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Home Beth Said Sew Remove Stitches & Skin a Quilt!

Remove Stitches & Skin a Quilt!

by Beth Cooper

Hey there, fellow quilters! Have you ever heard of “skinning” a quilt? Have you ever had to do it? You may be thinking “Skinning a quilt!? That sounds disgusting!” I don’t know who named the process but, personally, I think they could’ve picked a better name. Ha!

Skinning a quilt means to remove the quilting stitches from a quilt that’s been longarm quilted on a frame. It is a very quick way to remove a lot of quilting at one time.

When I first got a longarm quilting machine, let me just say that I was terrible. I thought learning to quilt was going to be a breeze! I mean, they make it look so easy on Youtube! I did not buy a computer for my machine and was super excited about free-motion quilting. I love to doodle and I love to sew, what could go wrong? Well, lots of things, actually. I struggled with tension issues with my machine from Day One. I finally got that figured out but it still wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine in my sewing room.

My biggest problem was that I wanted to do really intricate quilting designs and wasn’t quite ready for it. That being said, the only way to get better at intricate free-motion quilting is to just jump in there and do it! However, sometimes I should have practiced the designs on extra fabric before just diving into a quilt that I spent months piecing. Cue the mistakes. Lots of them! Luckily, I only quilted for myself and never anyone else.

The first time I tried to remove stitches, I ended up with a tangled mess of thread and fabric. It was like trying to detangle a ball of yarn that cat has been playing with. Not pretty. And it was slowwww work! Tearing out one stitch at a time when there are thousands of stitches is discouraging, depressing, and rage-inducing. I knew there had to be a better way and that is when I discovered “skinning” a quilt.

To properly skin a quilt, you need the right tool. I prefer to use a seam ripper with a flat or serrated blade. My favorite ones have actually been found in the health and beauty aisles at Walmart or Target and are marketed as facial blades to remove peach fuzz from your face. (I use them for that too! Ha! It’s a multi-function tool.) The one below is incredible too.

Havel’s Seam Ripper Ultra Pro would work great for skinning a quilt. It has a curved blade to prevent poking your fabric. Find it here! (Pssst. There’s a coupon for this seam ripper in the Nancy’s Notions Newsletter this week! Expires 5/24/23)

It’s important to leave the quilt on the longarm frame while you are doing the “procedure.” You need it to be taut and secure. At this point, you need to put on your surgeon’s cap and stay focused as you operate. One wrong move and your quilt will have a hole in it. Slow and steady will win this race and you will be amazed how fast you removed so many stitches!

Roll back your quilt top and your batting. With one hand, hold them back tightly and with the other hand, gently cut all of the stitches. Keep your blade as close to the batting as possible. You will remove a lot of stitches in a very short time.

DebbieHQ has a wonderful video on Youtube that shows the entire process of “skinning” a quilt. Check it out!

As time has went on, I very rarely have had to skin a quilt. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had to do that. My longarm quilting skills have definitely improved over time! (Thank goodness!)

So go forth, my fellow quilters, and don’t be afraid to skin that quilt!

‘Til next time,


Natalia Bonner shows a different way of quickly removing quilting stitches on her longarm. This method works great too!

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