Sewing: a firmly stuffed, ham-shaped pressing form, about 9" high and tapering from 7" wide at the base to 5" at the top. Some hams have wool on one side and cotton on the other. Tailor's hams are used to iron set-in sleeves on garments like tailored jackets.

The ham is shaped to completely fill the top of a sleeve. Put it into the garment so that the narrow end goes down the sleeve and the base makes a human shoulder shape in the sleeve cap. Now your sleeve is stretched over what is, in essence, a curved ironing board. Using the steam setting on your iron, press the top of the sleeve and the shoulder of the garment over the curves of the tailor's ham. (This is your golden opportunity to scald or burn youself. Don't do it.) Voilà! You now have a perfectly pressed sleeve.

It is possible to make a tailor's ham at home. Use strong, closely woven fabrics (I used cotton twill). All fabric sizes include 5/8" seam allowance.

  1. Cut two pieces in the silhouette of a ham, roughly like this (smooth the curves over the top, and give it a more even taper):
           ______        _
          /      \       |
         /        \    10 1/2"
        |          |     |
        |__________|     | 
        <-   10"  ->     -
  2. Cut one oval of fabric, 6 1/2" long and 4 1/2" wide.
  3. With the right sides together, stitch the two ham-shaped pieces together. All the seams on this are going to take tremendous stress, so use strong thread and sew over the seam at least twice. Turn right side out and press; turn inside out again.
  4. Gather the ham-shaped pieces at the corners, where they will meet the curved corners of the oval-shaped piece.
  5. With right sides together, stitch the oval piece to the ham-shaped pieces, leaving a hole on one of the long sides. Again, this seam will be taking a lot of stress, so make it strong. Turn right side out and press.
  6. Now for the hard part. Get a bunch of cotton wadding and start stuffing it into the ham. Keep stuffing it in until it's rock hard. Then stand on it, and stuff more in. Then get someone bigger than you to stand on it, and stuff more in. You want it solid, so no amount of pressing will cause it to lose shape.
  7. Hand-stitch the opening closed.
  8. Find a jacket and press it. You didn't do all this work to just look at the thing, after all.

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