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What is a clapper?

It’s a very simple pressing tool with a very odd name. Wendy Hill loves her clapper and enthusiastically explains why.

Answered by Wendy Hill

What is a clapper?

- A Quilter’s Review reader

Wendy Hill

A clapper is a roughly oval piece of hardwood. The one I have is about 8″ or 9″ long, about half that wide, and about 2″ thick. It has grooves along the sides for easy gripping, and is wider at one end than at the other.

If you don’t have a clapper, you probably press and hold your iron on the fabric to really flatten it out and make it crisp. The bad thing about this is that the iron keeps pumping heat and/or steam into the fabric – Ouch! You can make the fabric shiny or scorch it by pressing the iron on it too long or too hard.

A clapper removes that risk. You use your iron to pump heat and/or steam into the fabric gently. Then you remove the iron and quickly clap the clapper over the spot you just ironed. Press firmly on the clapper, and the heat and/or steam is trapped under the wood. You get a flat, crisply ironed area without the risk of damaging the fabric.

I am right-handed, so I iron with my right hand, and clap with my left. (Yes, you can hear the sound of one hand clapping!)

I’ve had my clapper since high school and it’s still going strong. It needs to be hardwood so the heat and steam don’t damage the wood. Commercial clappers are sanded baby-bottom smooth, but a person could pick up a chunk of hardwood and make their own.

I’ve been extolling the virtues of clappers for a decade now. Just recently I’ve heard of quilters coming back from classes where they’ve heard about clappers. It might become the latest rage!

There are pictures of me using my clapper in my new book, Two-for-One Foundation Piecing (coming in Fall 2001 from C&T Publishing), so we tracked down a source for clappers. The only brand I could find was June Tailor, for about $13 retail.

Learn more about Wendy’s Two-For-One Foundation Piecing at Amazon.com

There are also combination clapper-point pressers available, but the extra piece of wood for ironing points makes them twice as expensive, and quilters don’t need the point presser.

Has anyone seen a Web site where you can order June Tailor’s clapper? If so, let me know and I’ll add the link to this page. Thanks!

- Sharon

Read questions that Wendy Hill answered

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Readers’ Comments:

May 7, 2001
Jean W. writes:

“Reading your item on the clapper brings back memories for me. My aunt was a seamstress and when she pressed a garment she used a thin damp cloth and a flat iron to press open the seam and then beat the heck out of the seam
with the back of a gent’s clothes brush.”

May 14, 2001
Bonnie M. writes:

“I used a clapper for flattening seams years ago when taking a tailoring class in college. When I taught that same class, the same clapper was used.

“I don’t think we called it that, but when I bought it, it came from a place where I bought tailoring supplies. It came with my pressing ham and sleeve board. However, it was a bit larger than what the writer described, and much heavier. It should certainly do the trick! “

May 14, 2001
Jan M. writes:

“Reading about using the clapper brought back memories of my dress-making days. I used the clapper on wool mostly, for the same reason — to push the steam into seams and make them nice and flat. Now I can bring it out of retirement for a new use!”

May 14, 2001
Jeanne H. writes:

“Regarding the clapper and where best to find it. It is sold at most sites and stores that carry sewing notions, but Wendy is right. A lot of them include the point presser.

“The least expensive and best place that I have found to buy any such sewing notions online is the Shoppers Rule site. You can usually make a pretty good deal.

“Wendy is also correct that the only clapper without the point presser is the June Tailor one. However I have been using a stick my son made for me for years and years.”

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