Embroidery: known as the art of making beautiful designs on fabric, using stitches sewn directly onto the material. This name comes originally from France – where they used the word ‘broderie’ in their language, for embellishment. This art medium seems to have originated in Orient and the Middle East, and embroidery on clothing is considered as a mark of capital and status in many Asian countries like India, Japan, and China, but also in medieval Europe.
All in all: a beautiful form of arts and crafting – but also an art form prone to mistakes, both in hand embroidery and machine embroidery – especially when you’re still a beginner. A frequent question asked, is how to remove embroidery? Even the most seasoned embroidery artists seem to need an answer to this question, to fix little mistakes in their embroidery works.
Or, maybe you simply wish to re-use your fabric for new art projects – super sustainable! As we have been quite into the craft of embroidery lately – we couldn’t go on without having put together this simple guide on how to get rid of (unwanted) embroidery. Read below and find out the quickest and easiest way to do so, by following just 4 simple steps.
What do you need to remove embroidery?
Of course, there are a few tools that can make this tricky job a lot easier for you! As there are different methods, we will discuss the most common ones to follow. We recommend you gather the below-listed items to get started.
A seam ripper or an embroidery eraser
A Seam Ripper
This small, pointed sewing tool is probably a familiar one. These nifty tools are available in many styles and sizes and are to be found since ages, in almost every sewing box. It consists of a handle, shaft, and head. The sharp point of the seam ripper, the ‘head’, is to be inserted into a seam and underneath the thread to be cut. Not only does a seam ripper remove unwanted stitches from your project, but the rubber tips will whisk away and erase the leftover threads.
This will save you lots of time! Please note that this tool is more suitable for hand-applied embroidery with a needle and thread.
An Embroidery Eraser
In contrast to the seam ripper, the embroidery eraser is an electric device and works on power. It may make you think of a beard trimmer, given the shape and appearance. The embroidery eraser is also applied under the stitches and will ‘clip’ the threads loose, but in comparison with a seam ripper, more at a time. A well-known brand that you have probably heard of, is Peggy’s Stitch Eraser.
It is amazingly easy to use, but there is one minor detail – this tool is more suited for professionally applied embroidery and bigger pieces of embroidery. Given that, we would recommend it less for hand-embroidery.
Other small tools that will be of good help
Probably something that is somewhere to be found around in the bathroom or the house – a simple tweezer is a perfect tool that can help you pick, and pull small stitches out that are too delicate to reach with your hands.
A Lint Brush
Or, a lint roller is a small, budget-friendly tool that comes in utterly handy when removing embroidery. This is because it removes the small residue of lint, fuzzy threads, hair, or dust from the piece of fabric, which gives you a clear overview of what you’re working on.
No lint brush or roller at hand? A piece of duct tape or adhesive tape will do the trick as well.
A Magnifying Glass
As removing embroidery can be a very delicate job, especially with the thinnest and smallest threads and stitches, a small magnifying glass can give you just that little helping hand when you need to zoom in some more. It is not a must when removing embroidery, but it sure is a great additive.
Step by step guide
Now that you have gathered all the gear, let’s get to work! Follow the below 4 steps to remove your embroidery for good.
Step 1: Turn the fabric inside out
To remove the stitching the right way, turn your garment inside out. This step will always be step 1, no matter what tool you are going to work with, and no matter if it’s a shirt, t-shirt, or cap. This way, you can see the stitches from up close, and you will have a clear view of what should be removed.
Also, you will avoid damaging the ‘good’ side of the fabric (the front) when accidentally slipping with the seam ripper or embroidery eraser.
Top tip: when removing hand-embroidered items, it could be of good help to place your fabric back in the embroidery hoop – this will straighten out the fabric, even more, allowing you to work more precisely.
Step 2: Cutting the stitches loose
With a seam ripper
After flipping your garment inside out and with a clear view of what stitches need to be removed, gently place the hook of the seam ripper under the bobbin threads and turn the hook, so that the threads will be cut. Try and test how many threads you can remove at a time, but, work slowly and above all, gently. And always start with small amounts of thread at once to avoid damaging the fabric.
With an embroidery eraser
As we said: this is an easy tool that will allow you to work at a higher pace. This device works great on monograms, logos, and other machine-stitched embroideries. Make sure to straighten out your fabric before you start, and start working from the outside in by slowly moving the embroidery eraser over the edge of the stitches. The stitches will be cut loose. Make sure to lift the eraser every two centimeters to avoid defaults, and work your way all around.
Step 3: Removing leftover stitches and threads
Working with either of the two tools, you will likely see a lot of loose threads when flipping over your garment again. You can remove these by using the tweezers to pull them out, and if needed, the magnifying glass, to zoom in on even the smallest threads and details. Also, if you encounter threads that are still stuck, use an (embroidery) scissor to gently cut these.
Are there still embroidery stitches stuck to the fabric? In that case, repeat the above process until every last bit is removed.
Step 4: The finishing touch
Now that all the (bobbin) threads are loose and removed, it is time to use the lint brush or tape. Gently brush or roll your fabric to remove any leftover threads, dust, or small pieces of fabric, on both the front and back of your garment. After this, use the magnifying glass again to check your work. Finally, iron out your garment and wash if needed.
And there you go, done: easy does it!
However, removing embroidery may seem like a hard job to do – it doesn’t have to be! These above four simple steps are there to apply on any embroidery work you desire to fix and ease it out for you. When you don’t have any access to either of the above tools (seam ripper, embroidery eraser, or embroidery scissors), please mind that even a manicure scissor will do. Keep in mind that in that case, more slow and gentle practice is recommended.
A final tip for extra success: the weaker the thread, the easier the removal of it will be. Try to slightly dampen your embroidery to simplify the process!
All Your Questions Answered on How to Remove the Embroidery
Will removing embroidery leave holes?
Actually, the ‘holes’ you see, are not actual holes in the fabric. What you see is the fibers of the material slightly torn apart because of the embroidery thread that got pressed through. To answer the question: depending on the type of fabric you use, there is a high chance it will. But, that doesn’t mean that they are impossible to camouflage, or even fix! A commonly used technique to solve this problem is to iron the fabric and straighten the skewed threads.
How do you remove embroidery marks?
As listed above, embroidery marks are almost inevitable when removing stitches from fabric. But luckily, there are several, easy solutions to the marks. For example, straightening the fibers by putting them back in place with the use of an iron, and afterward subtly ‘scratching’ the piece of fabric with a spoon. This will help the fibers to line up evenly again. Another solution would be to, instead of using a spoon, using your fingernail to gently scratch the surface.
Can you remove a monogram?
Yes, you can. By using the same technique as you do when removing embroidery.
How to remove embroidery without a seam ripper?
You can try using an embroidery scissor (see below) or an embroidery eraser.
How do you remove embroidery with scissors?
You can remove embroidery by using embroidery scissors, but using that technique slows the process down – when using scissors, you have to be extra careful as you will work almost thread per thread. We recommend you cut just 3 to maximum of 4 threads at once. Slowly slide the scissor under the stitches, and cut the bobbin threads – minding closely the cuts you make, as it is easier to cut the fabric on accident, for example.
How to remove embroidery with backing?
You can follow the easy steps above, but before you start using embroidery removal tools, make sure to remove the backing.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.