The Ultimate Guide To A Tailor’s Ham

Have you heard the term tailor’s ham and wondering what it is or what it does?

I was first introduced to tailor’s hams back at university where I studied a historical costume course. It was something completely new to me but I soon understood what they did and how to use them.

Tailor’s hams or also known as a pressing ham are commonly used in domestic and industrial sewing rooms across the world. You may be wondering a couple of other things about the tailor’s ham so I put together this helpful guide to answer your questions.

What Is A Tailor’s Ham?

A tailor’s ham is a tool that is often used in sewing rooms in a number of industries from costume making to fashion. The tool is used to help press seams that are curved.

What Is A Tailor's Ham?

The tailor’s ham is place under a curved seam for example a hip seam and it helps to replicate the curviture of the body to allow the seam to be pushed flush and create an accurate flat seam.

There are a number of versions you can find for the body such as tailors sausage which is often used for the arms and a tailors clapper which is used for creating great flat seams.

How To Use A Tailor’s Ham

To use a tailors ham place it on the ironing board and place your curved seam over them top.

Before setting the iron on the seam make sure it is set in place. The seam wants to follow the shape of the ham to create an accurate press without any buckling or ripples.

Make sure you are hold your fabric and ham steady on one side away from the hot iron to avoid the fabric slipping or the ham moving.

As the tailor’s ham is traditionally made and stuffed with sawdust the tight compact filling will also make it fairly heavy which should give it some fixture and not be too light and easy to move on the ironing board.

The pressing ham, usually has two sides, one cotton and one wool. The wool side requires low heat and is best used for wool and more voluminous fabrics . The cotton is for smoother fabrics and high temperatures.

How To Take Care Of A Tailor’s Ham

Tailor’s hams are quite hardy items and if made correctly will last a number of years. They don’t require washing or much maintenance and are easy to keep for a long time.

If you find your tailor’s ham has got a little dirty in places you can use a small damp cloth and small amount of soap to pull out the dirt. Rinse with a mild damp cloth and leave to airdry.

If you have found that it is collecting a lot of dust and threads simply use a small handheld vaccuum or thin nozzle to clean away the dust. Alternatively, you can use a link roller over the fabric surface to remove threads and general dust.

If you are moving or planning on placing your sewing equipment away for a while then you should make sure that your tailors ham is packed away into an airtight dry container or box.

If your tailor’s ham comes into contact with a large amount of water or is left in a damp environment for long it will start to create mold and mildew which would make it unsafe to use.

If you see your ham starting to grow mold or it starts to smell you may want to replace it.

When Would I Need A Tailor’s Ham?

Not everyone needs a tailors ham, quite the opposite really. I sew nearly everyday and don’t have one so they aren’t an essential part of your sewing journey.

If you are just getting started with sewing and not sure what sewing tools you need and don’t need there are plenty of things you can live without for now and honestly a pressing ham is one of them.

I would recommend getting one if you are making lots of clothes either for yourself or to sell it doesn’t matter. The tailor’s ham is to designed to make curved seams sharper, clearer and enable a better press on a seam.

I would recommend using an alternative method first for the first few tries before spending the money on a tailor’s ham. You can find some alternatives later on in this post.

Where To Buy A Tailor’s Ham

You can buy tailor’s ham from a number of places both online and in store.

Amazon sell tailor’s hams from brands such a Prym and Hemline.

You can find the from £10 upt £70, if you are buying your first one I would spend as little as possible to make sure you really will use it and like it before moving onto a better quality and higher price point.

If you are happy with your cheaper one than that is great!

Buy Here: Hemline Checkered Tailor’s Ham

Alternaively, you can buy them on Etsy, eBay or other online retailers. Those on Etsy are a little higher in price as the are handmade and are more decorative than store bought alterntative.

If you wish to have a go at making your own you can find a helpful tutorial by Tilly & The Buttons using the Victory Patterns pattern.

Are There Tailor’s Ham Alternatives?

Tailor’s hams arent the cheapest of tools and if you find you aren’t ready to purchase one there are alternatives.

Whether you are saving up, working out whether you will use it or not or just waiting to make one you can find a couple of home DIY’s to keep you going.

The most common alternative is using a large towel roll it up tight to mimic the general shape of the pressing hem. You can hold it in place with some string tied in place to keep the same.

You can create smaller versions like the sleeve roll or also known as the tailor’s sausage for sleeves and armhole. You can use a smaller towel rolled tightly and tied in place.

I hope you have found this guide on tailor’s ham useful and opened your sewing knowledge up a little more.