Tailors Press Ham – Tutorial

So we all know the 3 F’s when sewing: Fabric, Fit and Finish? Get the 3 F’s right and you will certainly end up with a garment to be proud of. The F that often gets a bit ‘overlooked’ is Finish, as we rush to finish our next amazing make. Part of the Finish process is PRESSING! Without good, careful pressing you finished make will look…well, less than finished.

There are lots of different pressing tools to help us achieve a great finish and apart from the Iron, the Tailors Press Ham is a must have tool in your arsenal.

The Pressing Ham.

The ‘Ham’ is, as the name suggests looks a little like a ham. Actually I think it looks like a squashed egg, but a ‘Tailors squashed egg’ doesn’t sound as good! Now of course you can pop off and buy one, if you don’t already own one but here lies the problem. They are all TOO SMALL! Even the ones called ‘large’ and often made of the wrong material!

A ham is used to help press and shape the fabric, especially on curved seam and darts but should be used for a lot more: The centre back seam of a jacket? The lapels and roll line? The front of a waistcoat? The list goes on and this is why the commercial hams just don’t work. Think about pressing a centre back seam; Press, move the ham, press the next bit, move the ham, press…… A decent size (i.e. Big) ham saves the constant fabric movement as you press.

So here’s a quick tutorial for you to make your own for next to nothing. In fact keep reading and you can even download my pattern!

Lets go.

You will need the following:

Half a metre of heavyweight cotton or better still, Calico. Remember I told you all about Calico in this post.

Small piece of 100% wool fabric (approx 20×23 inches). Make sure it is 100% wool not a blend. Melton is the best but expensive.

Bag of Wood Shavings. Not sawdust! You can get it from pet supply shops. Apparently its what little furry critters sleep on?

Thread and sewing machine.

Paper and drawing equipment or my pattern (see below)

Click on images for a clearer view.

Begin by drawing a rectangle 21 inch by 18 inch and mark the centre line.

Now measure 3 inch and 14 inch from left line and draw 2 vertical lines.

On the left line measure in 4 inch from top and bottom and make a cross. On the right line measure in 3 inch top and bottom, again mark with a cross.

Now highlight the points shown in red. These define the shape of the ham.

If you have a french curve then use it to join up the points you just marked.

If not do it by eye.

Draw the top curve then fold the paper in half along the centre line.

Cut around your line and open out. Here is your pattern.

Now cut 2 in Calico and 1 in Wool

Pin the wool to 1 piece of calico.

Machine baste the two pieces together. Sew at 1/2 inch seam using the longest stitch on your machine (or baste by hand)

With the wool facing up, place the second piece of Calico on top and pin.

Mark a gap (along seam line) at the bottom. (fatter end). You need at least a 3 inch gap.

Now sew seam (5/8 inch) from gap mark all around to the other mark. Backstitch at the beginning and end.

Repeat and sew again very close to original stitching. (we need a good strong seam) backstitching as before.

Clip towards gap and trim your seam allowance off.

Turn the ham right sides out. You should have the Wool reappear on top. Now you have a Tailors ‘Gammon’!

Roll up some card/paper to make a tube. Insert into opening.

Now begin filling the ham. I suggest you do this somewhere you can easily clean up. Don’t do it on your prize shag-pile carpet! The wood shavings get everywhere!

Fill the ham half full. Take the handle of a hammer, or something similar and pound the wood shavings into the ham. You should really cram the wood in as much as you can.

Keep going until you really can’t get any more wood shavings in. The ham needs to be really firm! You want the ham to feel as if the seams are going to split.

Now close the opening by hand using a good strong thread (doubled).

You can now spend the next 20 minutes clearing wood shavings off the floor, your legs, hands and off the ham itself. (Oh check inside your shoes too!)

And there we are. One decent sized tailors ham.

The Ham can be used on both sides. When pressing wool fabrics, use the wool side. Use the other side when pressing other fabrics.

Right if you are too lazy (or short of time) to make a pattern then you are in luck. Me being the kind person I am, have made a PDF pattern you can download for free. When printing just select “Full Size” and ‘Poster”. It will Print onto 8 pages of A4 that you can stick together.

Click image to download.

Right off you go and make a decent Ham.


Until next time……Happy Sewing!








13 thoughts on “Tailors Press Ham – Tutorial”

  1. Thanks very much for this pattern- I made one over Christmas. Although, given the size of it I think i’m going to call it my tailors turkey!

  2. Thanks Jamie – one question though – there is a 3rd vertical line, which appears to be 2″ from the right hand side – is that right? It looks like this is the line where you mark the 3″ points for the fatter part of the ham. Unfortunately I can’t see your measurements when I zoom in.

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