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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Homemade Salt Dough Tree Decorations (inc Tutorial)

I wanted to have a go at these last year but time ran away with me! It’s such a traditional craft that puts me in mind of the autumn harvest festivals at church when I was little. But I think salt dough lends itself to all sorts of things. (Loads more info here) It’s kind of like a store cupboard Fimo!

For the Salt Dough You’ll Need: 2 cups of Plain Flour, 1 cup of Table Salt, 1 cup Water (cool but not cold). Mixing bowl, rolling pin, cookie cutters,  palette knife, baking tray, greaseproof paper, cooling rack.
You can mix up any amount of dough you like as long as you stick to this ratio. 2 parts flour to 1 part each of salt and water.

Method: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in a little of the water and mix. Keep adding the water a little at a time, (You may not need all of the water) & mix until it starts to form a dough. Then squeeze, knead & roll in your hands until it’s a smooth, pliable ball of dough.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out the dough to about 50mm thickness. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters, or freehand if you’re a bit more skilled than I am. I left the surface of my shapes plain as I’m going to paint them. But I guess at this stage you could carefully etch patterns or designs into the surface.

Carefully lift your shapes, using a palette knife, onto a baking sheet covered in greaseproof paper. (A couple of my stars got stuck because I didn’t flour my work surface properly). Punch out holes for hanging ribbons. (I used a sturdy drinking straw for this)

Bake in the oven for an hour on a low heat (say 60C) turning them over half way through. Then turn them out onto a wire rack and leave until completely cool.  Leave for another 24 hrs before painting or varnishing, which hopefully we shall be doing this weekend….

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