Sewing tutorial – sew your own tailor’s ham

A tailor’s ham is the easiest way to get a professional looking finish on your curved seams.  They are used for pressing darts, princess seams, bust and hip seams, by pressing on a curved form you get a much better finish to your garment, afterall our bodies are curved so pressing a garment flat doesn’t make sense! Before making my own, I used a folded towel but it was never that successful so decided it was about time I added one of these to my sewing supplies.

A quick look on ebay (always my starting point whenever I want to buy anything) and there wasn’t much choice other than tartan ones in not so pretty fabrics selling at around £10.  Now I know it would serve it’s purpose but I really didn’t like the look of them and I want my sewing room to be full of pretty things and these hams were functional, not pretty!  I did find some lovely handmade ones in gorgeous prints but selling at twice the price, so in order to save myself £20 I decided I would just have to make one myself.

A quick search online and there were lots of tutorials but not so many templates, so here’s my free one you can print on A4.

What you’ll need to make your Tailor’s Ham:

  • My free PDF template – click for free Tailor’s ham template
  • Outer fabric – Cotton/linen mix, minimum 24 x 20 cm (I used 100% cotton canvas)
  • Outer fabric – Wool mix (same size as above).  I didn’t have any woollen fabric so substituted felt instead.  The idea is that you use the cotton side when pressing with high temperatures and the woollen side when using lower temperatures
  • Inside fabric – Cotton mix, lightweight such as calico (24 x 40 cm) (we’ll be cutting 2 pieces)
  • Pet bedding – you can buy a small pack from supermarkets for under £2 (if you have a small pet you’ll probably already have this)

Print off the template onto an A4 sheet of paper and cut it out.  Mark around the template onto your fabrics with your preferred marking tool.  Seam allowances have been included 1.5cm / 5/8″ in the template.  (Mine is pictured on card here, not sure where my paper template went!)

tailors ham

Cut out around the lines you have marked and you should now have 4 pieces of fabrics resembling flat eggs?

tailors ham

We need to take the two pieces of outer fabric (in my case the blue flowers and pink felt) and place them right sides together, let’s keep the fabric that will be on the top of our ham at the bottom (flower cotton).  On top of these place the two layers of inside fabric, RST although this will be inside and not seen so it doesn’t matter which way they are placed.  So I have a sandwich of my blue flower cotton, pink felt and 2 plain cotton pieces in that order as pictured above.

Clip or pin through all four layers of fabric and leave the bottom open (it should leave a 10cm opening approximately). I marked the seam allowance with a chalk pencil to help guide me around the curves – I do have a tendency to stray from the seam line when sewing curves!  Start and finish your stitching at the bottom and remember to backstitch to secure opening.  You could overlock the seams for extra strength but I didn’t bother doing this.

tailors ham

Trim the seam allowances to 5mm (not at the bottom opening) and clip into the curves – taking care not to snip into your stitching.  Press your stitches before turning the right sides out.  I used my scissors handle to push the curves out.

tailors ham

Now we need to fill in between our inside fabric layers with our sawdust, and believe me it will make a mess.  My daughter helped (an extra pair of hands is required) and we made a funnel from cardboard, it wasn’t overly successful!  One of us held the ham and funnel while the other poured the sawdust in.  We worked over our rabbit cage to minimise the mess but we still managed to spill it everywhere.  The trick is to get lots in and compact it as much as possible, push it down regularly with a wooden spoon, and into the curves.  By the time it is stuffed it should feel really hard and solid, if it has any give at all keep stuffing!

tailors ham

Once you have finished stuffing, you need to close up the two openings.  Handstitch the inner layer together first, I used my thread doubled up for extra strength and found this quite fiddly to do (well to get a neat finish anyway, at least it’s inside!).  Then sew the outer fabric opening together – I probably could’ve taken more time with my stitching to achieve a neater finish but I’m not a fan of handstitching and as long as it holds….

tailors ham

Super pleased with how this turned out, it’s pretty, functional and didn’t cost me a penny to make!  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend making one, I wouldn’t be without mine now.



One thought on “Sewing tutorial – sew your own tailor’s ham

  1. Belinda

    May 10, 2019 at 7:45pm

    I used your tailors ham tutorial to great effect. Thank you, it’s much appreciated

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    • Author


      May 10, 2019 at 10:38pm

      Thank you Belinda, you’re very welcome, so much nicer to make your own in a fabric you love!

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  2. […] For a long time, I’ve simply been rolling up a towel or a big piece of cotton fabric and used those as a tailor’s ham or a tailor’s sausage – and that definitely works, too. But a real sewn tailor’s ham and tailor’s sausage are nice to have and an excellent way to get rid of fabric scraps. There are many tutorials out there explaining how to sew a ham and/or a sausage, so I won’t write a tutorial from scratch, but rather link to some nice patterns and tutorials, while adding a few tips from my side. I used the free pattern and tutorial by Victory Patterns, available on the Tilly and the Buttons blog. Other tutorials/patterns you can check out can be found on the Sew Now Mag blog, on the Jennifer Lauren Vintage blog, the Elewa blog and the Sew Ready blog. […]

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