Tu-Na Quilts: My Mama Always Says…

“If you don’t want to rip, you shouldn’t be sewing.”

Over the last couple of years, my mom and I’ve spent a lot of time quilting together. According to my husband, it seems like that’s all I’ve been doing. However, I know years from now when I look back on our time together I will say it wasn’t enough.


We are working on Sew Fresh Quilt’s Modernitional Bear Paw Quilt together. Mom contributed some fabrics.


During these quilting sessions, I write down mom’s words of quilting wisdom. My plan is to share these bits of wisdom with you from time to time in a series that I’ll call “My Mama Always Says.. I hope you will find them interesting and helpful, too.


Welcome to

My Mama Always Says..:

Where years of experience and bits of quilting wisdom guide me on my quilting journey.



So just why would mom say that I shouldn’t be sewing if I don’t want to rip out my mistakes? I don’t know about you but I make a lot of sewing mistakes. Maybe it’s because I am a perfectionist or maybe it’s because I just want it to look nice. Then again it might be that I just want it to look right or maybe it’s because I am still learning. Nonetheless, I’ve come to the realization that nothing is always perfect. So I’ve begun to hold my seam or block at arm’s length. If I don’t notice that the seams don’t meet just right from that distance, then it’s good enough.


I caught this mistake before I went any further. Can you find it? Yes, that little triangle piece was the wrong color. It still required taking 3 seams partially apart.


For those times when it’s not good enough, I’ve found an easy and fast way to rip it apart.


Using my seam ripper, I carefully slide the pointy end under the stich to cut the thread. I continue to do this on the same side about every 6-8 stitches or so. I’ve sewn two seams using black and white threads and am ripping out both. 



Turning the piece around to the other side, I use my ripper to gently pull on a stitch. It will release and then I can pull the thread with my fingers. If it becomes stuck, I just wiggle it back and forth and it will release. This makes for a very fast way to unsew that wrong seam. Having a sharp seam ripper helps too. Yes, they do get dull.


If my stitches are very close together, I’ll use this method.


Opening the seam, I slide the pointy end of the ripper under a stitch or two to cut the threads. Then I gently tug on the fabric. It helps to keep one side taught with a finger as shown. This method takes a little longer but safely picks open that seam.


Recently, I showed our exchange daughter K. my latest sewing project and she pointed out a mistake right away.


I started this in the summer but, you know, life happened: quilt hops, trips, toothaches, and apples. So I am back sewing on it.


I had looked at these blocks many times and had never seen the mistake. So I sighed, picked up the seam ripper, and remembered my mom’s words of wisdom, “If you don’t want to rip, you shouldn’t be sewing.” Thanks mom. You are right, as usual.


Now it looks better. This is the after picture. The piece by the yellow arrow was turned wrong and needed to come out and be reset. It took several tries but, as you can see, I did get it back together again.


What I Learned Today:

  1. Ripping apart a seam by any other name—unsewing, unpicking—is still a pain in the backside.
  2. That old TV show, Father Knows Best, didn’t tell the whole story; Mother knows best, too.
  3. No one, including mom, ever said I had to be happy about ripping out those seams.
  4. I’d rather find the glaring error now before it’s been quilted and too late to do anything about it.
  5. There is no such thing as perfect; good enough can be just right, too.
  6. A set of fresh eyes (by that I mean someone else) helps in finding errors.

Question: Do you spend a lot of time ripping apart your mistakes or are you a “that’s good enough” type of sewer? What’s your “go to” method of ripping apart your mistakes?


Monday to:

Show & Tell Monday with Bambi

Em’s Scrapbag at When Life Falls to Pieces Make A Quilt for Move It Forward

Beth at Cooking Up Quilts for Main Crush Monday (button on sidebar).

Beth at Love Laugh Quilt for Monday Making (button on the sidebar).

Scraptastic Tuesday (button on sidebar).

Tuesday to:

Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl for Tips and Tutorials Tuesday (button on sidebar).

Wednesday to:

Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Be Social (button on sidebar).

26 thoughts on “Tu-Na Quilts: My Mama Always Says…

  1. chromatobalomata

    Sounds so familiar! The ripper is the tool I use the most! Many times I wish I wouldn’t be so strict with myself because as you said nobody is perfect. And it is true that many times the other ones they don’t see your mistakes unless you say it! Have a nice week! Anneli


  2. Lisa

    This is a great post Karen and I love that you are writing down your mother’s words of wisdom. I will rip out seams but it depends. I’m not an expert so I have to be content with good enough sometimes.


  3. Vicki in MN

    Your quilt is beautiful. One of my fondest memories is sewing with my mom at my house during her last years with us. We had a good time even though I didn’t always agree with her method of ‘this is good enough’. I let it go and thought we’ll just have a good time as that is what matters. Sometimes I rip and sometimes I don’t. Maybe it is my mood that day or maybe it just isn’t all that bad, LOL


  4. jennyfur66

    How wonderful to enjoy quilting with your Mom. I’m looking forward to all her sayings. Great tutorial on ripping. Jack is my ripper and we spend a lot of time together.


  5. Nicky

    Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It depends on who it is for and whether it can be regarded as a design change or a mistake! Thanks for linking up to #scraptastictuesday!


  6. Bonnie in Va

    I rip seams the same way — actually like you, both ways. It depends on my mood and what the purpose of the quilt. If it is going to a child, a few mismatched seams aren’t going to make any difference. If the problem is BIG I rip and fix no matter what.


  7. Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl

    What a neat idea for a series. I personally try to embrace seam ripping a bit differently: where else in life do you can and undo button? I find it is kind of magical. Sure it takes time, but I don’t really know other places in real life where I can undo something. Thank you for linking up.


  8. Ariane

    Your blocks are really looking great. I usually try to fix my mistakes. But, every now and then I don’t realize the mistakes until the quilt is quilted. When that happens I leave it.


  9. Lorna McMahon

    I don’t know why it is…. But I used to do everything I could think of to avoid ripping a seam. But have learned that it is better to just rip it out right away and make it right. I don’t mind doing it now. And you are so right – a fresh set of eyes can spot mistakes more easily. Taking a photo and viewing it on the computer helps sometimes, too. Your blocks are looking so good! Great work!!!


  10. Kate Heads

    Your quilt is coming together great Karen. One thing I have learned is if I don’t like something it’s easier to take it out straight away, otherwise I will never be happy with it and it spoils the quilt for me.


  11. Patricia

    OH! So much wisdom in one post! You are so very blessed to be able to sew with your mom! And you’re right – enjoy the time – because one day it will have been too short!

    My daughter lovingly points out my mistakes – we sew together as well. Sometimes, I’ma casual quilter. Sometimes, the mistakes do have to be pulled out. It just depends for me.

    I use your methods of ripping – plus pretty rippers help! 🙂

    Am going to start following you because
    1) my grandson named me as well,
    2) I truly enjoyed reading your post – and it’s my first visit – I think! 🙂

    Blessings to you and yours,


    1. Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats Post author

      I am so glad you enjoyed my post and hope you’ll stop by again. My husband and I went on the Minnesota Quilt shop hop this summer and I blogged about our adventures. You might like them too. Thanks for following my blog. That’s a great compliment.

      I am a slow quilter, probably because I do a lot of ripping apart my mistakes


  12. Kate

    Ripping out is just part of stitching. I use very similar methods to yours when I need to remove stitches. I’m a big fan of the “galloping horse” school of quilt making. If you won’t see it when riding by on a galloping horse, it’s not worth fixing. Though I can admit that for a few special projects, I will really strive for perfection. But those are getting father and farther apart.



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