How to remove embroidery

By on September 2nd, 2019
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how to remove embroidery
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We’ve already established the fact here that every machine embroidery enthusiast makes mistakes. And when the mistake is really bad, sometimes the best solution is to rip out your stitches and start again. But if you’re new to this game (or you have never made a mistake), you’re probably wondering how to remove embroidery and if it’s even possible.

You may also be interested in removing embroidery if you have a garment that you want to repurpose. For example, maybe one kid owns a pricey monogrammed jacket, and you want to pass it down to the next child. It would be great if you could take out the old stitching and create a new monogram on top.

Products mentioned in this post

  • Peggy’s Stitch Eraser – what a great product! You can see how well this product removed the embroidery in my video (posted below)
  • Seam ripper – Yes, this is pretty basic but still an indispensable tool for ripping stitches.
  • Nippers – The best! for trimming tiny jump stitches and quite useful for removing embroidery
  • Scalpel – can precisely slice open stitches.
  • Mustache trimmer – A great tool for destroying stitches on the wrong side of the embroidery.
  • Suture remover– A precise device for removing stitches – and not just the medical type
  • Disposable razor – The most low budget device for destroying embroidered stitches on the back of a garment.
  • Eyebrow shaper razors – It works much like the mustache trimmer
  • Tweezers – Very helpful for pulling out stubborn stitches
  • Straight edged razor – Another helpful, low budget tool for destroying stitches
  • Bikini trimmer– Much like the mustache trimmer
  • Lint roller – Ideal for removing lint and small threads so you can accurately assess your progress

Is it possible to remove embroidery?

Yes. It is definitely possible to remove embroidery. But the amount of effort it requires and how the finished product turns out will vary.  Obviously, a very dense embroidery design stitched on delicate fabric will be almost impossible to remove.  Embroidery on more durable fabric with larger stitches will be easier.

But even when you remove the embroidery, sometimes the resulting fabric underneath will not look great.

Is it worth it to remove the embroidery?

Before you start tearing out your stitches, you need to ask yourself if it is really worth it to remove the embroidery. Sometimes the item you are stitching on is replaceable for a couple of dollars, and your time is certainly worth much more than that.

Oftentimes, in the spirit of being resourceful and not wanting to throw something away, I start tearing out stitches without carefully considering the cost/benefit factor of my actions. Ripping out embroidery can be quite tedious and, (at least in my experience), it takes much longer than I ever expect. This seems to be a sentiment echoed by my fellow machine embroidery enthusiasts.

Essential Stabilizer for Machine Embroidery

What should I charge to remove embroidery?

Many embroidery professionals will not offer the service of removing embroidery, simply because removing stitches can be tedious and not always deliver the best results.  When removing stitches, it’s too easy to make one wrong move and rip a hole in the garment.

One experienced embroiderer told me she feels so confident in her removal skills that she will do it for $12 – $15. However, she will only take on the project if she feels like she will have good results after removing the embroidery.

Her attitudes seems to be in the minority, because it seems MANY embroidery shop owners say there is no amount of money that a customer could pay to get them to remove old embroidery.

Can different types of embroidery be removed more easily than others?

Yes! Definitely! But, it depends on the type of stitching and the material you have stitched on. In general, you will have a harder time removing embroidery from very thin or fine fabrics with small stitching.

A couple of years ago I embroidered on some very thin Turkish beach towels to give to my mom as a gift (which turned out very cute by the way). But, of course, I messed up one of them. When I attempted to remove the stitches, I tore big holes in the towels.  The embroidery was nearly impossible to remove because the towel material was so thin and the lettering was very small.

Large, satin stitch letters on very durable fabrics are the easiest to remove. If you have nothing to lose, it’s worth a try.

What is the easiest way to remove embroidery?

When it comes to removing embroidered stitches, it helps to use the right tools (and often a combination of tools) and follow the following process.

Wet the embroidery

Getting the stitches a bit wet will weaken the thread and make it easier to remove.  Don’t soak it though.

Turn the garment inside out

As a rule – you should always start removing the embroidery from the back of the embroidered object.  To easily access the backside of your embroidery, turn your garment inside out.

Destroy the stitches on the back of the embroidery

The best tool for this job is Peggy’s Stitch Eraser  (in my opinion). A stitch eraser is an electric device with a bunch of little blades that are designed to specifically get underneath dense embroidery stitches without damaging the fabric underneath.

A lot of people say that similar devices like a mustache trimmer, a bikini trimmer. or a eyebrow shaper razors  work just as well as a Stitch Eraser.  Some people even use non-motorized tools like disposable razors  or a straight edged razor. In my opinion, however, I would rather use the tool designed for the job specifically one that will less likely cause damage to the fabric underneath.

Whatever tool you decide to use, you just want to gently run it over the back of the stitched area.  The stitched areas is going to be a bit more raised than the fabric.  So the trick is to keep the Stitch Eraser at a level where it just cuts the stitches and not the fabric.

Generally, you want to run your Stitch Eraser perpendicular to your stitches and work on small areas at a time, periodically flipping the fabric over to brush stitches out of the way.

destroying stitches on back of fabric using Peggy's Stitch Eraser
Using Peggy’s Stitch Eraser to remove embroidery on the wrong side of the embroidered area

Pull the stitches off from the front of the garment

Once the stitches are destroyed on the back of the fabric, then should be able to be pulled out from the front. Using a pair of tweezers or some suture removers, gently pull the stitches away from the fabric.   Just take your time, and be gentle. You will find that some of the stitches will just brush off.

After you pull as many stitches away from the front of the garment, you may need to return to the back and razor away some more stitches from the back.

For stubborn stitches, you may need to go in and remove the embroidery with a seam ripper or a pair of nippers. Just be careful not to cut into your fabric.

removing embroidery with seam ripper
Using a seam ripper to take out stubborn stitches on the front of the embroidered area.

Clean up the embroidered area

It’s hard to see what stitches still need to be removed when there are little bits and pieces of threads everywhere.  A lint roller can help you clean up those little bits and piece of threads so you can better assess your progress.

Embroidery removed successfully
Embroidery – all gone!

Prepare the embroidered area for new embroidery

Once you are satisfied with the amount of stitches you have removed, then it’s time to prepare the fabric to be embroidered on again.  Embroidering over the spot where the previous embroidery was is the best way to disguise the remnants of the previous embroidery.  If you can access the space with an iron (and the fabric is suitable for ironing)

Will removing embroidery leave holes?

Sometimes the process of removing embroidery can leave holes in your fabric.  Again, this is more likely when you are removing embroidery on fabric that is more delicate.

Even if you remove embroidery on fabric that’s very durable, you can sometimes see the holes where the thread went through the fabric in the previous embroidery. Usually these small holes will disappear when you wash the fabric.  Ironing can also help get rid of the marks from the previous embroidery.

But, even if you do create major holes in your fabric by being a bit too aggressive with your embroidery removal process, it is possible to cover up the holes.  You can actually disguise a hole in your fabric by simply embroidering over the hole.  Essentially you seal up the back and embroidery over the top, and you will never know that the hole was there. It’s quite satisfying.

In fact, there are some crazy people out there who think it’s fun to “repair” clothing by embroidering over a hole.  If you secure some cut away stabilizer to the back of the garment, you can embroider on top and the hole is no longer visible.

One lady I know likes to embroider over moth-eaten wool sweaters, cigarette burns, and holes on favorite sweatshirts and windbreakers. Clothing with holes, tears and stains is often discounted at stores and thrift shops which can present a fun challenge to fix with embroidery.

And when all else fails…

Another way to fix a hole is to appliqué over the damaged area. In some cases you do not not even need to remove the stitches in order to appliqué over the top.  And, if you are really feeling lazy, you can simply iron on a patch to cover the unwanted stitches.

Sometimes you can actually just embroider over the hole!  Check out how I completely covered a hole in a garment with embroidery!

Can you REALLY remove embroidery?  I’d like to see how you do it.

Sure! Not a problem.  I actually made this video demonstrating how I removed the embroidery from my daughter’s backpack. I used a combination of a seam ripper and Peggy’s Stitch Eraser. It was not a problem taking out these stitches but the backpack is so old that the fabric had faded around wear the stitches. So, once I removed the embroidery, the shadows of the letters were still visible. I think that if I stitched a new name on top, this shadow would hardly be noticeable and eventually face away.

You will see in the video that the stitches came out very easily. This was due to the fact that the backpack fabric is very durable and the letters were quite large so it was easy to rip the stitches.

Enjoy the video and happy stitching!



Quick Shopping Links – Tools for Removing Embroidery

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How to remove embroidery

2 thoughts on “How to remove embroidery

  1. Very informative for this post I like it thanks for sharing this

  2. I loved it very much and I got to learn new design too. Just keep in mind that if you edit the embroidery files, you will have to get them re-digitized. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

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