Sewing Basics # 3 – How to Make a Tailor’s Ham

I don’t know about you but there are some seams that I find tricky to press on a flat surface. (Some darts, curved seams etc) This is where a tailor’s ham comes in. They’re not essential but they are pretty handy. You can find out more about them here. We made some at college today so thought I’d share a quick tutorial for anyone interested in making one…

1) Sketch an elongated egg shape onto some pattern paper. (Mine was approximately 30cm in length). You’ll need a scrap of calico or other pure medium weight cotton fabric, and a scrap of suiting wool or similar. Again this needs to be pure wool. Layer one on top of the other and pin your ham pattern to it.

2) Once you’ve cut out, you’ll end up with something like this (you can now discard your paper pattern):

3) Sew all around the edges leaving a 2″ opening. It’s a good idea to do a double row of stitching one ontop of the other as the seams need to be pretty strong:

 4) Trim the excess seam allowances….

 5) Turn the right way out and stuff with clean sawdust/wood shavings (available from any pet store) using a wide necked funnel or a cone made out of  strong card. Keep stuffing (a bit laborious but hang in there!) and compacting it down (really pack it good and tight) using a knitting needle or similar until it is a very solid smooth “ham” shape :

6) Hand stitch the opening closed:

7) And there you have it!:
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  1. Hayley January 19, 2011

    Ah I finally understand the purpose of a tailors ham, thanks for educating me… again lol. I’m going to have to have a go at making one, yours looks awesome!
    Hayley x

  2. Miss P January 19, 2011

    Actually, the finishd one in the photo is the college one! LOL. I ran out of time to finish stuffing mine, and wanted to post a picture of a finished one on here. They take quite a bit of stuffing! You’ll have to post a picture of yours when you make it! I’ll be finishing mine next week.

  3. A.J.A. January 20, 2011

    I made something that was supposed to pass for a ham a few months ago- boy is it UGLY! And I think it is too small. I am going to try your way soon. I would love to see how your completed ham turns out. Next could you post instructions for a sleeve roll? Ha ha!

  4. Marie January 20, 2011

    The series of informative tutorials you’ve been posting lately – including this one – are so brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing! What are you studying at college if you don’t mind me asking?

  5. Pam @ over50feeling40 January 20, 2011

    I just discovered your blog and I will return! I am excited to find one which will give me steps to follow. I am going to feature you today as my new friend on my site….

  6. Miss P January 20, 2011

    AJA – Was planning on making a sleeve roll and a pressing mitt, lol!
    MARIE – I’m at college once a week learning dressmaking and pattern drafting.
    PAM – hellooo & welcome! Thanks so much. Just had a quick visit over at your blog. Great message!

  7. strawberry moth January 20, 2011

    I’m dancing in place and can’t wait to make a little ham of my own!

    I only wish you lived next door and we could have thursday night sewing parties!

    xo, Strawberry Moth

  8. Miss P January 20, 2011

    Lol, yeah and I could raid your vintage closet!!

  9. Rhonda January 21, 2011

    thanks for this. i am just making a dress with curved seams in the bodice and have been struggling trying to iron them.. this will come in very handy πŸ™‚

  10. Eleen Fashions January 24, 2011

    Wow I wish I would of seen this post prior to buying a pattern for it!

  11. droppedpins February 11, 2011

    Oooh, thanks for this tutorial! I unfortunately bought a tailors ham, but I think I want another with a matching sleeve roll and pressing mitt just for the awesomeness factor πŸ™‚

  12. Miss P February 11, 2011

    Yes, I’m workig on the matching set too! Sleeve roll to follow!

  13. Anonymous February 11, 2011

    THAAAANK YOU!!! I was sure there was a way to make one by yourself, but could’t think of with what to fill it!!!
    I’ll give it a try this weekend.

  14. Miss P February 11, 2011

    Aw, you’re welcome! They take quite a bit of stuffing and compacting and it can get a bit messy, just to warn you! Well worth it though.

  15. magdamagda February 21, 2011

    going to try making one myself!

  16. Miss P February 21, 2011

    Fabulous!! Would love to see it when it’s done!

  17. Tilia April 3, 2011

    I knew it wat done with pine dust and that the fabric had to be wool and cotton, but it’s nice to know now what pattern to make, so thank you!

  18. Debbie June 11, 2011

    Hi, great blog – I love the things you are doing.

    I have been wanting to make a tailor’s ham for ages, but wasn’t sure what to stuff it with – thanks for the tutorial. I’m off to the pet store now!!

  19. peacedgoods March 6, 2012

    Why pure wool??

  20. Miss P March 6, 2012

    Hi peacegoods
    Pure wool is capable of withstanding the higher temperatures and of an iron, as is cotton/calico. The reason for the two different weights of fabric relates to pressing like fabrics together. For instance wool will sometimes be steamed over a ham to shape it. Calico will shrink when steamed,so the wool side of the ham is used. Conversly you would use the smoother lighter calico side for finer, lighter fabrics. Perhaps because the texture in the wool could imprint on very fine fabrics I guess.

  21. Theophanie March 27, 2012

    Stumbled it! πŸ™‚


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