6 tips to remove hand stitching with peace of mind

Hand embroidery is one of those crafts which allows you to easily remove the bit you are not satisfied with. However, as easy as it is, it can also be quite stressful. Especially if it incorporates fine stitching, using one strand of thread. Especially if there are complicated stitches. Especially if it is white on white.

Yeah, I brought myself into trouble. But I won't say “don't repeat my mistakes”! If you like stitching with one strand of thread, using peculiar stitches and the idea of working white thread on white fabric, then go for it! And if there's anything we don't like, we will just remove it.

Here are my tips on how to undo hand stitching in a peaceful manner.


Feeling good is essential. Removing hand stitches is a tough process. If you are already in a bad mood, negative emotions might make it easier for you to make mistakes (which will worsen your mood even more). So, unless your mind is in peace, better to postpone it.

You might think that it is impossible to be happy while removing the stitches you had been working over so diligently. But look at it from another angle. First of all, you have higher chances to fix your piece of work than many other artists (ever saw how painters cover the unsuccessful piece with paint?). Secondly, mistakes are a part of learning process, it only means that the next time will be better!


Second rule of removing the stitching is to be patient and let the whole world wait until you finish. Relax and take your time. That is, of course, unless you didn't plan anything in advance and there's no emergency. In this case, just put down your tools and continue later. However, while you're at it, don't be desperate to do it faster and finish in ten minutes. That kind of anxiety is always counter productive as it makes you less careful.


Scissors are not the only tool you can use to remove hand stitches. There is another helpful instrument to use – seam ripper. It is mostly used in machine sewing and embroidering and is meant specifically for ripping fine stitches. It can make your life so much easier, so be sure to check it out. Another friend of yours will be the eyebrow tweezers, which allow to pick small amounts of thread. You will also find yourself using the needle a lot.

Let's repeat: scissors, seam ripper, needle, and tweezers. Oh, and don't forget to put on glasses or use magnifying lens if your eyesight is not in a good shape.


When removing hand stitching, use both sides of the fabric for your convenience. Some stitches are easier to remove from the front (back stitch, for example), while others are easily removed from the back (split stitch). Check both of the sides to make sure you didn't leave any thread.


You want to save your nerves? Don't try to save the thread. First of all, it will take you considerably longer time to achieve. Secondly, it will stress you out. Because no matter how hard you try, you will probably get only bits of it saved, so is it worth the effort? Make your priority the clean fabric instead – this is something you can really achieve and feel happy about.


When you pull the thread and it is not going out, don't start pulling it harder. It might deform the fabric. Just check the backside – maybe there's something preventing it from going out? Or just try to pull it from the backside, it might work better.

I know, such things just happen. I was removing bits of embroidery lately and there were these tiny pieces of thread which just wouldn't go out, though the backside seemed clean. The fact that both thread and fabric were white didn't make it easier. However, after a careful approach, I was able to take them all out. The main thing is not to pull hard and find another way to take it out.


My last piece of advice is to not hesitate. If you doubt whether you should undo the stitching or not, the answer is – you should. You are already not satisfied with it and it doesn't bring you positive emotions. If you leave it like that, then when it is finished, instead of feasting your eyes upon the work, you might start thinking “Would it be better if I redid that part?”. Nope, we don't want that.

Nonetheless, don't hurry with it either. Usually, if I feel like a part of work looks strange, I start stitching the surrounding and leave that bit for a while. If after some time I still don't like it, I undo it without any mercy. If you can do better – do better.

Do you have any other tips to share about removing hand stitching? Know any other helpful tool? Write in the comments below!