Hold this thread as I walk away
Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I've come undone."
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.
Related to Clothing Damage and The Nudifier. Compare Stripping Snag when a piece of clothing gets stuck somewhere and is subsequent ripped off. Only metaphorically related to Pull the Thread. Occasionally combined with Giving Them the Strip.
- This ad for back-to-school clothes. A strand of a girl's red dress gets caught in the doors of a school bus, unravelling the entire dress, leaving the girl covering her undergarments in embarrassment.
- This '90s ad for Martini vermouth, featuring a young Charlize Theron.The dress of Theron's character begins to get unravelled, revealing her naked bottom.
- This ad for Kit Kat ice cream bars. A threads from a lady's dress gets caught in a taxi door, unravelling the dress as the taxi drives away, and revealing her white bra and panties. However, given that the day seems especially hot, the lady does not mind it, and perhaps even welcomes such relief.
- This commercial for Virgin mobile, in which the top part of Adriana Karembeu's dress is ripped away, leaving her to cover up her bare breasts with both the seat belt strap and her hands, whilst texting for help and giving very annoyed looks to paparazzi.
- 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 Detective Conan a series of bizarre and improbable events results in Haibara's sweater unraveling until she's down to her underwear, while trapped in a freezing cold delivery truck.
- Doctor Slump. In the anime adaptation of The Story of Donbe, Aoi Kimidori is seen talking to Kurikinton Soramame when Donbei ties a thread of her dress to a car which took off and unraveled her dress in front of him causing her to get embarrassed and slap Kurikinton.
- 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).
- In Kill la Kill, Nui Harime manages to easily defeat Sanageyama by severing his Goku Uniform's Banshi, a Life Fiber that has been imbued with the will to become clothing. One of the few examples of actually weaponizing this trope.
- 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...
- 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 Fanservice 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.
- Said sweater gag was used in the first live action movie Machiko's crochet-like sweater gets a single thread snagged while at home, and by the time she makes the full run to her classroom, her shirt is gone.
- An episode of Majokko Meg-chan has a Brainwashed and Crazy Rabi does this to a random woman.
- This is a common gag in Mortadelo y Filemón.
- 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.
- Happens to Little Audrey at the end of one short story. She walks on oblivious as her panties are on display.
- This is the very first thing that happens to poor Spider-Man after the entire Superior Spider-Man debacle, when he tackles three female criminals, one of them being able to control threads. He's forced to don web undies and has the entire incident shown off across New York. It gets worse when it turns out the web formula is a little too strong.
- The old comic "G.I. Joe" (not to be confused with the famous Hasbro's franchise) featured the character (created by Dan De Carlo) Wendy the Waf, a blonde military girl. In a story, "Eyes Right", she models for a new Waf uniform that is wrapped in a blade of a plane, reducing the uniform to a mini-skirt.
- 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 shows the cat tying a loose end to a post and running to unravel his way out of a Homemade Sweater from Hell. Unfortunately for him, Jon's mother just re-knits the sweater from the resulting thread.
- Implied in the April 3, 1991, where Garfield gives Jon a ball of yarn.
Jon: You know, I have a sweater this exact same color!
Garfield: Not anymore.
- In yet another strip, Garfield slucks on a bowl of spaghetti, only to mistakenly unwind Jon's sweater instead.
- In the comic strip adaptation of The Flintstones, Betty asks how Wilma knows her dress is unraveling. Wilma replies that the man following them is a string collector, and he has accumulated a very large ball of string.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the film MouseHunt, Lee Evans's character is stripped by a string factory when he damages the machine's fuse box. 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 woman has her dress unraveled in this manner.
- The kids of The Monster Squad dispose of The Mummy using this method.
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker sticks a grenade into a prone bank employee's mouth. The guy can only watch helplessly as Joker strolls away to his getaway vehicle, trailing an unravelling thread from his jacket, which pulls the grenade pin once it gets slammed in the door. It was just a smoke grenade. The guy is not amused.
- Sunnyside: Part of Charlie Chaplin's pathetic effort to imitate the rich city chap includes donning thick woolen socks, to imitate the city chap's fancy spats. One of the townspeople notices a loose thread hanging from Charlie's sock and grabs it. Charlie's entire sock unravels.
- Happens to the main character Josefine in the end of "Should a Schoolgirl Tell". A strand of cloth gets caught in a chair, unravelling her skirt. She walks on obliviously while flashing her panties.
- In Up the Chastity Belt, Lurkalot gets the threads of Lady Ashfodel's tapestry hooked on his belt, and unravels it when he storms out of the room.
- 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.
- In the Mahabharata, Yuddhisthra has lost everything in a dice game against his brother-in-law Duryodhana. Including his (and his brothers') wife Draupadi. Duryodhana and Karna want to "put Draupadi in her place" for scorning them, so they try to rape her in front of their court (and her now-defeated husbands). She prays to Krishna for help, and since she had once bandaged a wound on his finger using a piece of her sari, he returns the favor: as Dushasana pulls on her sari, it's extended until the Kauravas just give up and stop.
- 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 the Bewitched episode "Snob in the Grass," Samantha Stephens used this trope to get revenge on a Rich Bitch.
- 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 a (possibly ad-libbed) bit from the opening of one episode of The Sonny And Cher Show, Cher finds a stray thread on her dress and quips that it's held together by three threads, so stay tuned to see whether she finds the two others!
- Happens in The Lucy Show when a thread from Lucy's dress gets snagged as she exits an elevator.
- In an episode of the German TV show Berlin Berlin, 2 girls sneak into a nightclub with one of them wearing a crochet skirt. In the process, the skirt gets caught in a window and the obvious happens.
- Qi featured an un-knitting machine invented by Imogen Hedges, on the 'K' season Christmas episode, "Kris Kringle". The machine unravelled a scarf that Alan Davies was wearing and wound the yarn back up into a ball.
- In the Full House episode "Wrong-Way Tanner", D.J.'s necklace is stuck to the sweater Steve is wearing, while Stephanie videotapes her family for her school project. Once Stephanie makes it clear she intends to share her videotaped footage to her classmates, D.J. starts chasing her, leaving behind a trail of sweater thread in her wake, while Steve futilely holds onto the thread. When the Tanner family views the clip late in the episode, the sweater is shown in the footage to have been already in tatters and Steve mentions that his mother can use the remaining parts of the sweater — the sleeves — as leg-warmers.
- The video for Korn's Coming Undone has the whole band - instruments and all - go through this with the aid of CGI. At first, it's just the fingers on Jonathan Davis' right hand but, by the end of the song, all four of them (at the time; Brian "Head" Welch hadn't returned to the band yet) are just a haphazard pile of vanishing ribbons on the ground.
''I'm... trying to hold it together!
Head is lighter than a feather!
Looks like I'm not gettin' better!
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Friday The Thirteenth", Miss Brooks ends up tearing off a lapel on Mr. Conklin's new suit by merely pulling on a loose thread.
- In Kirby's Epic Yarn, the entire world is made of cloth and fabric, so this trope is used to disintegrate a few enemies.
- Yoshi's Woolly World being a Spiritual Successor to Kirby's Epic Yarn, this trope is used to uncover secrets and modify the environment by pulling on loose threads of cloth with Yoshi's tongue.
- This is how you defeat a mummy in Simon the Sorcerer.
- Simon's Cat: In "Christmas Yarn", the eponymous cat gets a thread of Simon's sweater stuck in its mouth as Simon walks out of the house, with the expected result.
- The Crumpets:
- In "No Pffuture", Pfff unknowingly unravels his rug by foot, leaving behind its red thread everywhere he walks in his house and his neighbor's and setting off chaos in both houses and between.
- In "Nu comme Hervé", the loose thread of Cassandra's yellow skirt gets caught in an elevator door. She breaks the thread before it could disintegrate her skirt, which is now short.
- Dexter's Mom inflicts this to an alien overlord in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, scoring a Defeat by Modesty.
- Donald Duck is the victim of this in the Disney short "On Ice" (1935), losing his sweater as it doubles as a makeshift kitestring.
- In one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy pulls a thread of Jimmy's shirt, unraveling the shirt and removing his outline.
- Happens to Billy in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Dumb Luck", when some kids at school pull a loose clothing string on the back of his shirt, revealing his disgusting body. Trust us, it is not something you want to see.
- 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 an argyle lower half.
- The mummy variant happens in The Mr. Men Show episode "Science".
- 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.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Runaway Runway", at one point Ferb's entire outfit is accidentally unraveled.
- This happened to Popeye's swimsuit in the Al Brodax short "The Bathing Beasts".
- In an episode of Potatoes and Dragons, a yeti is defeated in this way. His fur is unraveled until most of it is gone.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gargamel's robe gets unraveled in this fashion at least twice in The Smurfs, not to mention Sassette's overalls and Brainy's bandage wrapping.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In episode "Interdimensional Field Trip", a monster wholly made of threads is defeated this way. Miss Skullnick ties the tip of a thread to a large paper clip, and then fastens it to "The Universe's Most Immovable Post". As the school bus flees with the monster in hot pursuit, it unravels itself completely.
- Taz-Mania: In "Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty", Kitty unravels a comforter of the bed and Taz has to knit it back together.
- 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, Woody 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.
- This was the basis for a now defunct dance that used to be performed in Tahiti, at least as far back as the 18th century and until a few decades ago. The female performer was wrapped in a long piece of tapa cloth and would then slowly sway and spin, slowly "unwrapping" herself, accompanied by drumming, slow at first, then faster and faster and going crescendo as the final reveal approached. The dancer was nude underneath in the old traditional form or topless in more recent performances.
- This is possible to do with the elastic waistbands of underwear. It's also really annoying.
- Silkworms spin a one-thread cocoon as part of their life cycle to pupate in. In the silk industry, pupating silkworms are killed in hot water, and their coccons are each unravelled as a single long silk thread.