Seam Allowances and Seam Rippers

Amanda - Abilene, Texas
Entered on July 20, 2008

I believe in 5/8 inch seam allowances and seam rippers. It’s part of the common sense of sewing: stitch 5/8 of an inch from the fabric edge. I can purchase a pattern in my usual size, or measure the pieces before I sew, but I can never really tell exactly how it will fit until I’m done. If the garment’s too big, I can easily make it smaller, but if it’s too small, I can only make it larger if I’ve left room in the seam. It’s about leaving room for error, which is a good practice in general. When I speak, however convicted I am of the truth, I try to leave a little wiggle room – about 5/8 inch – because I can’t know how well my words will fit me in the future. Which brings me to my seam ripper. This small tool takes up very little space on my sewing table, but it’s always there, waiting for my next mistake. It’s a love-hate kind of tool, because it’s useful when you need it but you hope it won’t be necessary. To rip out a seam, the tiny blade has to be carefully inserted under the stitches to break the thread, which is time consuming and hard on the eyes. If leaving a 5/8 inch seam allowance is leaving room for error, using the seam ripper is like eating your words. It’s when you have to admit you were wrong. Even after the seam has been ripped and the garment has been sewn together again, you can still see tiny holes where the old seam was.

The number of things I once confidently knew to be true has diminished. The hard and fast rules of my upbringing have softened and blurred. Once I was in a class where we were each asked to bring a list of beliefs required for salvation. My list was long at first, but the more I considered, the more I crossed off the list. I finally narrowed it down to one or two sentences. It felt so refreshing to consciously shed some of the burdens I hadn’t realized I was carrying, but on the other hand – fear! Without my list of rules, how would I know what to do? After spending a lot of time and anxiety on this, I stopped worrying and decided to just leave a good seam allowance and keep my seam ripper handy. I don’t see it as not taking a stand for truth. I see it as practicing humility. I’m OK with not knowing whether something will fit me in the future. I’d rather rip a seam and start again than wear something that doesn’t fit just to save face and never have to admit I was wrong. As I sew and as I go through life, I believe in 5/8 inch seam allowances and seam rippers. They makes for easier relationships, openness to change, and an adventurous future, which I find appealing.