Instructables

Make a Seam Stick for Tailoring

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Picture of Make a Seam Stick for Tailoring
My wife does not just sew, but she is a seamstress who likes to do tailored garments. She recently returned from a couture sewing class where she fell in love with the seam stick. It is a wooden half-round about 18 inches long that allows ironing the backside of a seam without the risk of making an impression of the seam's edges on the good side of the garment. Previously she used a ham, which is a firmly stuffed cloth tube; but a ham, even one of a small diameter, does not allow the edges of the seam to fall away untouched by the iron in the way a seam stick does. When she returned home she asked me to make a seam stick for her. I had some 1 1/4 inch diameter fir closet rod on hand. The problem is to rip it so the end product is what was planned. Ripping round stock is always a challenge no matter what kind of saw is used. This Instructable is a combination woodworking project and sewing Instructable. 
 
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Step 1: Why freehand sawing is a bad idea

Picture of Why freehand sawing is a bad idea
It is tempting to make a straight guide line on the length of the closet rod and saw it by hand with a bandsaw, or perhaps a common carpenter's hand ripsaw. Invariably, your wrist will roll a little on the bandsaw table so the surface that is supposed to be flat actually has a twist in it. The twist might be small and the seam stick might still function, but it really is not what you want for the end product. It is also possible for the handsaw to wander from the line without noticing it. 

Step 2: Make two blocks with a "V" notch

Picture of Make two blocks with a
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Mark and cut two blocks from 1 x 2 firing strips. Make them about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. Cut a "V" into the center of the long side. There is no need for great precision. That will be corrected later.

The second photo shows how these two blocks will cradle the closet rod later.
grannyjones2 years ago
This looks so handy.
Hubby is a carpenter, so I think I'll beg him to rout a couple of wide diameter quarter rounds down the sides of a straight piece of firring strip.
Phil B (author)  grannyjones2 years ago
That ought to do the job. Thank you for looking.
scoochmaroo3 years ago
Nice! I've never used one of these. But I can't live without my tailor's ham and sleeveboard. I just revamped my ironing board this weekend with extra layers of padding from old towels and a new cover from an old sheet!
Phil B (author)  scoochmaroo3 years ago
My wife has a regular tailor's ham and a second ham of a much small diameter. It is also cylindrical and was jokingly called a sausage when she bought it. Still, she is finding a seam stick to be an improved tool for ironing the backside of seams. Thank you for looking.
Yeah, I've always used a firm sausage for this, but with less than satisfactory results. This is such a better idea!
while the idea of this really interests me i will probably just get a short length of rounded dado rail.

*lazy*
Now That is really clever!! Your wife sounds very cool!! I wonder if large size quarter-round (wood beneath base boards on walls) would work? I do not have any wood working skills. You are obviously a pro :0)
Phil B (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Thanks, Lyn. It says "pro" by my name, so I must be one!

Perhaps you could glue two pieces of quarter round together to make a half round. Most of the quarter round I have seen is about 3/4 inch on each flat side. Two of those would be about right when glued together. Chances are the top edges would not meet as perfectly as needed, so some judicious sanding would be necessary to make a nice rounded and smooth edge on which to iron the seam. I think you once said you have a Dremel. A little light sanding with it should do nicely.

My wife is pretty cool, but sometimes we still argue. Can you imagine?
Good remembering! Yes, i do have a dremel. Thanks :0)
Phil B (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
I had a thought. Gluing two pieces of quarter round together and clamping them for the glue to dry, even with rubber bands, could be difficult. The edges may not want to remain aligned. But, if you glued two sets of two pieces, the four pieces total would make a full round section of four pieces that could be clamped by rubber bands and held in place very easily. Then you would have a spare seam stick to keep or to give. You probably have to buy a minimum of six feet of quarter round, anyway. That would make four pieces very close to 18 inches each.
Makes sense. Thanks very much for the accommodation alternatives. :0)
Phil B (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
You are welcome. I wish I had thought of quarter round in the beginning. It would be much easier and faster than what I described. But, I had the closet rod and locked myself into thinking about how to utilize it. Thank you for the idea of using the quarter round molding.
rimar20003 years ago
Clever as always, Phil.

At home, the iron is a device disused. Only occasionally we use it for a minute or two. I use it for experiments!
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo, but, I did not invent the seam stick. I only found a way to saw one into two long pieces with some reasonable accuracy. You must have some wash and wear clothing that you do not need an iron. My wife makes clothes for herself and for some others. She uses an iron quite a bit as she is assembling the parts of the garments.
Ninzerbean3 years ago
Brilliant solution!
Phil B (author)  Ninzerbean3 years ago
Thank you. I have spent a few hours in fabric stores waiting for my wife, but had never seen one and she had never mentioned them, either, until she returned from her seminar. I did find one of these available for purchase on the Internet, and the price was less than ten dollars US (before shipping and handling).

A better way to make these would probably be to put two straight 1 x 2 pieces of a hardwood about 20 to 22 inches long face-to-face to make a 2 x 2, and glue them near both ends. Then turn them on a wood lathe to make a long round cylinder. When done turning do preliminary sanding on the lathe and cut the glued portion of the ends away. But, more people have access to a circular saw than to a lathe, so I chose to develop a way to rip closet rod with a circular saw.