Open seams

Only attempt to open the seams of fully fashioned garments with linked seams, or hand knitted garments with hand sewn seams. Avoid trying to open the overlocked seams of cut and sew knitwear, as these cover cut edges. For guidance on identifying and opening the seams of machine-made knitwear, see Dawn Prickett's Recycling Sweaters for Yarn blog post (note: 'serged seam' = overlocked seam, 'crochet seam' = linked seam).

If you want to pick up open stitches from a cut and sew garment, you would have to just cut the fabric at the appropriate point, rather than opening the seams first (see open a row for more details).

For all seam types:

  • Take care to avoid cutting the fabric (you will have short lengths of yarn when you come to unravel, or a damaged fabric if you want to re-use that part).
  • If you are undoing the whole garment, undo the seams in the opposite order to how it was put together (see the blog post for details).

For hand knitted garments with hand sewn seams:

  • Gently ease the seam apart until you are sure which strand to cut.
  • Use a blunt-pointed wool needle.
  • Can pull the sewing thread so the seam is slightly gathered, which helps to identify the sewing thread from the knitting.

For fully fashioned garments with linked seams:

  • The crochet chain forms little arrows – they show the direction the seam will unravel.
  • Cut the chain at the start, tease out the end from the previous loop and pull to undo.
  • On very fine gauge knitwear, you may find a seam that looks like a rope instead of a chain. To undo this seam, you need to pull a thread from each side.