What Tools Did a Colonial Tailor Use?

Colonial tailors were experts with needles, thread, shears, coal-heated irons and specialized pressing tools such as clappers and blocks. Many of the tools used by colonial-era tailors were not very different from those being used in the modern era, with the notable exception of pressing and measuring tools.

Tailor’s needles, thread and shears have not changed much since the 18th century, although technology has advanced the industry since then. The most immediately recognizable differences between a colonial tailor’s tools and the ones used by a modern tailor are in the measuring and pressing tools used. Having no access to flexible tape measures made from modern materials, the measures from the colonial era are wooden. Some examples of wooden measures include linear, curved and t-square measures.

Pressing and ironing garments after modification was an involved task in the colonial era. Coal-heated irons had to be kept at a consistent temperature and used at regular intervals to provide consistent pressing. Additionally, early tailors had to make use of a wide variety of pressing tools, such as clappers and blocks. Clappers were used exclusively on the seams and creases of a garment, while blocks were designed in a variety of shapes to accommodate garment sleeves and trousers.