What the heck is a tailor’s clapper?

That is always the first question I hear when I’m at a Friendship Day and someone comes across my friend Drea’s tailor’s clappers. She has these beautiful and functional tailor’s clappers, and now she’s got one that looks like an iron!

The tailor's clapper comes in different shapes, but you really want flat and heavy.

You really just want something that’s heavy and hard, and can withstand heat. Enter the humble block of wood.

So what’s the fuss about a tailor’s clapper?

A tailor’s clapper is used to get beautiful flat seams. I can already hear you saying that your iron does that – well, try doing half a quilt with a tailor’s clapper and half without. You’ll wonder why you ever doubted me.

In the garment industry, the sewists use tailor’s clappers to get a seam or creases to stay in place. It was first used in England over a century ago (and they had heavy irons!).

Remember those black cast iron, well, irons? You would put a few of them in the fire and swop them out when the first one got cool – even they had a need for a tailor’s clapper with those.

I’ve even heard of some sewists using a mallet – you know that big rubber thing that looks like a hammer? I think that’s a bit too much force on a seam, but hey, use what works.

How does a tailor’s clapper work?

It’s as simple as the tool – the wood traps the heat inside your fabric. You can’t leave your hot iron on the fabric without potentially setting your sewing room on fire. You need the right combination of heat and pressure to get a perfectly flat seam before all that lovely heat disappears. What better than a piece of wood to keep it nice and warm, without damaging anything? Try making this beginner quilt with simple seams, and get a beautiful result when you use your tailor’s clapper.

quilt in a day

About the wood

It has to be a hard and dense wood that won’t split from moisture and heat. It certainly isn’t pine wood, and from what I’ve found in my trek through the ally’s of the world wide web, maple is a common choice. Here in SA, Drea uses Yugoslavian Beech Wood that is heavy and dense enough to stand up to the steam and heat.

How to use a tailor’s clapper

Give your seam a nice steamy press. You can either use a spray bottle to spritz some water on the seam and then press with an iron, or use a steam iron. The heat and the moisture works on the fibres of the fabric and the thread, making it more susceptible to being forced into a shape. How do you feel when a friend asks for a favour after giving you a lovely hug? You’re more likely to help out, right?

Well, your patchwork feels the same, so a nice warm and moist press. Lift your iron and then press the clapper on the seam until the area is cool (10 seconds should do the trick, you don’t want to give the seam the wrong idea!)

How big are tailor’s clappers?

They shouldn’t be too big, just the right size for you to cover a seam: 2 – 3″. The iron shaped one gives you two widths to use.

Want one of these babies but don’t know where to find one?

You’re in luck, The Pincushion makes and sells them! Any large fabric store will have a form of one, but these are beautiful enough to put on display too!

tailor's clapper from The Pin Cushion

The best conversations happen in the comments. Let me know how much you enjoy your tailor’s clapper.

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