Whether you work on an embroidery machine at home or in a commercial shop, it will almost certainly happen to you at some point – a design is sewn incorrectly and needs to be removed.
Maybe the wrong color thread was used or there was a mistake in the digitizing. Whatever the case may be, don’t worry too much. More often than not, embroidery mistakes are fixable by using the proper techniques to remove and redo a design.
It is a good idea to prepare yourself beforehand with a basic toolkit of the most common things needed to do the job. Your kit should probably include a small pair of scissors, a single-edged razor blade or several disposable razors, a Xacto knife, an electric or battery operated stitch remover, a seam ripper or heavy pin, tweezers, invisible tape and fusing material.
The types of tools you choose to work with very, depending on personal preference or job at hand. Some folks think embroidery scissors work best, while others opt for surgical scissors, which are a bit sharper. And while one person might prefer to work with a razor blade, another person may think a disposable razor is much more forgiving. The main thing to keep in mind is that ripping out is a delicate operation, and you don’t want to damage the garment. Keep in mind that sharper tools require more caution than duller devices.
1. Using Same Stitch-Removing Techniques
Many people enter the embroidery industry with a home sewing background, so it is a common mistake to think the same stitch-removing techniques apply to both types of sewing. However, because computerized embroidery involves such large numbers of stitches and a number of different stitch types, methods used in home sewing aren’t truly effective for embroidery.
The most important thing to remember is to do most of your work on the back of the garment; this is where the stitches are actually anchored. Until you release the bobbin thread, there’s really no need to go to the top. It can take two or three times longer to take out threads this way-and there’s a greater chance that a garment will be damaged.
With this in mind, your first step is to select the tool appropriate for the stitch type. For running stitches, a seam ripper or heavy pin usually works best. Satin stitches normally require a seam ripper, heavy pin or Xacto knife. Fill stitches can be removed most effectively with a single-edged razor blade, disposable razor or an electric stitch removal device.
2. Electric Stitch Remover While Working with Knits
If you’re working on a knit product that’s embroidered with a lot of fill, a seam ripper or knife blade works best. The stitches are often embedded in the fragile knit, and you need to exert more caution when removing them. Forget the electric stitch remover completely if the shirt has been backed with tearaway backing. Without the foundation and added stability of backing, the fabric could end up sheared into shreds.
3. Not Using Disposable Razor While Working on Fleece
When working with a fill design on fleece material, the disposable razor is a good choice. The razor is the tool of choice whenever the fabric weave is so tight that pulling on the stitching would leave holes. Stretch the embroidery over your hand bottom side up and lightly shave the entire design. The twin blades will cut the thread without hurting or pulling holes in the fabric. Keep in mind that if the fabric is napped, you should not attempt the razor approach. Go back to using your seam ripper or Xacto knife.
When you’re faced with ripping out a design simply because the garment jumped out of the hoop, don’t take out the entire design; instead, remove just enough to expose the underlying running stitches. Ideally, these should be positioned in a curve or at a right angle. Re-frame the garment, float back to the point in the design where these stitches originated, and simply stitch over them. Adjust the garment until the new stitches are directly on top of the old, and then complete the design.
Once you’ve accomplished the job of cutting the thread on the underside of the fabric, turn it over and finish the job on top. If you’ve been careful to cut all the bobbin threads, you should be able to pull the design out in one long thread. However, should you have trouble releasing the thread, a few snips with a pair of scissors or thread snips will do the trick. Use tweezers, a seam ripper or a heavy pin to remove the remaining stitches. Remember to be gentle. If you see the fabric straining against the pressure on the thread as you pull it, turn the fabric over to see what might be stopping the thread.
4. Restitching the Design
Many unwanted stitch marks can be pressed or ironed out. One technique is to use a clean, white, damp washcloth to cover the area the design once occupied. Next, press the cloth with a commercial heat press, or if such a press is not available, use a regular iron. After letting the garment dry thoroughly, press it a second time and the marks completely disappear.
5. When All Else Fails
Of course, there are always circumstances when the above advice doesn’t apply. For example, if the design was stitched in the wrong place or if it was too large, to begin with, you can’t necessarily use a quick and easy solution. In these cases, you have to find other alternatives to salvage the piece.
If there’s a small tear in the fabric, you have several options. If the hole is not too large, you can simply hand stitch it with matching thread. You can also mend the garment by using either a small piece of fusible backing or clear tape on the underside of the fabric. Both lay a foundation for restitching. Scotch tape works great; it won’t gum up your needle, which can cause sewing problems. Just be sure to remove any visible traces of the tape when the embroidery is finished.
To repair minor damages in knit fabrics, try using welding film, which is a thin piece of plastic heat-applied backing available from most lettering and tackle twill suppliers. Cut a piece slightly larger than the hole, place it on the back of the garment, and lightly touch it with either a heat press or an iron. The heat makes the plastic pliable, so you can use your scissor tips to move the knit together and close the hole.
If all else fails and the hole is just too large to embroider over, you can always salvage the garment by embroidering the design on a patch then be sewing it over the damaged area!