Posted in sewing, Tools and Notions


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 :).

Posted in sewing

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.

Posted in sewing

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*.

Posted in sewing

I don’t even know where to begin….

So, I’ve made my second woven blouse ever. Yep, 15 years sewing and I’ve made two woven blouses. Chalk it up to fear and loathing of even hems, buttonholes and setting in sleeves.

You know what I learned? I don’t know how to sew a blouse! How do I know that? Take a look at this 12-2007-117 blouse. Before I begin this dissection, let me say I don’t think the blouse is awful and I’ll wear it. It just showed me all that I do not know and what I need to work on for the future.

1. Learn to mark your sleeves so you know which is the right sleeve and which is the left. See my sleeve packets? Those should be in the back not the front.

2. Women’s shirts have buttons on the left. Not the right. Remember that.

3. Ummm, I misunderstood exactly what I was supposed to pleat in the sleeves. My tucks aren’t large enough. So instead of this interesting top, I’ve got a big sleeved pirate’s blouse.

4. Oy. I have gots to learn how to do a better sway back adjustment on blouses. I did about an inch prior to cutting it out. I tried adding some darts to take in, but it didn’t really work out for me. I know it’s not the hips because I took out the side seams and it was still doing this.

5. Thank heavens for the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction and Singer’s Sewing Essentials. I needed to look to see how to set in sleeves, notching vs clipping curves, marking and making buttonholes — you name it, I looked it up.

It’s okay. I posted way back in September about needing to make more blouses. I have the shirtings, I have the patterns, I’m on a mission. Overall I’m satisfied, just some room for improvement!