How to Make Your Own Pressing Ham


While it may be possible to press curved seams on a flat ironing board, it is impossible to achieve the proper look without pressing them on a curved surface.

Although there are a few home sewers who actually believe they can do without a pressing ham, the truth is a pressing ham is an essential accessory in any truly competent sewing room. Also known as a tailor’s ham, the pressing ham is necessary for anyone who wants their collars, curved seams and cuffs to have that professional appearance.

Why Make Your Own Pressing Ham

Pressing hams are available at nearly all stores where fabric and/or sewing notions are sold for a very reasonable cost. Why, then, would one want to take the time to make a pressing ham?

The answer is a simple one… “because you can.” That trite response is really no answer at all. I all honesty, the only reason I make my own pressing hams is because by customizing my own, I have a pressing ham that suits me to a tee.

Nearly all of the commercially produced pressing hams I have come across tend to resemble canned hams – which is no doubt how they got the name. Mine, on the other hand, has a slightly different shape.

I can pretty much stand my pressing ham on one end while pressing cuffs and lay it down to work with princess seams, curved darts and the like. My pressing ham is just a bit larger than most commercially produced pressing hams.

The Process

All you need to make your own pressing ham is:

  • About ½ yard muslin
  • One 12 ounce package of fiber fill

The steps necessary to make a pressing ham like mine are quite simple.

  • Start by cutting four trapezoids with rounded corners:
    • two pieces 12 inches long, 12 inches wide at one end and 10 inches wide at the other;
    • two pieces 14 inches long, 14 inches wide at one end and 12 inches wide at the other.
    • [NOTE: The next two steps are not absolutely necessary, but a good option for the beginner.]

  • Four trapezoids with rounded corners

    Four trapezoids with rounded corners

  • Sew or serge the two small pieces together.
  • Sew or serge the two larger pieces together.
  • Sew the large pieces to the small ones, easing along the way.
  • Sew the large pieces

    Sew the large pieces

  • Leave the small end open.
  • Stuff the fiber fill in the small end, packing it as tight as possible. [NOTE: it is important that you pack your pressing ham tightly. The tighter it is packed, the longer it will last.]
  • Use a hand needle to close the open end.

You will notice that the finished produce only vaguely resembles a commercially made pressing ham. That’s the great thing about making your own. It can be customized to suit your own personal preferences and taste.

Some people choose to make their pressing hams with a small round almost flat base. Others prefer varying shapes, like my trapezoid. In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I make one side larger than the other because it allows me to have a pressing ham that is more rounded in shape.

Pressing Ham

Pressing Ham

Caring for Your Pressing Ham

After several hours of use, you may notice that your pressing ham may be losing its shape. You may also notice that the steam from your iron may leave stains on the cover.

One of the great things about using fiber fill is that your pressing ham will bounce back into its original shape by simply tossing it into the washing machine and clothes dryer with your towels. Because of its denseness, make sure it is thoroughly dry.

Depending upon how hot your dryer gets, you may want to put your pressing ham in the dryer for an additional cycle, just to make sure it’s dry through and through. You have no way of checking the center to be certain that it’s dry to the very core.

If, however, your pressing ham is damp in the middle, the moisture could break down the fiber fill and even produce mold. An additional turn in the dryer won’t hurt it, and in the long run, will assure you that your pressing ham will last for years and years.


Making your own pressing ham could give your sewing room a lot of pizzazz. By making your own pressing accessories, you have the advantage of personalizing your sewing room on a greater level than expected.

I choose to make my pressing ham with muslin because it is inexpensive, easy to work with and will not bleed through onto delicate fabrics when working with irons set on extremely high heat levels and lots of steam.

In addition to customizing your pressing ham to complement your sewing room décor, you also have the freedom to make your pressing ham to suit your own personal preferences. You can alter the shape and size to accommodate your own individual needs and whims.

Making a pressing ham is quick, easy and gives you a level of freedom that you may not have with a commercially produced pressing ham. In addition, the techniques used to make a pressing ham are the same techniques you would apply to making a pillow.

If you are teaching a youngster the art of sewing, you may want to include them in this project. Making pillows is a lot of fun for elementary school aged children. My granddaughter was in the second or third grade when I taught her to sew.

I couldn’t get her to leave the sewing room until she had made at least six or seven pillows in a single day. Needless to say, everyone she knew had tons and tons of pillows in every shape and size.

I don’t believe anyone who sews needs more than one pressing ham at a time, and when she was learning to sew, I already had one, so she was not introduced to making a pressing ham.

I sometimes laugh when I consider the fact that if I had taught her to make pressing hams, there would have been at least one in every household, even those where there were no sewing machines.