A tailor’s ham is an essential piece of kit, used for pressing curved areas, for example in shaping princess seams or bust darts, and for moulding collars. It takes no more than an hour to make so if you’re a keen dressmaker with some rags to spare, get yourself a ham! Sooner or later, a project that requires it will land on your sewing table.
These instructions are based on those in the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.
You will need:
Rags (I use old toiles, cut to shreds, old socks and tights). Or sawdust.
Two pieces of calico, 45cm x 35 cm each approx. This is for the lining.
Two pieces of outer fabric, sized as above.
Place your iron on the calico and draw around it.
Enlarge this area all around by 7cm to an egg-like shape and cut out. Repeat. Cut two more from the outer fabric.
Using the outer fabric and lining as one, stitch together the two pieces, right sides together and leaving a gap of 10cm open. Stitch again: the reinforcement is important as the ham will be tightly stuffed! Turn right side out, stuff with rags and slipstitch the opening securely.
Ham in action
For pressing princess seams: place the curved seam on the curve of the ham. It’s useful to have one of these not just for constructing the seam but for pressing the completed garment after laundering.
For moulding the undercollar of a jacket: fold along the roll line and pin to ham, interfaced side out. Press against ham. Seam press if appropriate for your fabric and allow to dry before continuing.
When attaching a collar, rather than working on a flat surface, insert tailor’s ham inside the garment and pin the collar to the neckline.
P.S. You can’t put these in sandwiches, you know!