care with this method, as it’s still possible to end up with a hole in your fabric.
As well, you can often need to start undoing a longer seam by unpicking the first few stitches. Once you can get your seam ripper between the layers of fabric, then you can switch to ripping the rest of the seam open.
My Problem With Ordinary Seam Rippers
Most seam rippers are fairly standard with a straight handle and a cover that fits over the handle to make it longer. I don’t know where I got my original seam ripper from. It probably came in a beginner sewing kit or something like that. I also had a white one that came with all the accessories of my first sewing machine.
But I’ve never enjoyed using these basic seam rippers for a couple of reasons.
Easy to Lose
The first problem I have with these ordinary seam rippers is that they are easy to lose. At one point, I lost the blue seam ripper for ages and I looked everywhere. I had to resort to using the white seam ripper instead.
One day, the blue seam ripper unexpectedly reappeared, but then I lost the white seam ripper. I haven’t seen it in years so I suspect it may have ended up thrown out with scraps.
On a regular basis though, my seam ripper rolls under my sewing machine and I have to hunt to find it. Ordinary seam rippers are also generally so small that it’s also easy to bury them under fabric or other items.
A Bit Uncomfortable for Repeated Use
My other main problem with these typical tiny seam rippers is that they are slightly uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. I end up holding it kind of like a pencil which leads to hand cramps.
Without the cover on the handle, it feels too tiny to hold onto. However, with the cover on the handle, it feels like the point of the cover digs into even my small hand.
As well, at some point I cracked the hard plastic cover somehow. If that ends up breaking, I won’t be able to use the seam ripper on its own since it’s too short.
Looking for a Replacement Seam Ripper
I’ve had it in the back of my mind for quite some time that I wanted to upgrade my seam ripper to a more ergonomic kind with a different handle shape. Many just seem to have very long handles that you might hold more like a knife, and I was uncertain about that style.
Cindy’s Seam Ripper
But recently, I was putting in an order from my favourite local(ish) quilt shop, and I found Cindy’s Seam Ripper by Riley Blake Designs. The different design immediately caught my eye and I watched a short Youtube video with the designer, Cindy, demonstrating it.
I was hooked and I ordered one right away in my favourite aqua colour (called Teal).
What Makes Cindy’s Seam Ripper Different?
Rather than holding a handle of the seam ripper, Cindy’s Seam Ripper fits around your forefinger. There is a flat surface to rest your thumb when unpicking stitches.
If you prefer, you can also place it around your middle finger. There’s also a flat surface on the front to rest your forefinger when using it that way.
Alternatively, you can also flip it upside down to rip stitches, resting your thumb and middle finger for support.
What I Love About Cindy’s Seam Ripper
I love that there are colour choices available as I do like to colour coordinate my sewing tools if there is the option. You can find Cindy’s Seam Ripper in pink, red, cream, and teal, which is a light aqua colour.
Because Cindy’s Seam Ripper needs to fit on your finger, it is helpful that it comes in two different sizes, small, and medium/large. I didn’t actually realize that when I ordered mine, as they weren’t labelled with a size at all. Luckily for me, since I have very tiny hands, I received a small.
The small is just a touch loose on my forefinger, but it doesn’t affect how it works. Without having tried a medium/large seam ripper, I assume it would be too big. For reference, I wear a ladies small in gloves or mittens, and my ring size is a 5/6.
I really like the ergonomic shape of Cindy’s Seam Ripper. It does feel a bit strange for the first while because I’m used to holding a traditional seam ripper. But I very quickly adjusted to the different shape and how it feels.
The flattened spot is a convenient place to rest your thumb. It’s also leads to a very gentle and relaxed hand position, and doesn’t lend itself to squeezing or hand cramping like a traditional handle grip.
Can Be Used On Either Hand
Another great feature of Cindy’s Seam Ripper is that it is universal for right and left-handed people. This is like any other seam ripper, but it’s great that it’s designed in such a way that it can be used by everyone. As a lefty, I get frustrated if a tool is designed in a way that makes it uncomfortable for me to use.
Harder to Lose
While the overall size of Cindy’s Seam Ripper is still very small, I suspect that this seam ripper will be harder to lose. The bright colour makes it easier to see. In addition, the shape means it can’t roll, so it won’t roll away off my table or under my sewing machine. And finally, the more 3D shape means it’s less likely to be lost under fabric or papers.
I love my new Cindy’s Seam Ripper and would absolutely recommend it. However there are a couple things to keep in mind:
Cindy’s Seam Ripper is made of hard plastic. I have not yet tried it out for long periods of unpicking, and so I don’t know if it will become uncomfortable. I love scissors that are made of a firm silicone as there’s some give during long cutting projects. It would be interesting to see if that material would have been a better choice.
Cover is Easy to Lose
As well, the cover might be easy to lose because it’s very small. You also can’t store it on the end of the seam ripper when the blade is uncovered like you can with other seam rippers. Luckily, a seam ripper with the blade inside the U is much safer to leave around than an X-acto knife, so I don’t worry about putting the cover on all the time.
My suggestion for not losing the cover is to always put it in the same container or dish when you take it off. That way you’ll always know where to find it, and you won’t sweep it away with trimmings.
Choosing the Best Size
You’ll also need to choose the best size of Cindy’s Seam Ripper for you. This can be complicated to judge because they are inside packaging.
Where to Buy Cindy’s Seam Ripper
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Read my disclosure for more information.
I think you’ll love Cindy’s Seam Ripper as much as I do. So if a seam ripper is a tool you also use on a regular basis, consider upgrading yours to something more ergonomic and adorable. Getting out the seam ripper during a project can seem like a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be!
Check your local quilting or fabric shop for Cindy’s Seam Ripper. Don’t forget to pay attention to any size information given. I got mine at my local store, Mad About Patchwork.
They are also available from Amazon, or from lots of sellers through Etsy.
You can also read about some of my other favourite sewing tools in the post, Gift Ideas for Makers, or about my favourite scissors, Perfect Scissors.
What’s Your Worst Seam Ripping Story?
I want to hear from you. Do you have a project that went horribly wrong and you spent ages unpicking? Do you unpick seams to salvage materials? How often do you use your seam ripper? Do you have a favourite seam ripper that you love? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
Merrilee McDonald says
I had to take out a tree I had embroidered lately, I couldn’t find my seam ripper! Arg, it really does make such a difference
You’re right Merrilee, it sure does! 🙂
I’ve had one of those older styled seam rippers for probably thirty years. It certainly can be hard on the hand, especially if you have a lot of seams to rip out. The newer ergonomic one definitely makes more sense if you will be using it to do a lot of ripping. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome Chey! Thanks for your comment. I don’t know if anyone ever intends to a lot of ripping, but accidents happen 🙂
As a quilter, having a seam ripper handy is a must, but they really do hurt your hand after awhile. I’m excited to try this one out as I have never heard of it before! Your football quilt turned out beautifully too what a wonderful handmade gift.
Thank you so much Julie! 🙂 If you do try it out, let me know if you like it.
Oh wow! That looks so much more ergonomic and comfortable for your fingers! Seam ripping is so hard on your fingers, especially if you’re having to do a lot of it lol. Which I do, because I’m not that talented at sewing! Thanks for this information.
You’re welcome Julie! I do lots of seam ripping too so it’s not about talent – I’m sure you are a great sewist too 🙂 But yes, regular seam rippers can be so uncomfortable for long periods.