Thursday, October 1, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Linda Turske, Kim, Claire S., Ivalyn "Tee" Jones-Actie, Lois K, Lisa Laree, Carla F, Amelia, Faye Lewis, Goodworks1, KID MD, Mary, Summerset, MouseAnony, Sew-Ann, Relished Artistry, Rose, Cindy, Becky, Beth, Sabine4, and Elaina for "talking back" last week! Last week I posted a guest question from Cindy, who wanted to know how often people use their seam rippers, and how they feel about them. Cindy's question was motivated by her sewing students, who quickly get discouraged if they have to rip something out.

I think that Cindy’s question has drawn the most responses of any of my “Friday Confessions” to date. Now I am faced with the problem of trying to find some common ground among all the disparate answers. There are the 17 people who responded that they use their seam rippers on every, or almost every, project. Then there are the 5 people who reported that they love their seam rippers and consider them to be a sewist’s best friend. On the other hand, there are the 7 people who said that they find seam rippers to be so useful that they keep a stash of them in their sewing rooms. If only I could find some theme or thread going through all these positions… ;)

Seriously - Wow! What an overwhelming convergence of responses – and from people with as little as 2 years of sewing experience through people with over 40 years of experience! You guys have generally agreed with one another a few times before, but never like this!

And, of course, one of the things that I love so much about your answers each week, is that you don’t just give a bare bones “yes” or “no” – you go on to elaborate, and I always learn something new!

For example, (and this counts as a mildly embarrassing confession), I didn’t realize that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to use the seam ripper. Apparently you are NOT supposed to insert the seam ripper between the 2 layers of fabric and just zip it down the seam. Instead, you are supposed to carefully pick out individual stitches.

When do people use their seam rippers? Several people, like me, find that as they get more skilled in sewing, their standards also get higher, so while they aren’t making the “big” flubs that they originally had to rip out, they are now re-doing steps that are “pretty good” because they want them to be “perfect”.

Others pointed out that they are most likely to need to use their seam rippers whenever they try to hurry through things and maybe even skip some steps to “save time”! ;)

Lois K and Elaina mentioned some other uses of the seam ripper, including cutting buttonholes, pulling threads from fabric to find the grainline, and working with the threads around the presser foot on the sewing machine.

Becky uses hers a lot in her deconstruction work (she re-purposes used clothes into really cool, unique creations!) and said that it’s much more fun to rip apart someone else’s stitches than it is your own! ;)

Two people mentioned alternative tools. Lisa Laree uses a sturdy straight pin to take out her stitches, because that prevents her from “cheating” and using the seam ripper the wrong way. Goodworks1 recommended the seam rippers that come with a surgical-style blade. I had never heard of this, but a quick Google search turned up lots of links, including this one:

Some of my favorite responses addressed the philosophical side of seam ripping. A couple of people compared the seam ripper to the backspace or delete key on your computer keyboard. They pointed out that we don’t “hate” those keys and we don’t feel like “failures” when we use them. They make it easy to fix the mistakes that are just naturally always going to occur. Seven people made this analogy more explicit – using a seam ripper does NOT mean that you are bad at sewing and we are lucky that sewing let’s us have second (and third and sometimes fourth!) chances. :)

Rose and Relished Artistry were even more philosophical. Rose believes that the ability to deal with mistakes is a very important skill to develop – more important than getting it right the first time, in fact. And Corey, of Relished Artistry, argues that using a seam ripper represents an attention to detail and commitment to quality that rises above the “instant gratification” culture that bombards us (at least, in the US) every day.

Finally, Lisa Laree introduced me to a new term – “frog stitching” or “rip it, rip it”. ;)

Thanks again to everyone for your insights and encouragement to Cindy’s students! And a special thank you to Cindy - I think this will always be one of my favorite installments in the “Confession” series! :)


Lisa Laree said...

Credit where credit is due...I first encountered the term 'frog stitch' as a euphemism for seam ripping on Pattern Review several years ago...I think it was in one of Diane E.'s posts...

goodworks1 said...

Conversely, I almost always insert the seam ripper between the layers and just push or pull it through. It does take some care, though, and holding the layers apart under some tension so the two sides separate as your ripper moves along. And it's not a good idea to try this on loosely woven fabrics like tweeds or ones with long thread floats like a brocade or satin.

But I've found that with the Havel seam ripper (and/or similar sharp ones as mentioned before) it's possible to both save a lot of time and do an accurate job at the same time.


Becky said...

Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday! Yes, that's fine. Hope it's not too late!