Tailor’s Ham and Sleeve Roll

Apart from my sewing machine, my iron is the most useful item I have when it comes to producing a decent finish in a garment.  Some very strange looking seams suddenly look perfect once ironed and a quick press somehow makes seams match up when they didn’t before.  But sometimes it is just so fiddly to iron curves and sleeves on a flat ironing board and if I had a mind to steam shrink shoulder seams to fit (up to this point I really haven’t felt the need) it would be impossible with only an ironing board.  I used to have a tailor’s ham and a sleeve board which came with an old ironing board but they vanished a long time ago.  No idea what happens to these things.

About a year ago I tried looking for new ones.  Apparently they seem to only be made in tartan which wasn’t really the look I was going for, so I ended up making myself a tailor’s ham and a sleeve roll and they have proved invaluable.  They cost next to nothing.  Actually, they did cost nothing. The inner linings were made from scraps of material (old calico left over from toile making) from my cupboard, the outer covers were left over bits of cushion fabric and the stuffing was some sawdust which I had in my shed for the chickens’ bedding.

So here is a really, really easy way to make a tailor’s ham and a sleeve roll for yourself.

The pattern pieces are at the end of this post.  Apologies for the hand drawn, rustic, faded quality.  Print up the pattern pieces to the size you want, each of my pieces fitted onto an A4 piece of paper.  Glue or tape the pieces together.  There is about a 1 cm seam allowance.  Cut out the fabric and lining and place each lining piece on the corresponding main fabric piece and treat each section as one piece of fabric.

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For the sleeve roll, fold the fabric, which you have backed with lining, in half longways with right sides together.  Sew all along the side leaving about a 10 cm gap in the middle for stuffing.

For the tailor’s ham, place the two main pieces, which you have backed with lining, right sides together and start sewing 1 cm from the bottom corner and continue up to the top and down the other side until you get 1 cm from the bottom corner.  Then pin and sew the bottom piece, which you have backed with lining, to the lower edges of the ham leaving about a 10 cm gap for stuffing.

For both the sleeve roll and the tailor’s ham, stuff very full with sawdust.  It is helpful to have something like the handle of a wooden spoon to push the sawdust down because you need to get as much sawdust in as possible.  When you really can’t get any more in, pin the gaps closed and hand sew together with extra strong thread.  It’s best to sew one way, fasten off the thread, and then sew back the other way as this seam will be put under a lot of pressure.

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Next week I hope to start a series on hemming; two hems a week.  Most of us have one or two hemming techniques that we fall back on time and time again and we never look into other ways that might produce a better result.   I aim to show you a machine hem and a hand stitch hem a week.

New Baby Booties Knitting Patterns

Five words I never thought I would say: ‘I’ve made a knitting pattern.’   Well, two patterns because after making one for double knit yarn, I found some nice aran wool in my stash so I made another for that wool.  I’m not really sure why I decided on baby booties, except they are small and it made a change to see something knit up quickly – and they are cute!

They are shaped like small envelopes so I have given them the name ‘Maylyer’ which is the Cornish word for envelope.   They have knitted button loops and buttons to keep them on little feet.

My baby booties patterns are available in printed form and as a PDF at Bramble Patch Designs.  I knitted up a few pairs as well which can also be found in my shop.  I got a bit carried away here and have knitted them in a variety of yarns from organic naturally dyed cotton, to extra fine super soft merino, to an alpaca and silk mix yarn in cream which knitted up really light and fluffy like a little cloud.  Mostly I have used wooden buttons but the alpaca and silk baby booties have oval shaped mother of pearl buttons.  I think they are easy to knit and very quick to do (compared to knitting a cardigan for myself) even for someone who has only just started to learn to knit.

I’m now thinking about other baby booties I could knit; some baby Ugs or ballerina shoes would be nice, and I have an idea for a sewing pattern for some fabric ones.

 

Acorns Cardigan

Another completed cardigan and in blue.  I’m not sure what’s come over me; prolific cardigan knitting and using the colour blue!  This wool reminded me of the sea on a stormy day.  (Although yesterday, when we were walking around the cliffs the sea was a brilliant turquoise blue, I am on the lookout for a yarn in just that colour.)  I knitted this from aran weight merino so it’s more of a winter garment, but you never can tell in Cornwall it will probably come in handy in July.

I really enjoyed knitting this cardigan with the acorns around the yoke.  Carol Sunday’s Acorns Cardigan is not a beginner’s knit, not that it is difficult, it just requires a lot of concentration due to the huge variety of stitches and the use of different increases and decreases.  This is my kind of pattern, I loved knitting it.   The yoke did take ages.  It seemed like I had been knitting it for weeks and had very little to show for it.  But once I got onto the body it took no time at all, probably because I could concentrate on the number of rows between increases and decreases which is much better than the usual ‘continue working in stockinette stitch until it measures…’.

I did miss off some of the acorns on the front of the cardigan because I thought it might look better with them just around the yoke, and I think that was a good choice.

A few people on Ravelry have mentioned the confusion with the cuff chart and when I got to that point I realized why.  The designer has been very helpful in converting the chart for working on the wrong side but has reversed the purl and knit symbols, so you have to pretend you are working on the right side, i.e. the empty square is always a knit and the square with a spot in is always a purl.

A lot of people have changed the neckline but I liked that part of the design so I knitted it just as the pattern said.  I probably should have taken more notice of their comments on the button band.  Even before I put it on I could see that it would gap and it does (although not so much when I put it on my tailor’s dummy because she doesn’t move) so next time I will possibly alter the number of stitches I pick up, and use extra buttons.  (I have already bought some extra olive coloured buttons for that purpose.  But that is several projects away.)

 

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Solar Dyeing

I have always been intrigued by using things from the garden and recycling things you would normally just throw away.  My garden is not large enough to live off, a small holding would suit me better – maybe one day.  A couple of years ago I started researching natural dyes and had a few (unsuccessful) attempts at dyeing wool on my stove.  I say unsuccessful but had I been aiming for a dark grey then I could say I achieved my goal but I was not aiming for grey, dark for otherwise!  It was also quite labour intensive and probably used a lot of electricity as well.  So a few weeks ago when we were clearing out the attic I found my old aquarium and thought it would be ideal for a solar oven and while I was online looking for ideas on how to do that, I noticed a lot of people were using old jars, which seemed a lot easier and meant I could get started straight away.   The aquarium will still be useful for larger items.  Further research is called for, but for now it is quite happy sitting on the patio.

From my previous attempts at dyeing wool in a large saucepan on the stove I found the dye material was difficult to remove from the dye and got stuck to the wool.  This time I have chopped up my dye material, put it in a net laundry bag in the jar with hot water and left it in the sun for a few weeks.  When the dye is ready the bag can just be removed and emptied.  I have decided against dyeing wool at the moment (I probably have enough yarn in my stash to last about two years) but thought it would make a nice change to have some naturally dyed fabrics to sew with.  I make my own clothes to have something different to everyone else but then I buy the same commercially dyed fabrics that everyone else has.   Due to the unpredictability of natural dyes each batch will be unique.

I decided to get going with four dyes from things I had in the house and garden.  Spinach leaves for a yellow/green colour, plum skins for a deep pink/purple, avocado skins and stones for a pale pink, and black beans for a blue.

Then a late frost was forecast so I brought them inside for a couple of days.

It has become apparent that the black beans are not producing any dye colour, so I’m going to discard that one and either try again or find a different dye material entirely.

Meanwhile, I have dyed some cotton fabric on my stove top using turmeric for some almost instant results. Turmeric does not require a mordant and is good for dyeing plant material like cotton (apparently).  I soaked the cotton fabric for a few hours.  I mixed the turmeric powder (a whole jar) with a small amount of water to make a paste then added it to a large saucepan with enough water to cover my fabric and simmered it for an hour.  Then I put my fabric in the dye, simmered it for another hour and then left it to stand for the rest of the day.

OK, so this was not a total success.  I could say this was the effect I was going for but I would be lying!

In the pot it looked a lovely deep orange and when I rinsed it out (several times until the water went clear) it still looked a lovely deep orange.

So far, so good.  Except that it did smell very spicy, so I gave it a cool machine wash with my Ecover non bio and…

…not orange!  So, I probably won’t be making a fabulous garment from this, but it might be useful for quilting – or I might just re-dye it!  I’ll probably re-dye it.

I should be able to do this.  People have been dyeing wool and fabric for thousands of years.   After more research, I decided to buy Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles by India Flint as there are many mentions of her work online.  I had looked at it previously but it was more expensive than some others, but I now think I should have bought this one first.

Now I know where I’m going wrong!  I really, really wish I had bought this book earlier.  Apparently, boiling your dye stuff to within an inch of its life and adding fabric that has had a  mordant applied only once the previous night with allum or cream of tartar, boiling some more, and expecting to be able to wash and use a newly dyed fabric immediately just does not provide the best result!  So I’m going to take my time and do repeated mordants of alkaline and protein solutions on several fabrics at a time so that I can store them for later use.

In India Flint’s book she describes the best way to treat various different fabrics.  She shares many new techniques she has devised to print flower and leaf patterns onto fabric using fabric bundles and hammering (with a mallet), how to dye with delicate flowers in a technique she calls ice flowers, even a way of using mud.  She also uses many different mordants which are so different from the traditional ones such as sea water (which we have here in Cornwall in abundance) and soya milk!  She also mentions solar dyeing using jars but she does not see the need to extract the dye first, you just add the (already mordanted) fabric at the beginning.  She says that dyed fabrics need to mature or cure before use and it’s best to let the newly dyed fabric to dry in the shade before even rinsing let alone washing.  That would have been useful to know earlier!

This book is very word heavy and also very beautiful with its muted colour schemes.  I have over simplified the contents of this book.  It is very inspirational.  I’m so excited to get experimenting and I have high expectations of what I will be able to achieve, but I have to remember the keywords: ‘slow’ and ‘time’.  I will update you.