Before I begin, let me say I am by no means a construction expert. I learn about sewing every day and devour sewing books like Mrs. PacMan. But, I thought it might be kind of interesting to show you my pressing hams. If you find this interesting, might I suggest you listen to the Sew Forth Now Podcast with Ann of Gorgeous Things? Seriously… listening to it made me want to iron.

Just this week I completed my pressing ham collection. Yes. Completed. I’ve had a seam roll and 6×9 Dritz pressing ham for about four years now– bought on one of those “50 percent off the notion wall” weekends at Joanns.

But, I never really knew there were more hams until a post by Els at the Sewing Divas (I am still obsessed with that press buck!). A few months later I picked up the Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing and read about the difference between a dressmaker’s ham and a tailor’s ham.

The author suggests you ask for them at the notions counter of your favorite department store. Mmmmhhhhhmmm. Nordstrom will get right on that. Those must have been the days!

Dressmaker ham on the left, tailor ham on the right

Some of the oldest professional pressing supplies were only recently available to home sewers. These are the tailor’s cushions or pressing hams. A medium dressmaker’s ham for dressmaking details, such as pressing the proper curve under a bust dart, or shrinking the top of a set-in sleeve cap; and a larger tailor’s ham (‘professional size’) for tailoring details, such as pressing the proper roll in a collar or label. — Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

I think both hams can serve your purpose, just the larger size of the tailor’s ham let’s you accomodate a larger collar, bigger darts, larger seams…..

Seam roll is shaped more like a sausage than a ham and is useful for pressing inside sleeves, pant legs, elbow darts, zipper plackets and long narrow curved seams. –Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

June Tailor Ham Holder (which holds all these hams very well)

Els’ post got me hooked on getting a ham holder. I found myself needing a hand to hold my ham in the right position. And when your iron weighs five pounds, you need both hands to work with the iron. Happily, my June Tailor Contoured Dressmaker’s ham and ham holder came together.

Contoured dressmaker’s ham is used for pressing/shaping shaped areas e.g. darts, and shoulder areas — June Tailor Method of Custom Detail Pressing

Back in September Dawn posted about making a collar. She had it pinned to a contoured ham and until then, I’d never seen one in my life.

These hams are packed with dry, hardwood dust and covered with wool so the steam penetrates the fabric more readily. Also, wool against wool helps avoid unwanted shine. — Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

Now for beginner sewers. Please don’t think you need to have all these hams in order to sew. I just started using a ham in the last few years and only recently acquired the remainder off of eBay. That being said, I looked for new hams as my sewing skill increased and I recognized the need for more versatility. I also love vintage items and things like these are fairly cheap on eBay. I might have spent $25 not including S&H for the contoured, large ham, ham holder and larger seam roll.

BTW, there are several Traum tracing wheels on eBay right now.

Finally, I owe some back pedaling on yesterday’s Knip Mode post. I said that American patterns do not have the level of detail as the European magazines. That’s not entirely true. There are patterns that have that kind of detail (especially Vogue as they have RTW designers) and they certainly walk you through the construction process better :).

My First Knip Mode

A few months ago Sigrid kindly offered to check into the purchase and shipping of the Netherlands’ Knip Mode (pronounced K-nip) for me. Shipping was shamefully expensive, about 21 Euros/ $31 USD (darn the ever-sinking US dollar and reduced buying power!!). While she figured she could squeeze six or seven into one package, we both felt $100 for six untested magazines was steep.

Then last month, Isabelle had to go and post about the February Knip Mode and re-whet my appetitte. Ephiphany. I knew someone coming to Baltimore from the Netherlands!! A few emails and days later, Sigrid, the ROCKSTAR, drove the Knip Mode over to him and now it’s in my hot, sweaty little hands. Tonight, I Y Sigrid.

I am in love with these jeans. Okay. I can’t really wear this skinny a jean, and I’m scared to actually make a pair. But, I am 100 percent in love with the sheer volume of detail that went into this pattern. I am telling you, American patterns just don’t give you this level of RTW detail!

And how Lucky Magazine is this? They show you how to wardrobe five different patterns from the magazine!

I’ve decided that International Pattern Magazine Love is insatiable. Luckily, I made such a big deal about Knip Mode at tonight’s meeting that about three people who travel back and forth between Baltimore and the Netherlands offered to start muling it across international waters just to shut me up.

How cute is this? In the Netherlands, Donald and Daisy Duck, are Donald and Katrien. Doesn’t that adorable red headed kid look like he got suckered into this modeling gig?

Happy Hands At Home Strikes Again

I’m big enough to admit a project rife with problems. I am also big enough to admit I didn’t love sewing this sweatshirt from the November 2007 BWOF.

The seam allowance is on the outside and turned under for a flat fell look. A collassal PITA with something slippery like velour. Note the original drunkard’s path of seams (the one on top):

When I first started this over a month ago, I tried to hand baste it on a long drive to NYC. Turns out that like reading, sewing in the car now makes me motion sick.

Yesterday I got up and told myself that I had to finish this thing. So, I used Wonder Tape (a double-sided, transparent tape) to tape down the seams before sewing. Perfect. Then, I ran out of Wonder Tape. Desperate to just finish this UFO I made the shoulder seams and the hood the ‘regular’ way. Check out Melissa B.’s version for the full on look.
Overall, it’s too small for me (I let the sleeves out to a scant 1/4 inch seam) and the pocket is all kinds of wonky. “Really?” you say. “How is it wonky,” you ask? Well…. the pocket placement is too high and my hands cannot comfortably go in the pocket. And um, one side opening is bigger than the other. And um, oh whatever. Let’s just call this a wearable muslin and move on, shall we? Great.

That being said, it’s warm, comfy and really flattering. It’s also great for traveling and you can be sure I’ll be wearing this and carrying a big hefty Starbucks the next time I fly.

** after seeing these photos I decided the pants (BWOF 11-2007-122) were too long in the crotch and took them in there by about two inches.

I’m Back Baby, I’m Back

…and it’s so frickin’ cold here I want to cry. Flight came in at midnight and was home around 1:00 a.m. Which was not too late for me to stay up and watch three missed episodes of Project Runway.

Before leaving Panama, I completed an apron for a hostess gift to my mom’s South African friends whose home I sewed at. Yes, there is a large ex-pat community there. The Colonel (my mom) is modeling.

Instead of narrow hems (haaate narrow hemming), I made a bias binding old school. No rotary cutter, no tape measure. Just me, my shears and some serious eyeballing. Yes, that’s some left over Merimekko.

Overall, lovely time with The Colonel. I would like to point out that she pinched my second favorite spring jacket from the February 2007 BWOF. I’m not bitter…. I’ll just have to make another.
And of course we went back for the buttons and some assorted notions the day my flight left. Twenty Five cent fabric covered buttons!!

I’m taking a public pledge:


And after that


And, at West Coast PR Weekend, no more than $200 spent. Period. You hear me Caroline G , Nancy and Christina? You will have to be my conscience. To ensure this, I am only taking cash. No credit card. One of you may even need to carry my cash. There. I’ve said it out loud. Now, I have to stick with it.

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with my collection and want to sew it down. I love fabric. I’m addicted to fabric. But, I have tendencies to waste and spending. When I travel to second and third world countries, I feel like this. People all over the world make do with so little and I’ve just got a lot of *stuff*. So, I just need to feel in control of my *stuff*.


You remember when you were a kid and at church they would give a ‘mission story’? It was always set in some remote part of the world where there was no church and folks were meeting in metal sheds? Or your church was organizing a mission trip to someplace where they were building a church? Well, I went to that church today.

My mom’s church meets outside on the porch of a church member. The house has no running water and lights were supplied by lightbulbs plugged into extension cords that dangled from the ceiling. They are saving up the $6,000 needed to purchase land for their own church.
There were about 25 members there today and one bilingual person. Hermano John translated for a solid three hours.

My mom purchased a bilingual bible with the thought it would help her Spanish. I did the scripture reading today in Spanish. Have no doubt in your mind that I butchered it something awful. But, I figured they could follow along just fine.

I was a little slow to photograph the highlight of the morning. During song service a herd of cattle was making its way down the dirt road the house backs.

Finally, some fabric shopping

Here’s what’s really really cool about Panama City. At one mall, four differnt fabric stores. For me, I have a Joanns about 15 minutes away, and two indies about 30 minutes away. Imagine a world where there are four fabric stores (and this doesn’t even count the notions store) in one mall.

I also found a Spanish edition of Burda World of Fashion magazine. It’s the August edition and new to thier shelves. I took a peak inside and see that the Spanish edition still has beauty tips and recipes. What’s up with that? I also noticed that the directions on the pattern come in Italian, Portugese and Spanish. I think ours are German, French and English, right?
Back to the fabric. I wouldn’t say there are fantastic bargains to be had in Panama fabric. Polyester is prolific at low low prices. The ‘good’ stuff is pricer than at home. They promote Guartamalen cottons and fabric from the US, Italy and France. But, fabric shopping on vacation is about getting your fiber fix and finding your souvenir.

I’m really excited about these three! I squealed like Bobby Hill when I saw the print on the left. Even my mom recognized it as my Gorgeous Fabrics print. The ones on the left are a sheer poly something. They need a wash to soften some (I hope). Will be great as a funky big sleeve summer blouse. I got three yards of each at $1.50 a yard. The polka dots on the right ($5 a yard) will be the lining for my tailored suit that I’m going to start when I get home.
Claudia (above) did my measuring at cutting. I’ve been wanting to add more yellow to my wardrobe. Also $1.50 a yard. If you’ve ever been shopping in New York, the stores are stacked just like that.

I fell in love with these buttons. I didn’t buy any because they came in about six different color combinations and I just could not commit.

As I mentioned a bit earlier, there is a seperate store for notions. Zippers range between 50 and 75 cents and ribbon a quarter to 50 cents a yard. We were in a huge hurry today or I would have bought many many zippers. Gutterman thread also at $1 for the medium size spool. Next time I’m coming with a list of the colors I don’t have!

The View

I’m still on vacation until next Wednesday. Now, I’ve started on curtains for my mom. I thought I would show the amazing view I’m working with.

The pool (not ours. mom’s place is very messy so we’re sewing at a friend’s.) sits out on top of the mountains.

Go no further if you are faint of heart with bugs and stuff…..





This beetle (the size of my Blackberry) was sitting in the kitchen sink the other day. I was defrosting chicken and wondering what that brown thing was.
Once I caught my breath, I asked one of the workers to come in and take it out. There went 15 minutes of my life. Cured me of tropical living I think.

La Playa

The only thing I have to report today is that it’s about 90 degrees here and the beaches are beautiful. Not a lick of humidity wityh a nice ocean breeze (we’re on the Pacific side of Panama).

Mom and I drove down to Gorgana beach today. The sand is black and the water beautiful. It’s not Grenada, but I’m not complaining. I tried to get in a real swim since all I’ve eaten since getting to Panama is rice and fried chicken.

Pollo con arroz, $2 at the corner market by the house

Pollo con arroz, $2 at the corner market by the house

But, the lifegaurds kept blowing thier whistle everytime I got far enough out that the sand wasn’t filing my nails.

On the way home we stopped at a roadside stand and bought oranges and tangerines. A dozen tangerines and 20 oranges for $1.50 US. Don’t question why Americans and Europeans are flocking to Panama for retirement.

Yesterday, mom picked the ripe lemons from the tree to make me lemonade. We’re also waiting on the bananas to grow. Hopefully before I leave!

Oh, and check out my mom’s neighbors. Originally from China, the Wu’s are building a house, a hotel, a furniture store and currently own a hardware store and cement factory — all on the same property.

I thought it was pretty cool how they took the concrete to replicate a Chinese style home.

Tomorrow will be spent reading “Atonement”. I want to see the movie, but since the book is almost always better, I figured I should get on that first.


When I flew in on Wednesday around 3:00 p.m. my mom picked me up from the airport and took me straight to the mall for food. Given that I’d been up since 4 a.m. and served two packets of pretzels and a cup of OJ, I was ravenous.
At the mall we went into a discount store that had a little magazine stand. There, I found Threads, Sew News, Butterick Sewing magaine, loads of things on crochet and knitting and finally this: Moldes Pasa a Paso (mold — like pattern?, step by step).

A monthly, this is No. 3 of 2007. I see from the website that they are at No. 8 in December. Published in Argentina, it’s just $1.75 US in Panama. There are 30 patterns in the magazine that range from one button of ease to three buttons. It includes blouses, skirts, dresses, capris and some pants.

Like BWOF and La Mia Boutique (an Italian pattern magazine I’ll review later this week), you must trace out the patterns. Unlike BWOF, things like ‘center front’ ‘on the fold’ ‘zipper’ are not in multiple languages on the pattern page.

There is a simple skirt I will try and trace out for my mom and her friend to construct. It’s not a *fantastic* magazine, but has simpler garments than Patrones, trendy as Burda World of Fashion and way cheaper than both.

But, there seem to be some helpful hints and ‘secrets’ on one page to help with construction. Like Patrones, the sizes are every other, 38, 42, 46 and 50. So, if you are in between, you have to guesstimate in your tracing.

I haven’t been to a fabric store yet, but I’ll be asking for other editions of this or other sewing magazines that are available.


The problem with “Learn Spanish in Your Car” is that you might learn how to ask for something, “Tiene las revistas sobre costura?” But, it doesn’t help you understand the response which sounds something like “lalalalalalalalalala, senorita.” Fat lot of good four anos de Espanol between high school y universidad are doing for me ahora….

Yesterday, I gave my mom and her friend Wan Ling sewing lessons. Our task, Butterick 4945, view E. Aprons.

The lesson took about four hours and was based on:
1. How to thread your machine and wind a bobbin
2. Cutting, grain, selvedge, laying out
3. Reading a pattern, Reading directions
4. Sewing a straight stitch
5. Sewing curves and assembling a garment

While I did bring my Rowenta for my mom, I forgot to bring it to Wan Ling’s apartment in Panama City. And since shirts cost 35 cents to launder/dry clean, there is no need to have an iron in the house. Sooooo, she improvised! Yep. That’s a teapot she kept hot on the stove and used to press the seams.

When I left her yesterday, she just needed to make her narrow hems to finish the garment. She called us while in Zara to let me know she was done, was very proud of herself and everyone she knew was getting aprons next Christmas.

Finally, mmmhhhhmmm. That’s right. Dogs. When I was a kid I was NEVER allowed to have pets. My parents decide to retire, leave the US, and Coffee and Cream get a vet who makes house calls. Yeah. Coffee and Cream. I would have gone for Linus and Lucy; Stedman and Oprah; Desdemona and Othello; but no one asked me.

I should point out the floor is dusty because the house is being renovated. There’s a reason home renovations speed people to divorce.

And, I’m not even going to talk about the very odd animal sound I hear outside as I type. Mom says it’s only at night. That’s, um, comforting.

Coming up: Spanish language pattern magazine that is not Patrones, Iglesia / Church and traveling with your sewing machine.