How to Use a Tailors Ham | A Step-by-Step Guide for Perfect Garment & Cloth Pressing

In the realm of garment construction and sewing, achieving flawless seams is essential for professional-looking results. While sewing machines play a significant role in stitching fabric together, the art of pressing seams is equally crucial.

How to Use a Tailors Ham for Perfect Seam Pressing

A tailor’s ham is a specialized tool that aids in achieving crisp, well-shaped seams, particularly in areas with curves and contours.

Using a tailor’s ham is essential for achieving professional-looking garments and Cloth finishes, especially when pressing curved seams, darts, and shaping.

How to Use a Tailor’s Ham

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a tailor’s ham effectively:

Step-1: Prepare Your Ironing Station:

Before beginning, ensure you have a clean and spacious area to work in. Set up your ironing board and make sure it’s at a comfortable height. Check your iron to ensure it’s clean and filled with water if it’s a steam iron.

Step-2: Select the Right Side of the Ham:

Examine your tailor’s ham, which typically has two sides: one covered in wool and the other in cotton. Choose the appropriate side based on the fabric you’re working with. The wool side is ideal for fabrics like wool that require gentle handling, while the cotton side is better for fabrics such as cotton, linen, or synthetic blends.


Step-3: Preheat Your Iron:

Turn on your iron and set it to the correct temperature for your fabric. If you’re unsure about the appropriate heat setting, refer to the fabric care label for guidance.

Step-4: Position the Garment:

Place your garment on the ironing board with the seam or area you want to press facing up. If you’re working with a curved seam or dart, position it over the curved surface of the tailor’s ham.

Position-the-Garment-How to Use a Tailor’s Ham

Step-5: Shape the Ham:

If your garment features a curved seam or dart, shape the tailor’s ham to match the curvature of the seam or dart. This helps maintain the shape and contour of the fabric during pressing.

Step-6: Press the Fabric:

Lower the hot iron onto the fabric, applying gentle pressure. Glide the iron over the seam or dart in a smooth, controlled motion. Use the curved surface of the tailor’s ham to support and shape the fabric as you press.

Step-7: Use Steam:

If your fabric allows for steam, utilize the steam function on your iron to help set the seam or dart. Hold the iron slightly above the fabric and press the steam button, allowing the steam to penetrate the fabric. Avoid over-steaming, as it can lead to watermarks or fabric shrinkage.

Step-8: Repeat as Necessary:

Depending on the fabric and the desired outcome, you may need to press the seam or dart multiple times to achieve the desired result. Take your time and press carefully to avoid stretching or distorting the fabric.

Step-9: Let the Fabric Cool:

After pressing, allow the fabric to cool completely before moving it. This helps set the shape and prevents the seam or dart from shifting.

Step-10: Inspect Your Work:

Once the fabric has cooled, inspect the seam or dart to ensure it’s pressed to your satisfaction. If necessary, repeat the pressing process or make any adjustments as needed.

Step-11: Repeat for Other Seams or Darts:

If you have additional curved seams or darts to press, repeat the process using the tailor’s ham as needed.

Step-12: Finish Up:

Once you’ve pressed all necessary seams and darts, turn off your iron and carefully store your tailor’s ham for future use.

By following these steps, you can effectively use a tailor’s ham to achieve professional-looking results when pressing curved seams, and darts, and shaping your garments.

Our Expert Opinion: Using a Tailor’s Ham for Perfect Seam Pressing

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of using a tailor’s ham for perfect seam pressing, ensuring your garments look impeccably tailored every time.

Understanding the Tailor’s Ham:

A tailor’s ham is a specialized sewing tool shaped like a ham (hence the name) and is typically made of tightly packed sawdust or wool covered with fabric.

It serves as a pressing aid for shaping and pressing seams, particularly in areas with curves and contours, such as darts, sleeves, and collars.

The unique shape of the tailor’s ham allows it to mimic the curves of the human body, making it indispensable for achieving professional-looking garments.

  • Materials Used:

Tailor’s hams are traditionally made with a core of tightly packed sawdust or wool. This core provides firmness and stability while pressing seams.

Clean Wool Batting Stuffing Wool
Clean Wool Batting Stuffing Wool @ Amazon

The outer layer of the ham is usually made of durable fabric, such as cotton or wool, which can withstand high heat from the iron without scorching or melting.

Organic Raw Cotton Fiber
Organic Raw Cotton Fiber @ Amazon

Some tailor-made hams may have a coating or treatment to make them heat resistant and prevent moisture absorption.

  • Different Tailor’s Hams Types and Sizes:

Tailor’s hams come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different sewing projects and garment sizes.

Different Tailor's Hams types and Sizes

The most common shapes include:

  1. Standard Ham: This is the classic ham shape, resembling a large oval or elongated cushion. It is versatile and suitable for a wide range of pressing tasks, including shaping darts and pressing curved seams.
  2. Sleeve Ham: Shaped like a sleeve with a narrower end, this type of ham is designed specifically for pressing sleeve seams and armholes. Its tapered shape allows for easier maneuverability and better shaping of sleeve caps.
  3. Clapper Ham: While not a traditional tailor’s ham, a clapper ham is often used in conjunction with a tailor’s ham. It is a flat wooden tool used to flatten seams after pressing, particularly useful for achieving crisp edges and flat seams.
  4. Mini Ham: A smaller version of the standard ham, the mini ham is ideal for pressing smaller areas such as children’s clothing, doll clothes, or intricate details like collars and cuffs.

Sizes of tailor’s hams can vary depending on the manufacturer, but they typically range from small (mini) to large (standard), with dimensions suitable for various sewing projects and garment sizes.

Preparing Your Workspace:

Preparing-Your-Workspace-How-to-Use-a-Tailors-Ham: How to Use a Tailors Ham

  • Setting Up an Ironing Board or Pressing Surface:

Begin by ensuring your ironing board or pressing surface is clean and free from any debris that could transfer onto your fabric.

If using an ironing board, adjust the height to a comfortable working level. Make sure the surface is stable and provides enough space for your fabric and tailor’s ham.

  • Ensuring Your Iron is Clean and in Good Working Condition:

Before starting any pressing work, check that your iron is clean and free from any residue or build-up that could transfer onto your fabric.

If necessary, clean the soleplate of the iron using a damp cloth or iron cleaner. Ensure that the iron is in good working condition, with no leaks or malfunctioning steam settings.

  • Gathering Necessary Supplies:

Collect all the supplies you’ll need for pressing seams effectively. This includes:

  1. A tailor’s ham is appropriate for your project.
  2. A pressing cloth or fabric scrap to protect delicate fabrics from direct heat and prevent shine.
  3. A spray bottle filled with water to generate steam while pressing.
  4. Optional: A clapper ham for flattening seams after pressing.

Having these supplies on hand will streamline your pressing process and ensure you have everything you need to achieve perfectly pressed seams.

Preparing the Fabric:

  • Cutting Out Pattern Pieces Accurately:

Before you can begin sewing and pressing seams, it’s essential to cut out your pattern pieces accurately. Use sharp fabric scissors or a rotary cutter to carefully cut along the lines of your pattern, ensuring precision and accuracy.

Take your time to follow the pattern markings and guidelines to achieve the correct size and shape for each piece.

  • Marking Seam Lines and Notches:

Once your pattern pieces are cut out, it’s time to transfer important markings such as seam lines, notches, and darts onto your fabric. Use tailor’s chalk, fabric markers, or tailor’s tacks to mark these points accurately.

Seam lines indicate where you will sew your seams, while notches help align pieces together during assembly. These markings are crucial for proper construction and ensure that your garment comes together accurately.

  • Preparing Fabric Pieces for Sewing:

Before sewing, it’s helpful to prepare your fabric pieces to make the sewing process smoother and more precise. Depending on the type of fabric and the complexity of your project, you may choose to pin or baste your pieces together.

Pinning involves using straight pins to temporarily hold fabric pieces in place, while basting involves using long, temporary stitches to secure pieces together.

Choose the method that works best for your project and take care to align edges and match seams accurately.

Using the Tailor’s Ham:

Using-the-Tailor's-Ham-How to Use a Tailors Ham

  • Placing the Tailor’s Ham on Your Pressing Surface:

Start by setting up your ironing board or pressing surface in a comfortable and well-lit area. Place the tailor’s ham on the surface, ensuring it is stable and flat.

Position it within easy reach of your sewing machine and iron, as you’ll be using it frequently throughout the sewing process.

  • Positioning the Fabric Piece:

Once you’ve prepared your fabric pieces for sewing, it’s time to start pressing seams using the tailor’s ham. Begin by selecting the fabric piece with the seam allowance facing up.

Place it over the tailor’s ham, ensuring that the curved or shaped seam aligns with the contours of the ham.

This positioning allows the fabric to be shaped and pressed smoothly, resulting in a professional-looking seam.

  • Pressing Curved or Shaped Seams:

Curved or shaped seams, such as princess seams or armholes, require special attention to ensure a smooth and even finish. With the fabric positioned over the tailor’s ham, use your iron to apply gentle pressure along the seam line.

Use a pressing cloth to protect delicate fabrics and prevent shine. The tailor’s ham provides support and helps shape the fabric as you press, resulting in a crisp and well-defined seam.

  • Applying Gentle Pressure and Steam:

As you press the seam, apply gentle pressure with the iron to steam and press the fabric into shape. Use the steam setting on your iron to generate steam, which helps relax the fabric fibers and allows them to conform to the curves of the tailor’s ham.

Move the iron slowly and methodically along the seam line, ensuring even heat distribution and thorough pressing.

  • Rotating the Fabric as Needed:

Depending on the shape and size of the seam, you may need to rotate the fabric periodically to press all areas of the seam evenly.

Use your free hand to hold the fabric in place while you rotate it around the tailor’s ham. Continue pressing and rotating until the entire seam is pressed to your satisfaction, with smooth curves and no wrinkles or puckers.

By following these detailed steps for using a tailor’s ham, you’ll be able to achieve perfect seam pressing and elevate the quality of your sewing projects. The tailor’s ham provides essential support and shaping, allowing you to create professional-looking seams with ease and precision.

Pressing Different Types of Seams:

Pressing Different Types of Seams

  • Pressing Flat-Felled Seams:

Flat-felled seams are commonly used in denim and other heavy fabrics for their strength and durability. To press a flat-felled seam, start by pressing the seam allowance to one side.

Then, fold one side of the fabric over the other, encasing the raw edge. Use the tailor’s ham to press the folded seam flat, ensuring a neat and secure finish.

  • Pressing French Seams:

French seams are ideal for lightweight fabrics as they provide a clean and finished look with no raw edges exposed. To press a French seam, start by sewing the seam with the wrong sides together, then trim the seam allowance and press it flat.

Next, fold the fabric along the seam line, enclosing the raw edge, and press again with the tailor’s ham to create a crisp finish.

  • Pressing Open Seams:

Open seams are often used in tailored garments to reduce bulk and achieve a clean finish on the inside of the garment.

To press an open seam, simply press the seam allowances open with the tailor’s ham, ensuring the fabric lays flat and smooth without any puckering or wrinkling.

  • Pressing Curved Seams:

Curved seams, such as those found in sleeves and collars, require special attention to achieve smooth and even pressing. Use the tailor’s ham to shape the fabric as you press, rotating it as needed to follow the curves of the seam.

Apply gentle pressure with the iron to steam and press the fabric into shape, taking care not to stretch or distort the seam.

Troubleshooting and Tips:

  • Dealing with Stubborn Fabrics:

If you encounter stubborn fabrics that resist pressing, try using a higher steam setting on your iron or applying a bit of pressure with the tailor’s ham.

You can also try spraying a small amount of water onto the fabric before pressing to help relax the fibers and make them more pliable.

  • Avoiding Over-Pressing:

To avoid causing shine on fabric surfaces, use a pressing cloth or fabric scrap between the iron and the fabric. This will protect delicate fabrics from direct heat and prevent any unwanted shine or damage.

Additionally, avoid leaving the iron in one spot for too long, as this can cause overheating and shine.

  • Using Additional Pressing Tools:

In addition to the tailor’s ham, consider using other pressing tools like a sleeve board or seam roll for more specialized pressing tasks.

These tools provide support and shaping for specific areas of the garment, ensuring professional-looking results.

  • Adjusting Steam Settings:

Different fabric types require different steam settings on your iron. Adjust the steam setting according to the fabric you’re working with, using higher steam settings for thicker fabrics and lower settings for delicate fabrics. This will help prevent damage to the fabric while ensuring effective pressing.

  • Cleaning and Maintaining Your Tailor’s Ham:

To maintain the effectiveness of your tailor’s ham, clean it regularly by spot cleaning with a damp cloth or gentle detergent. Avoid soaking the ham or using harsh chemicals, as this can damage the fabric.

Allow the ham to air dry completely before using it again, and store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Practice Exercises:

  • Creating Sample Fabric Pieces:

Practice pressing different types of seams on fabric scraps to familiarize yourself with the techniques. Experiment with various seam finishes and fabric types to observe how they respond to pressing.

  • Experimenting with Fabric Weights and Textures:

Try pressing seams on different fabric weights and textures to understand how they behave under heat and pressure. This will help you develop a better understanding of which pressing techniques work best for each type of fabric.

  • Sewing Mock-Up Garments:

Sew mock-up garments or practice pieces using scrap fabric to refine your seam pressing skills. This hands-on practice will help you perfect your technique and achieve professional-looking results in your sewing projects.

Advanced Techniques:

  • Using a Tailor’s Ham in Combination with a Clapper:

For even flatter seams, consider using a tailor’s ham in conjunction with a clapper. After pressing a seam with the tailor’s ham, place the clapper over the seam and apply firm pressure.

The clapper helps to set the seam and flatten it further, resulting in a professional-looking finish with minimal bulk.

  • Pressing Intricate Details:

When working with garments that feature pleats, tucks, or other intricate details, precision pressing is key. Use the tailor’s ham to press these details with care, ensuring sharp creases and smooth lines.

Take your time to press each detail individually, using the curved surface of the ham to shape the fabric as needed.

  • Incorporating Understitching and Topstitching Techniques:

Understitching and topstitching are techniques commonly used to achieve professional finishes in garment construction. After sewing a seam, understitching involves stitching the seam allowance to the facing or lining fabric to prevent it from rolling to the right side of the garment.

Use the tailor’s ham to press the seam and understitch flat, ensuring a clean and polished finish. Similarly, topstitching can be used to add decorative or functional stitching to seams, hems, or other areas of the garment.

Press the fabric with the tailor’s ham before and after topstitching to ensure precise stitching and a professional-looking result.

Related: How to Make a Tailor’s Ham


In conclusion, proper seam pressing is a fundamental aspect of garment construction that can significantly impact the overall quality and appearance of a finished garment. By mastering the use of a tailor’s ham, you can achieve impeccably tailored seams that elevate the professionalism and craftsmanship of your sewing projects.

It’s essential to practice and experiment with different pressing techniques to discover what works best for your specific projects and fabric types. Attention to detail and precision are key, so take your time and don’t be afraid to experiment.

With dedication and the right techniques, you’ll soon be producing perfectly tailored garments that showcase your skills as a sewist.

Remember, the journey to mastering the art of seam pressing with a tailor’s ham is a rewarding one. Embrace the learning process, and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your sewing projects come to life with beautifully pressed seams.