Have you ever had a t-shirt hem that popped and started to unravel? You may have decided to put it into your mending pile, and found that unpicking the coverstitched hem looked like it would take an awfully long time to do. If you’ve used a coverstitch machine to sew a hem, perhaps your stitching didn’t quite catch the hem allowance and you want to unpick the stitching and resew it. Coverstitching is actually quite quick and easy to remove, if you know which direction to pull the thread from.
Let’s talk about coverstitching first. I know a lot of seamstresses who are in love with their coverstitch machines, and for a good reason! A coverstitch is a stretchy seam finish used mainly for hemming, but it can also be decorative. It uses either 2 or 3 needles, and has a single looper that creates loops on the bottom side of the stitch. Machines that can coverstitch can also make a chain stitch, but that’s a topic for another day. Sometimes the looped side of the stitch is used on the top of the garment, but more often, lines of topstitching on the outside of the garment indicate a coverstitch machine was used. When used for hemming, the raw edge of the fabric is usually lays between or next to the needle threads, to enclose and finish the fabric edge.
To remove the coverstitching, first unpick both needle threads right across from each other, removing about 5 stitches.
Flip the garment over, and you’ll notice that the loops have come undone and can easily be pulled to remove the stitching. To more easily identify the direction that you should be pulling thread from, think about how the hem was sewn. If the bulk of your garment is the left of the machine, then your hem edge would be on your right, to be match up marks on with your stitch plate. The photo above is laid out this way. You would hold on to your looper thread and pull it towards the back of the stitch.
You may find that at some points, the looper thread and one or more of the needles threads seem to get stuck. This is more likely to happen if any of the threads were sewn using a stretch nylon thread.
Once you’ve removed the looper thread, the needle threads will easily pull off of the fabric.
If your hem was sewn using stretch nylon thread, you may find that the looper and needle threads are catching on a each other a lot. It can help to pull the needle threads and the looper threads simultaneously, from each side. If the threads will not release from around each other, simply move up about half of an inch and unpick the needle threads again, continuing to pull on the looper thread to unravel the stitch.
If the coverstitching you are attempting to remove has loops on both sides of the stitch, then you may have a bit more unpicking to do. Depending on the machine used to create the stitch, the loops on the top side of stitch may just fall apart as you remove the bottom thread, or they may not. The only way to know is to try it out and see!