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Tailors Hams, Rolls and Other Things I Don’t Have

Aunt Toby has been a sewer for a long time. Looking back, since I was first set in front of an old reconditioned and electrified Singer treadle machine when I was 11 years old, it’s been 40-odd years. And sewing is one of those things where there are always new things to learn and there are all sorts of tips and tricks that I don’t know.

But I do know a couple.

One is that with wool (and probably all animal fiber based) fabric, there is almost nothing you can’t do if you have a steam iron and a wet cloth. It helps if you have some of the niftier tailoring equipment such as:
A ham: Tailor’s Ham
A Seam Roll: Sleeve Roll
A Sleeve Board: Sleeve Board

I happen to have my great-grandfather’s sleeve board ( he worked as men’s suit presser), but I don’t have any of the other equipment. If you look at the photograph, you’ll see my ‘jack of all tools’ – it’s yellow and it’s a bath towel.

In this case, after I had sewn in the sleeves on this jacket I am working on now, the seam just did not look really nice, so the first thing I did was that I took another towel (a guest size towel), dampened it, rolled it up and doubled that – that became my ‘ham’ and I shoved that into the top of the sleeve and then with another damp pressing cloth on top, I shrank the top in a little bit so that it was smoother. Then, I removed that towel and took a different towel – the bath size – and I rolled THAT up into ‘arms’ and shoved those into the sleeves. As you can see, they literally go from almost the bottom of one sleeve, all the way across the form ‘shoulders’ and then down into the other sleeve. I then pulled the roll slightly up at the top of the sleeve so that the roll is a little bit ‘fatter’ there so that it would firm out the top of the sleeve a little bit and I set that on a drying rack over our hot air registers to dry and set the top of the sleeve.

Not that I don’t want people to buy tailoring equipment – but many times you can use what you’ve already got at home.

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  1. kathleen says:

    I used a rolled up magazine covered with a towel – it works great. I have a ham now, but I still use the towels for awkwardly shaped locations. Whatever works in my motto

  2. cidell says:

    Yep. There is an old BWOF that actually has directions for making your own. Essentially, a towel and a board.

  3. Auntie Allyn says:

    Brilliant! I’ve been tempted to purchase a sleeve roll and a tailor’s ham but couldn’t quite bring myself to do so.

  4. Lee K says:

    Those are all useful items, and I can speak from experience. My sleeve board accompanied me when I left the parental home – I think my mother had a spare. ALL the others were thrift shop finds: ham, seam roll, a “pressing mitt”, a wooden clapper and a combo clapper and point presser. So, check the thrift stores, because they are out there.

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