Bought a tailor’s ham

Second hand. Online. I really don’t know what I’m doing, this thing is huge!
tailor's ham perskussen sewing
tailor's ham perskussen sewing

It is quality though. Linen with saw dust or horse hair in it. Really firm.
I guess I can dream about making a proper jacket one time in the future now?


Sewing: my little tips and tricks

  1. staystitch.
  2. guide stitch before folding and pressing.
  3. use guiding device on your machine (and cut precisely).
  4. use a small iron for pressing.
  5. lots of pins for a set in sleeve.
  6. sleeve cap fits the armhole.
  7. use a tailor’s ham for armhole pressing. Or fold some tea towels.
  8. use fusing interfacing when you’ve nicked the fabric.

Right after cutting your front and back panel: stay stitch the arm holes and neck line.
Run the machine off the fabric. Smooth the thread afterwards so the fabric and the thread are relaxed. The staystitching is right on the outside of the intended sewing line.

Below you see the inside of my armhole: stay stitching on the seam allowance, seam on the seam line. If I want to I can nudge the seaming allowance, straight through the staystitching. It has done its job of preventing the armhole to sag before the sleeve was attached.
sleeve sleevecap fit shirt arm hole

Sew a guiding stitch line before folding over a side and pressing it. Good for hems. Good for button band plackets. Found a good video tutorial by Pam Howard here.

Cut the fabric precisely and use a guiding device on your machine. This is mine. Antique and precise:


My seam ripper shows how precisely my fabric was cut. The two pieces lie exactly against each other with their edges.

 A small iron for pressing is bliss. This one is marketed to children and people with mental challenges (?). It’s perfect for me.

As you can see I don’t have my ironing table out, I just work on the wooden table that’s in our front living room, with only a towel for protection. The wood is coated and can stand some heat. If I had to drag out the ironing table every time I wanted to sew I’d think of reasons to procrastinate.

If you don’t like working with heavy things, don’t work with heavy things.

Also: my iron is plugged into an electric plug in that has an on/off switch. Easier to switch than my iron, which you have to disconnect to power it down. The plug of the iron is a bit of a hassle to disconnect. Make life easy.

Use plenty of pins when pinning the sleeve cap to the armhole. Slowly sew across them, letting the needle find its own way.
sleeve sleevecap fit shirt arm hole
Best results are when the sleeve cap is as long as the armhole. There’s little reason to try and cram in extra ease into an armhole that’s not big enough. Better is a narrow fitting armhole and a sleeve cap to match.

Use a tailor’s ham for pressing. Two rolled up tea towels will do too. But a tailor’s ham is on my wishlist.

Aargh! snipped into the fashion fabric! A little V-shaped cut.
Glue some fusing to the back. And the front. Cut the edges irregular. If it is too obvious just embroider around it in a strong colour and make it a feature.

Nobody knows but me.

Additional tip:
don’t eat chocolate when you’re in the habit of keeping pins in your mouth.
Chocolate spot right at the front of my button placket:

Jacquard Dress: pressing seams

The long seams I basted I have now sewn. Before focussing on details such as fitting at the top, shoulders, sleeves (?) and hem I will finish the seams. Because it builds confidence and gives a sense of getting things done.

The seams are quite rough. With big irregular allowances and fraying at the edges. Susan Khaljé knows just what to do: sandwich pressing, pressing, trimming and overcasting. This is Lesson 9 of The Couture Dress on Craftsy.


Because I’m in the city which has an ironing board but no iron I decided to buy a second iron. Not a heavy duty things like the Official Ironing Iron I have (at the cabin, without a board) but a small, handy thingy. Just prefect for seams, not so handy for big sheets of fabric.


It’s a 10 euro steam iron from the HEMA. It fits very well in my hand. I like it. It only has 1200 Watt and I kept an eye open to see if this would give enough heat. It does.


So I pressed my seams. First sandwich: press the seams without opening them. From both sides. Then open and press it open. All the while using a bit of steam. Pressing is always with steam.

I used a rolled up towel to press the curves.

Then I trimmed the seam allowances. I plan to catch stitch the edges later on, attaching them to the lining.

Because I had to switch around the pattern pieces there is one place where the seam is dangerously close to the edge of the lining. I have marked it with a ‘red cross of pins’ so I can give it some extra TLC before finishing the seam.

Summer Dress: humming while hemming

I’m hemming and I quite like it. It’s really calming, especially the pressing and the pinning. I’m doing lots of pressing as this will make it so much easier. I found a good tutorial here about the different hems and how to press.

Yesterday I had the length of my dress made level with help of a husband. I stood straight and he kneeled and put pins in the dress at the height of a piece of tape that we cleverly put on a carton roll used to transport car wipers in. Anything vertical that will stand on its own will do. We had it all figured out. Except I forgot this is my husband: he did not pin at the piece of tape but half a centimeter above it. “Because I thought that would be more practical”. Says the man who has never sewed anything knows how to attach a button on a shirt.

Either way, level is level. I cut the fabric (half a centimeter below where the pins were) and now I’m ready to make a hem.

I opted for a hem that’s 2 cm wide (4/5th of an inch).

For this I folded the edge once, at 1,8 cm and I pressed it. I took care to only press the fold, I left the raw edge alone. This has the benefit of not leaving a print in the underlying fabric. And it won’t stretch the fabric. And it establishes a habit so I won’t press the upper edge next time either. When it really matters.

I then folded again, this time at precisely 2 cm:

look how handy a press board is: just stick the pins in it and your fabric stays where it should be while you press the lower fold:

Nice and crisp. Again, I did not press the top fold. That was pressed before turning up.

Now it has freedom of movement and it shows the extra fabric it has, compared to the fold that I just pressed:

It’s logical that it has extra fabric because the lower end of the skirt is wider than the top. If you fold it over you get excess fabric.
This is an excellent preparation for stitching a blind hem by hand. By not pressing the upper fold it didn’t get a change to leave a print in the right side of the fashion fabric.
By pressing the first fold I now have a clear edge I can use as the base for a blind stitch.
By not pressing the first fold while pressing the second fold I now have given myself freedom to deal with that extra fabric while blind stitching the hem. I can gather it anywhere I like.

Look, even the French seams come in handy here:
I can attach the now pressed hem to the inner part of the seam, without touching the right side of the fashion fabric at all.
This way I can transport the dress to wherever I fancy to do the handstitching. Maybe outside in the garden. Or in another city.

But, as it turns out, I do not have the desire to spend more zennnn-time handstitching this dress. I want it finished. And as this is not a fancy smancy fabric like silk or jacquard I am fine with simple topstitching. It will show on the right side and I would not do this in a high end couture fabric or fancy vintage dress pattern. But this is my Summer Dress, in cheery cotton. And I want it finished. Three good reasons to go with top stitching.

If I can just find a way to handle the extra fabric in the hem… Let’s try:

Here I am stitching from the inside, close to the fold. Every now and then I gather the extra fabric from the folded fabric into a little crease. You can see one coming up about a centimeter before the French seam:
I just stitch over it.

After stitching the whole hem this is how the inside now looks. Here you see two creases to gather the extra fabric:
One left of the seam, the other on the right, about 3/4th of the width of the picture.

looks alright from the outside too:
not too much change in angle.

Ofcourse, they didn’t went well all the time:
Too harsh a fold, angle change visible from the right side:

The French Seams also presented a bit of a problem that’s visible from the right side:
They were too bulky for my machine, I had to coax it over it. Loosing stitches. There’s a float there.

Oh well. In knitting we have a saying: “if pedestrians don’t notice the mistake while you’re galloping past on a horse, you shouldn’t worry about it either.”

So I’m not worrying. Because this dress is not about the hem. Or the neckline (which I did not get right). It is about the fit which I am very happy with.

Just let me attach the inner lining to the dress and then I think I’m finished. Pictures!

ahum. Still need to secure some more threads that are dangling about. I’ll do that after the lining and pictures. I’ll just gallop around if need be.

fixing the body

Pressing did wonders for the understitching of the bodice. It looks really ‘real’ now!

I closed the side seam and the center back seam. I tried it on and the back stood very wide away from my back. So I altered the pattern, gave it more of a hunch back line (which I seem to have).
In the front there’s something wrong too. Too much fabric at the neck line. I know not of fast solutions for than on so I’ll leave it as is.

The fit under the bust is fine. That’s why I will just tailor the darts from the skirts to the fit of the bodice. I have lost interest in alining the vertical seams exactly. I’ll do the best I can but right now I’d really like to work towards a finished dress!

another thing I noticed when trying on the bodice:
I’ve got stars at inconvenient places….

I think I can still claim innocence though.

Practice Dress: treating the seams of skirt

I’ve sewn all the seams of the skirt, except the side seam where the zipper will be and the darts.

I have held the skirt around me and it fits, it is not too small nor too big.
I will now finish the seams first. Then I’ll think about matching the darts and the bodice. Or perhaps put in part of the zipper first.

I press open the seams. I have given them a tug before this stage.

Now I will have to ‘tack’ down the sides. There will be stitching visible on the outside. One of the pleasures of a handsewn garment, besides excellent fit and personal style and awesome fabric choices, is the treatment of the details. In sewing seams are a big part of the details.
There is a big pleasure in knowing and/or seeing a little fun on the inside of a garment. Such as funny fabric for lining or a splurge of colour when the seams are bound with a contrasting coloured biasband.

The seams of my skirt may ravel when I do not protect the raw edges. Lots of people do this by using an overlocker, using a special kind of sewing machine. You know these seams from commercial garments:

I don’t like them. They are itchy. Sometimes even scratchy. There’s a lot of nylon and plastics in these seam treatments. Besides, I don’t have one of those machines…

So I am looking at other finishings. There are quite a few!
I have chosen to make a small fold in the pressed open seam,  a fold under. It will enclose the raw edge. I will stitch the fold down, this will result in two lines of stitching next to the seam. I will take care to ensure that these two lines have an equal distance from the seam.

folding the raw edge under and pressing it in place:

stitching it secure, from the inside. Taking care to keep the same distance from the seam at all times, no matter how wide or narrow the fold runs:

the stitching didn’t catch the fold everywhere. I will stitch this close by hand, making sure the stitches are barely visible from the good side of the dress. This is the view from the inside:

But on the outside there are just two neat lines of stitching on either side of the seam:
you’d never know whether or not the stitching did indeed catch all the fold on the wrong side and whether or not I had to secure small patches by hand.

This is excellent practice for working with the silk because that will fray and is slippery. Seam finishing is important with silk. I’ll probably do French seams with the silk. Or a binding with biasband (no, that will add weight and the silk I bought is very lightweight).

The seam finishing on this cotton practice dress is more the kind you see with jeans garments and shirts. Dress shirts? Man shirts?

By the way, here’s how the first seam showed me that I’d better spread the fabric a bit wide when it is guided through the sewing machine. Here I did not and you see how there’s a bit of excess fabric, with folds:

now thinking how to proceed. There’s a zipper, there are waist darts and there’s the bodice to align.