Measure Twice, Cut Once
We’ve all done it. You cut that precious fabric, and you cut it wrong. Once you’ve made that cut, you can’t undo it. And now you don’t have enough to recover from your mistake. ARGH! Whether taking body measurements, marking seam allowances, or cutting quilt squares, when we sew, we need to measure accurately every time if we want our project to come out correctly.
Accurate measurements help to ensure a proper fit in garments, desired proportions in home dec, beautifully square and align quilt pieces and more. We definitely need to pay close attention to what we are doing, but making a small investment in a few helpful measuring tools can help. These are your must-haves:
- Tape Measure
- Clear ruler
- Seam Gauge
So let’s take a look at these three tools in more depth…
Also called a measuring tape, it’s a flexible strip of cloth, plastic or other pliable material with measurement markings. They usually measure about 60” long and 5/8” wide. It is generally reversible with inches on one side and centimeters on the other to help take a more accurate measurements, and can easily be rolled up when not in use.
Pro Tip: Since a tape measure is usually 5/8” wide, you can use it to check the accuracy or placement of your 5/8 seam allowances.
- Measure your body to make the right size in garment patterns
- Determine the length of a skirt or shirt, the size of a home dec or accessory project, etc.
- Measure pattern pieces
- Measure seam lines to make sure they match
- Confirm a pattern piece is positioned accurately on the grain line
Many resources suggest that the flexible material that tape measures are made of will not stretch. However, that is not always the case. It’s a good idea to check the accuracy of your tape measure every few months just to be sure an inch is still an inch. Many are made of fabric and then coated, which helps to make them last longer and discourages stretching. You can look for a non-stretch fiberglass model instead of fabric to solve the stretching issue. Choosing one with metal tips can also prevent fraying.
Clear rulers are extremely helpful when measuring and drawing seamlines and cutting lines. They are made of sturdy transparent plastic or acrylic and have easy-to-read measurement markings. They also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, such as square, rectangle and even a French curve.
Sometimes, they are also marked with helpful 30, 45 and 60 degree angled lines which makes them great for marking straight edges and parallel lines, buttonholes, tucks and pleats. It can also be used to check the grainline of the fabric. The best thing about this type of ruler is that since you can see through them, it makes it so much easier to align the marking and cutting lines perfectly with the designs on the fabric.
Many sewists like having both a large ruler (15 x 60 cm or 6” x 24”) for long straight lines, and a small one (3 x 30 cm or 1” x 12.5”) for the details. Another favorite is a 5/8” curve ruler that can be used to mark seam allowances or add that extra ¼” to a pattern piece to give a little extra ease in the final garment.
Pro Tip: Clear rulers can be slippery on fabric. Try adding a strip of Dritz Omnigris Invisi-Grip or a few TrueCut TrueGrips non-slip adhesive rings to give it some gripping power. Alternatively, choose a no-slip ruler like the Quilter’s Select Rulers.
There is one additional measurement tool in this category to share. While not necessarily a ruler by the truest definition, templates like the welt pocket template and the fly zipper template found on Stitch Buzz are extremely useful. Watch the interview with Claire Cochran, owner/inventor to learn about the Stitchbuzz rulers and templates. ASG members can also get a 20% ASG discount by using the discount code in the ASG Member’s Only Special Offers section!
Seam gauges are rulers, usually 6” long with a sliding pointer that can be used sort of like a caliper. They are often marked in both inches and centimeters and are great tools for marking buttonholes, pleats, hems, etc. because they aren’t flexible and, thus, allow for more accurate measurements.
Though the most common length for a Seam gauge is 6”, you can also find them in longer lengths. Dritz makes one that is 7” long with a point turner on one end, making it a multi-purpose tool. Clover makes one called a 5-in-1 that can be found not only in the 6” length, but also in an 11” length.
These tools will get you off to a great start. As your sewing skills become more advanced, you may want to invest and experiment with other more specialized measuring tools to help you do the job more efficiently. There are many measuring tools with different shapes, measurements, sizes and neat gadgets to choose from.
If you do choose to add some new tools to your sewing box, don’t forget to check the Member’s Only Special Offers. Many of these tools are available to members at a discount. The table in this blog article summarizes just of few of the discounts available .