How to make a big and beefy tailor’s ham….

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One of the first things I learnt to sew  when I was at college was a tailor’s ham, they are super easy to make and are a brilliant way to use up tiny scraps of fabric for a sturdy stuffing.

If you sew your own clothes then you’ll find one invaluable for when you are pressing the seams.

I’ve made mine from a piece of vintage wool blanket fabric and an old cotton pillowcase.

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Start off by drawing an avocado pear shape on a piece of paper.

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It needs to be about 10 inches wide and about 15 inches long.  This includes a half inch seam allowance.  (you can make it smaller if you like but I prefer my hams to be on the big and beefy side)

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Using some weights (I bought some large washers from a local iron-mongers.. they were about 20p each and were much cheaper than buying fabric weights), place the pattern on the fabric, trace around with tailors chalk .

Cut one piece from the wool fabric and two shapes from the cotton.  I find having two layers of cotton stops it looking all lumpy once it is stuffed.

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Save your fabric offcuts as you will be using these (and more of the same) to stuff your ham.

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Lay the pieces of fabric on top of each other and pin them all together.

Allow yourself a half inch seam allowance and sew the three pieces together , leaving a gap large enough to put your hand in along one side.

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Snip out tiny pieces all the way around your sewn edge, taking care not to sew through the stitched edge.

I was lucky enough to have a pair of Merchant and Mills button hole scissors as one of my Christmas presents and these are just so brilliant for cutting fabric notches.  (The scissor blades are quite small and help you not to get carried away and accidentally cut through your stitches)

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Turn the shape right side out and pin along the two sides of the opening you’ve left.  To stop pricking your hands, tack the sides down with a running stitch.

Then stuff your ham with any cotton or wool  fabric scraps.  Scraps need to be cut quite small and need to be natural fibres (this is a pressing ham and regular toy stuffing will melt when you are using a hot iron).  Stuffing the ham feels a bit like being James Herriot (in reverse).

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Once the ham is completely stuffed to the gills (it takes a lot of stuffing, so every so often, give the stuffing a good push and then just keep adding more scraps), bring the two sides together and pin them together.  Using an ivory coloured cotton and a good sharp needle, sew the sides together.

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Plump the ham a few times, you can be quite rough with it.  After a few good bashes the stuffing settles nicely and you will have a beautiful, firm tailor’s ham.


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