For the first time in my life I’m sewing thick felted wool to make my children wool coats for winter. I noticed how difficult it was to make the coats look good. The seams were thick and bulky and the coat looked very much home-made. My sewing teacher Michele came to rescue the coats and gave me an introduction on tailor’s pressing techniques. I want to share what I learned with you. If there are any errors, they are my fault!
I owned your basic steam iron, a ironing board, a sleeve ironing board and a tailor’s ham. However, to get the best results I needed a dauber, sleeve roll, which is also called tailor’s sausage and a clapper:
You can buy these tools but I wanted to make mine myself.
A dauber is a roll of wool that the professional tailor’s use to dampen the seams before ironing. Using a dauber allows the tailor to control the moisture better than when using a steam iron. Making a dauber is a straightforward thing. Just take a piece of thick wool about 4 inches wide and roll it to a roll. Secure with rubber bands or sew it together.
A sleeve roll
A sleeve roll or a tailor’s sausage is similar to a tailor’s ham but has a long elongated shape that is suitable for slipping into sleeves and similar places. I made two sleeve rolls: one is big and the other small to fit inside children’s sleeves.
If you want to make yourself one, you’ll need some wool, some cotton and sawdust. You can buy sawdust from any shop that sells supplies for pets.
You can estimate the width of the sleeve roll from measuring an existing sleeve. The fabric may stretch a bit so make the sleeve roll slightly smaller. I took some advice from Serger Pepper’s blog and made small darts to help to shape the sausage ends. Serger Pepper also has a freely downloadable pattern, but that did not work for me, so I just cut a shape that I thought should work. I made one side of my sausage out of cotton gabardine and the other out of wool.
Here the darts are ready. I left another end open to be able to fill the sausage with sawdust. I should have left an opening that is slightly bigger but with some help from my husband, we managed to fill the sausage.
The filling was quite messy work. The sawdust kept flying everywhere. We used a toiled paper roll and a funnel made out of rolled cardboard to help to slide the sawdust in. A wooden potato masher was a great tool to help to pack the sawdust well!
And here are the finished sausages!
Tailor’s clapper and a point presser
Woodwork is not really my speciality but I thought I could manage these simple tools. I went scavenging in a local hardware store where people often leave pieces of wood behind after shortening the planks to their own needs. I was allowed to take as much wood from the discarded pieces as I wanted for free! One of the pieces was just the size I needed for my clapper. At home I sawed the the corners of the ends off and used a file and sand paper to round off the ends. (It would have been easier, if I had had a different saw, but I had to improvise due to lack of proper tools!)
For the point presser I took a long piece of wood and sawed the ends in 45° angles. After some rigorous sanding to remove any bits that might damage fabrics, I had these tools ready to be used!
Pressing wool using the tailor’s method
First, we will meld the seams. Wet the dauber in a bowl of water and dampen the seamline:
Cover the wool with a dampened pressing cloth (I use and old cotton diaper. My teacher recommends flax canvas.)
Press the seam using a dry iron. Remove the press cloth and, while the seams is still damp and hot, place a clapper on top of the seam. Apply pressure for a few seconds rocking the clapper a bit from side to side. Clapper helps to flatten the seam and absorbs extra moisture.
Then open the seam and repeat the procedure: Dampen, cover, press, clapper:
For curved seams like the one on the jacket hood here, a tailor’s ham gives a nice rounded surface for the pressing:
My long point presser can be used to help to give a sharp press to the straight seams:
For the sleeves, I used my sleeve rolls that I slid into the sleeve.
So, what is the difference between ironing the old-fashioned way and using the tailors’ tricks? I noticed that the clapper method gives much neater and more even seams. Here is a seam from a red coat that I ironed the old-fashioned way, using a presser cloth and a steam iron. The seam in the blue fabric has been pressed using the sleeve roll and the clapper. Besides the colour, the both fabrics are wool and are very similar in weight and texture. You can see how the seam on the right is smoother and looks much better.
What this means is that I will have to take the red coat and re-press all the seams. I hope this way I will get even the coat-fronts to behave!
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