8 Things You Never Knew About the Tailor’s Clapper

Although the tailor's clapper originates in garment sewing, quilters have adopted this tool with excitement. Here are 8 reasons you need a tailor's clapper in your quilting toolbox!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was sewing with double gauze and using the heck out of my tailor’s clapper, when I suddenly stopped. I raised my trusted hunk of wood up in front of my eyes and said, “Mr. Clapper. What even are you? Where did you come from? What’s your story?”

You know by now that it’s pretty normal for me to have conversations with my quilting tools, so this was a completely routine and not-weird moment in my life. But it got me thinking. I use my tailor’s clapper aaaall the time. So I wanted to do some research and get to know it, and I thought I’d share all of my newfound knowledge with you!

The quilt seen here is the Campfire quilt pattern and can be purchased here!

Although the tailor's clapper originates in garment sewing, quilters have adopted this tool with excitement. Here are 8 reasons you need a tailor's clapper in your quilting toolbox! | Suzy Quilts https://suzyquilts.com/tailors-clapper

The Hard Facts About This Hard Block of Wood: A Tailor's Clapper's Story

I’ll start with a few facts about what the tailor’s clapper actually does (because I bet there’s someone out there that never knew this thing even existed), but once we cover the basics, things will get more interesting… just about as interesting as a carefully shaped block of wood can get.

1. What exactly is a tailor's clapper?

The tailor’s clapper is used to get flat, crisp seams and creases while sewing. Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without it. Have poorly pressed seams, that’s for sure. And I’d probably miss the company, too. (If you have doubts, do half a quilt with a clapper, and half without. You will DEFINITELY notice the difference!)

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2. What's the clapper's backstory? Gimme that history!

The tailor’s clapper originated in the dressmaking world… and tailoring, of course! According to my online research, the first one popped up about 120 years ago in England. Chances are, there were other versions of the tailor's clapper prior to that, but they were probably not the smooth shape and size we know today. 

3. How does it work?

The wood itself absorbs the steam, and traps the heat inside of your fabric, instead of setting it free into the air of your sewing room. This is the magic of the tailor’s clapper. Your fabric needs the right combination of hot to cool, steamy to dry in order to make a perfectly flat seam. The TC makes it happen.

Below is an Instagram story demonstrating how easy it is to use.

Although the tailor's clapper originates in garment sewing, quilters have adopted this tool with excitement. Here are 8 reasons you need a tailor's clapper in your quilting sewing studio! Learn all of the pressing and ironing tricks to using a tailor's clapper.

4. Is the wood special?

Tailor’s clappers are made out of hardwood only. In order to do the job, the wood has to be heavy and close-grained. Maple and tulipwood are popular! If you use another, less dense wood, it can absorb the steam and pop the wood grain! And NOBODY wants a popped wood grain...

5. What's the most common size?

The traditional width of tailor’s clappers are 2" - 3". This size gives you enough weight to press heavy-weight fabrics, and also enough width to cover big seam allowances.

Although the tailor's clapper originates in garment sewing, quilters have adopted this tool with excitement. Here are 8 reasons you need a tailor's clapper in your quilting sewing studio! Learn all of the pressing and ironing tricks to using a tailor's clapper.

Check out more of my favorite sewing tools!

6. When should I use it?

You can use the tailor’s clapper on not only quilt seams, but tucks, collars, cuffs and hems. You can even use it for pant pleats, if you’re into that look (the TC won’t judge.) It works wonders on TINY seams! You know those seams that are so teeny-weeny they’re hard to nail down? That’s a job for the tailor’s clapper.

7. How do I use a tailor's clapper?

To use the clapper to its fullest potential, with either a spray bottle or the steam in your iron, give your seam a nice, steamy press. Lift up your iron and press the tailor's clapper on the seam until the area is fully cool (about 5-7 seconds is enough). Lift it up too soon, and you'll rob the seam of the complete magic of the tailor’s clapper (mostly because you’re shortchanging that heat treatment!)

8. Can I make my own?

You CAN make your own tailor’s clapper, as long as you’re keeping in mind all of those special stipulations above (I found some great instructions here if you're interested. The thought of using a saw is pretty scary to me, but I bet you'll be fine...as long as your not as accident prone as Yours Truly. It’s pretty involved). But as you’ll see… it’s a lot of work! You may just want to get the same one I'm using here.


I have not found an actual reliable source for the full history of the tailor’s clapper… anyone have a site? Or better yet, a firsthand account? ARE YOU THE INVENTOR of the yailor’s clapper! Let us know in the comments!

51 thoughts on “8 Things You Never Knew About the Tailor’s Clapper

  1. Marilyn says:

    It’s great to see an article about this. I’ve been sewing for over 60 years, although quilting for only a year. I bought a tailor’s clapper many years ago for tailoring woolen blazers and other serious garment sewing. About 3 months ago I found it a box among my unused notions and thought “wow that would be great on quilting seams”. It’s particularly good on dense intersections of blocks, like the center of several HST’s (something that often occurs in your patterns).

  2. karen s says:

    I’ve never had a tailor’s clapper, but almost bought one when I was making a blazer decades ago. Good thing I didn’t–I thought it was 2 pieces and you “clapped” them together from both sides of the fabric, really smashing that seam flat. Just one of those stories I tell myself 🙂 Thanks so much for the True Story of the Tailor’s Clapper, Suzy!

  3. Arita Rai says:

    Thanks for the info. I was looking at purchasing one last week. I was going to get the large one, but now I’m thinking for quilting the small one is fine. Are you happy with the small one?

  4. Kathy says:

    I purchased one a few months ago, from “TheLittleWoodShed” (Etsy) and seriously, it changed my world! I love that hunk of wood! I use it ALL the time! Who knew that a super smooth piece of wood could create magical flat seams. I especially love it for flattening open seams and that taught me another invaluable lesson…use matching thread. Duh. For example, when sewing with white fabric, use white thread…when sewing with black fabric, use black thread. I’m sure that’s a given for most people…but it was a head smacker for me!

  5. Liz says:

    Thanks for the detailed post about the clapper! I’m not much of a steamer, do you know if the Tailor’s Clapper would work well with dry iron, or is it specifically to trap the steam?

  6. Karen hough says:

    I’ve been using a tailors’s clapper for many years in making garments but never thought about it for pressing my seams for my quilts. I am definitely going to start doing that right now. Thanks so much for the insight.

  7. Denise says:

    As a home ec major back in the 70’s we had the opportunity to purchase the whole lot of pressing devices: the ham, seam roll, seam stick – still on e my favorites- and yes a clapper.). We used it in tailoring wool to flatten where there was bulk. We would get steam in the garment and then clap it down hard and flat. This prevented shine on your fabric and gave clean lines. Great story from you as usual.

  8. Machelle says:

    I just had a birthday and recieved a real treasure–My dear friend’s 80 year old Dad made me a tailors clapper!! I 💚it!!

  9. April says:

    My favorite thing about this blog post is that the amazon ads on it are for THE Clapper. Like from the old infomercials. Anyway, I really should order a tailor’s clapper soon, or at least put it on my Christmas list.

  10. Mike Jackson says:

    Hello Suzy! I am the co-owner of Jacksons Woodworks. We are thrilled to know you like our Tailors Clapper so much! From our research you are spot on with its inception of about 120 years ago. The size and materials have evolved overtime but the concept is the same, hold the heat and absorb the steam. Let us know if we can be any assistance to you. Have a great day!

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  12. Jean Suplick says:

    I’ve always been a little confused about this. Do you “clap” the clapper down on the open, steamy seam, thereby putting some force into applying the clapper? If so, how much force? Or is it better to just place it and press? As I recall from researching this years ago, tailors actually clap it down with a little force in order to flatten bulky wool seams. It seems to me once doesn’t need to do that with quilting cotton.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! Since it’s named a Clapper, you’d think clapping would be involved, but actually you just need to set the Tailor’s Clapper on the freshly steamed seam while adding some slight pressure. You don’t need to stress out your shoulder or anything with the pressure, just a small bit.

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  14. Donna says:

    I got one from my mom that my dad had made for her. Mom was a seamstress and dad was a carpenter. I was never sure what to do with it. I’m so glad I know now!

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  18. Carol says:

    I purchased an oak one from SawdustandthreadCo on Etsy. It is very heavy and is life changing on bulky seams. Thanks for the info.

  19. Christina says:

    Will the tailor’s clapper work well with the Magic Mat wool pressing mat or will the clapper work better on normal ironing board surface? Since both the clapper and the Magic Mat are designed to retain heat I was thinking using both might be overkill.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I actually just got one of those mats, but haven’t tried it out yet so I can’t say for sure. I kinda think that a TC will still help with flat seams since it’s creating pressure on the seam as it cools.

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  22. Diane says:

    Thank you for this super helpful and easy to understand post! I had heard someone mention a clapper today and had no idea what it was. Now I want one. 😊

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  24. Mania says:

    Thank you Suzy for another great post !. Recently, Following your blog and constantly learn something new from you, even though I’m a few years Quilter. We have several pieces of well-dried oak at home. So I ask my friend to do me a Klapper.
    thank you very much and I cordially greet from Poland.

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  26. Mea Cadwell says:

    Before I found your blog I had happened to read about clappers on another blog. On Ebay I happened to find…wait for it…a clapper, a point press/clapper, tailor’s ham and tailor’s roll 4 item set on sale for $35. I snapped that up like you wouldn’t believe!

    I use the clappers constantly. On every seam, hem, and stubborn crease.

    Then I found another use for them if you don’t want to lug out the iron/ironin board. Hang up a wrinkled shirt, spritz with water, put the clapper inside the shirt (with the wrinkles up against the clapper) and heat with a hair dryer. The wrinkles disappear.

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  30. Leisa says:

    I do not have a tailor’s clapper–it occured to me that a maple rolling pin (clean of course) would work in a pinch. I tried it and was pleased with results. I also have a teflon rolling pin, and that seemed to do well too.

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  33. Kerry says:

    I just inherited a clapper in a box of quilting supplies from my aunt. I didn’t know what it was till now! But I’m going to use it! Thank you!

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