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If you want to destroy my sweater
—Weezer, "Undone (The Sweater Song)"
It's a law of cartoon physics (occasionally crossing over into live-action) that anything made of cloth can unravel into a single thread as though it were knitted like a sweater. Obviously more realistic (if you care about that kind of thing) when it involves an actual sweater, but even then unraveling a sweater typically isn't as easy as pulling on a random loose thread.
A variation of this trope concerns undoing a mummy's wrapping this way, usually causing the mummy to spin. Of course, this has the same problem in that a mummy isn't covered by one single long wrapping any more than a shirt is made of one single thread.
In especially cartoonish examples, this also applies to an animal's fur or feathers.
- This ad for back-to-school clothes.
- This '90s ad for Martini vermouth, featuring a young Charlize Theron.
- This ad for Infiniti features several articles of clothing being unraveled by threads attached to a car, including a woman's long yellow scarf, a woman's pair of leggings and green sweater, a man's business suit, and even a dog's blue sweater.
Anime & Manga
- Happens to Chisame in Mahou Sensei Negima, while onstage at a cosplay contest. Negi and Kotarô end up pulling the threads in her costume without realizing what it is, causing the costume to fall off and leaving Chisame in only her underwear. The crowd naturally starts cheering. It is, however, a little bit better in that her costume isn't reduced to a single string. It's that that particular string was keeping all the pieces of the costume together. But still...
- In Change 123, Hibiki leaps off a bridge onto a truck. A thread from her sweater gets caught on the bridge railing, unraveling her entire sweater. Later becomes an awkward moment when her primary persona opens her coat...
- In Girl Got Game, after Hamaya's clothes get torn, the loose threads get caught and eventually unravel entirely, leaving him completely naked (though he seems baffled as to how his underwear got caught up in it too).
- Maicchingu Machiko Sensei is one of the first Ecchi series where the main character always found herself disrobed. Many times, it was due to a single thread being yanked from her sweater. One gratuitous example was an episode in which no Fan Service was provided until the last thirty seconds or so of the episode... where she goes ice-skating, her student pulls a thread and slides her across the ice, revealing her breasts. (By the way, it was a kid's show.)
- This is a common gag in Mortadelo Y Filemon.
- Generally, they'll start pulling the thread into a ball, but the thread belongs to a buff man's sweater or something. The owner of the garment will hit them (usually Filemón) for ruining his clothing.
- If the mummy wrapping variation counts, they do that sometimes, too.
- Used in an early strip. Garfield only pulls on a thread from Jon's pants, but the shirt somehow unravels, too. That's because Jon was wearing thermal underwear (and only that).
- Another early Garfield (1981-12-27) shows the cat tying a loose end to a post and running to unravel his way out of a Homemade Sweater From Hell.
Films — Animation
- In Aladdin, Jafar magically unravels the Magic Carpet into a purple string, even though it's multiple colors with purple as the base. Literal case of A Wizard Did It. This is also an example of a Conspicuously Light Patch. When the carpet was together, it was created with a combination of traditional animation and digital mapping. Unraveled, it was only traditional animation, so it was reduced to a single solid color.
- Happens in The Man Called Flintstone when Barney Rubble tries to use Fred's tie to get down a 100-foot drop from a prison cell window. The entire tie unravels into a single thread as Barney tried to climb back up it. Watch it here, 2:15-2:30.
- Jack and Oogie Boogie at the end of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Partially justified, perhaps, as it's not Oogie's burlap body that's unraveled, it's the thread stitching him together.
Films — Live-Action
- In the film Mousehunt, Lee Evans's character is stripped by a string factory. For anyone curious, see here for how it was done.
- In Laurel and Hardy's Way Out West, Stan is helping Ollie get a locket off his neck — Stan starts pulling at a loose thread and soon unravels most of Ollie's underwear.
- In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the mummy version happens when Rocky is unwrapped.
- The 1992 comedy The Nutt House has a scene where a character has her dress unraveled in this manner.
- The Homer Price story "Mystery Yarn" has a woman mysteriously beat two men to become World's Champion String Saver, even though her ball of string was smaller. The story doesn't explain, but astute readers will notice that when she starts unrolling it, she's wearing a "robin's egg-blue dress with the pink trim at the bottom", which is later described as a "robin's-egg-blue blouse with the pink skirt" and finally a "dress with the robin's-egg-blue trim at the neck".
- In Shirley Jackson's very slightly autobiographical book Raising Demons, on a family trip to New York, 6-year-old Sally ties the loose thread of her knitted hat to a seat in the train before getting off: "I'd like to see that train get away," she says. Things don't get really challenging until the hotel turns out to have a revolving door.
- The Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Wizards vs. Werewolves" includes the mummy variation.
- It happens to Turbo's poncho in Lift-Off. Unlike other examples, however, they are able to get Ricardo to repair it before too much damage is done.
- In an episode of Bewitched, Samantha Stephens used this trope to get revenge on a Rich Bitch (part of the same episode described on the It's a Costume Party, I Swear page, incidentally).
- One recurring sketch by Armstrong and Miller involves an accident-prone presenter who continually ends up destroying priceless historical artifacts. Guess what happens in the one where there's a centuries-old tapestry.
- In a Childrens Hospital episode, a nurse has her uniform scrubs stripped off in this manner.
- In the Doctor Who story "The Space Museum," the titular museum is labyrinthine enough that Ian unwinds Barbara's cardigan in order to use the wool à la Theseus. To be fair, he is shown to have some trouble starting the sweater's disassembly, and Barbara has to take it from him and pick open a starting point; but after that it's just treated as a ball of yarn with a long single thread (which, as usual with string in a labyrinth, runs out too soon).
- In Kirbys Epic Yarn, the entire world is made of cloth and fabric, so this trope is used to disintegrate a few enemies.
- This is how you defeat a mummy in Simon the Sorcerer.
- In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Piglet is being carried away by the wind. Pooh grabs Piglet's scarf, but it unravels to a single string, and Piglet holds on to it as he soars like a kite.
- One Looney Tunes short has Sylvester hiding from Granny in her knitting basket as she is knitting. His fur gets caught in the yarn and it starts unraveling, so he knits it back in and ends up with colored checks in his lower half.
- On more than one occasion, Scooby Doo and friends would grab a trailing strip of mummy wrapping and give a tug, unravelling the mummy like a top.
- This happened to Popeye's swimsuit in one of the Al Brodax shorts.
- In one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy pulls a thread of Jimmy's shirt, unraveling the shirt and removing his outline.
- Happened to June's sweater once in Ka Blam
- In an episode of Potatoes and Dragons, a yeti is defeated in this way. His fur is unraveled until most of it is gone.
- In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Carnival Calamity", Penelope slowed her descent by clutching a thread on the Hooded Claw's pants, revealing his Goofy Print Underwear.
- Used in The Simpsons parody of Face Off, where two characters' faces are sewn onto each other's heads. A loose stitch is mistaken for a loose collar thread and unraveled from one side of the neck to the other, causing the face to flop forward horrifically. And then the same thing happens to the other character.
- Dexter's Mom inflicts this to an alien overlord in an episode of Dexters Laboratory, scoring a Defeat by Modesty.
- Happens in two Woody Woodpecker shorts:
- In Buccaneer Woodpecker, when he confronts Buzz Buzzard (who appears here as a pirate), Woody notices a loose thread on his coat and starts pulling on it, unravelling the coat and the hat (but oddly, leaving the buttons and everything else in place).
- In Wrestling Wrecks, he pulls a thread from a wrestler's shorts into the piece an old lady is knitting next to him. In the next shot, when she finishes knitting the shorts back together, she gets scared and embarrassed at the same time, as the guy recovers his shorts and wears them again offscreen.
- Happens at least once to Kick Buttowski.