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.

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