Measuring tools in sewing are essential for the perfect fit and shape of any garment or home furnishing. Even if you are a beginner sewer, you will need to measure seam allowances, hems, and markings. Some sewing patterns even just give you measurements for rectangular pieces.
Rather than giving you a long list of measuring tools in sewing that you need to buy, I have broken this tutorial into beginner and intermediate tools. This should make it easier to make a shopping list and set up your sewing kit.
Made to measure or tailor-made are two well-known expressions of accuracy and perfection. The superior quality of a tailor-made outfit comes down to the accuracy of your measurements.
So what are these measuring tools in sewing and how do they help?
This short list of modern measuring tools in sewing is bound to help you make the best choices. Check the list and see what you have and how you could improve your measuring tools to make your sewing gadgets complete.
The top 10 measuring tools in sewing are:
- Tape measure
- Clear ruler
- Sewing gauge
- French curve
- Flexible curved ruler
- Tailors L square
- Ring ruler
- Curved runner
- Quilting rulers
- Cutting mats
Measuring Tools in Sewing for Beginners on a Budget
If you are a beginner and on a budget, these are the top 4 essential measuring tools I use most sewing days.
- Tape measure
- Clear ruler
- Quilting ruler – Just get one smaller one around 18 inches (45cm)
The rest you can purchase as you expand your sewing skills and start sewing more regularly.
Intermediate Sewing Measuring Tools include:
- Sewing gauge
- French curve
- Curved ruler
- L square
- Ring ruler
- Curve runner
- Cutting mats
How to Save Money on Measuring Tools in Sewing
Keep a lookout for inexpensive measuring toolsets on eBay and Amazon. Buying a kit rather than individually can save you some money.
Sewing supplies are sometimes charged at a premium so check your local stationer or discount store for simple rulers and yardsticks.
1. Tape Measure
The tape measure is a standard measuring tool that every sewer should have in their sewing kit. You will find that you will use it not just for sewing, but for all kinds of home measuring projects.
When measuring your body for sewing clothing, a tape measure is essential for taking your chest, waist, hips, and many other measurements that allow you to create the perfect fit.
Fabric tape measures are better than cheap plastic ones as they are less likely to stretch out of shape meaning your measurements will stay accurate.
Measurements – Invest in a good flexible tape measure with standard measurements in both inches and centimeters. Having both imperial and metric measurements helps broaden your sewing horizons by allowing you to purchase sewing patterns from various countries.
Best length – A good length for a tape measure is 60 inches (150cm) and the numerals need to be clearly marked and easy to read. I like the retractable sewing tape measures as the case prevents it from getting tangled in my sewing supply drawers.
Expanding Tape Measures – Metal expanding tape measures are useful for home décor but do not work so well for dressmaking as they won’t curve around the body. Fabric expanding tapes however are invaluable. Don’t go to a fabric store without one in your handbag. I’m always pulling mine out to measure bits and pieces while fabric shopping.
Further reading: How to measure for sewing
2. Clear Rulers
Measuring tools in sewing must include a ruler made of clear plastic.
Best length – The length can vary, but 12 inches (30cm) or 18 inches (45cm) is a good length for dressmaking and pattern measuring. Purchase these cheaply from your local stationery or school supplies shop.
The clear ruler is used for
- Measuring straight lines
- Seam lines
- Quilting lines
- Pattern sea markings
- Marking off small distances and spaces like buttonholes and pleats.
3. Yard Stick
Made of a hard wood or metal, a yardstick is useful for checking hems and drawing long lines.
Measuring from the floor to the hem helps to determine the finished drop of the hem. The yardstick will check on straight grain lines and other straight measurements in dressmaking, home décor, and pattern making.
Differences in yardsticks – If you live in a metric country, the yardstick might be 1.0 meters long instead of a yard that is 90 centimeters. Mine has centimeters marked on it. It would be useful to have one that has inches on the other side but considering how many other measuring devices I have I don’t find that a problem.
4. Quilting Rulers
Quilting rulers come in different shapes and sizes and are made from clear plastic with markings in inches. If you are just starting out, begin with a small to medium-sized quilting ruler and add to your sewing tool kit as you try more difficult projects.
These plastic rulers are not just for quilters. I use mine for everyday sewing projects.
The quilting ruler is basically a grid system of different useful markings. Start small with the 6.5″ X 24.5″ ruler and build up your selection as you grow in confidence.
There are also square rulers and triangular rulers in different sizes to assist with a wide range of quilting projects. Quilting is based on precision and accurate measurements and using a gridded ruler will give you the guidance you need. Quilting rulers are often used with a rotary cutter and cutting mat.
Further reading: Best Quilting Tools
Here are the measuring tools in sewing for more experienced sewers or those looking for extra tools for their sewing kit.
5. Sewing Seam Gauge
A sewing gauge or seam gauge is a small, useful tool with a sliding guide to mark out and measure small distances.
The sewing gauge can measure hemlines, tucks, and pleats as well as the spaces required for buttons and buttonholes.
I was debating whether to add this to the beginner essentials but honestly, I don’t use mine much. A simple ruler can do the same thing.
6. French Curve Ruler
A French Curve is a very useful curved template and can help measure and draw out all sorts of patterns and curved areas such as necklines and armholes.
Alterations, additions to curved areas, or just accurate curved cutting lines are all made easier with the use of the French Curve. This tool will be used frequently if you are patternmaking.
7. Flexible Curved Ruler
The flexible curved ruler is one very bendy and curvy plastic gadget. It is ready to help measure and draw any curved or straight line.
It bends into the shape you want it to make with measurements to assist accuracy. The flexible curved ruler will adjust to fit triangles, curved lines, and arches, and will conform to the shape you make it.
This is a very useful gadget and as a multi-task tool will perform the same functions like many other tools in the measuring department.
8. Tailor’s L Square
Technically the L square is two different-sized rulers joined together into one L-shaped unit with a short side and a long side.
They make a right angle at the point where they meet. The tailor’s L square measures 14 inches by 24 inches (35cm x 60cm)
It is very useful in pattern measuring and scaling down ½” ¼” ⅛” 1/10″ and 1/32″ scaled measures. (12mm, 6mm, 3mm, 2mm, 1mm)
9. Ring Ruler
Circles and drawing circles are simplified by this measuring tool. With the ring ruler, there is no need for the fiddly string and pivot method of drawing an accurate circle.
You simply adjust your ring ruler to the right measurement and away you go with accurate, easy to manage, circle drawings.
I’ve included this as I know some patternmakers use this but personally, I don’t use a ring ruler. You only need one if you will be doing detailed patternmaking.
10. The Curve Runner
This little gadget is known as a rolling ruler. It is a very useful measuring tool because it is easy to use and very compact. Made of clear acrylic plastic it is fast and accurate. You are able to see through the wheel and measure curved and straight lines.
11. Cutting Mat
Self-healing cutting mats have grids and measurements on their surface, usually in metric and imperial. They are particularly useful for measuring as you cut with a rotary cutter. Most will have angle measurements as well. Cutting mats come in a large variety of sizes. Larger ones that can cover your table are the most useful.
Measuring Tools for Conversions for Sewing
If you are sewing regularly you will eventually need to convert a pattern from metric to imperial or vice versa.
Measuring tools in sewing have become very creative and innovative over the years. They are tailor-made for the most accurate designing and perfectly fitting garments. Now you can use the expression ‘tailor-made’ with confidence.
Choose the best measuring tools to help the process as having sewing gadgets is always fun. However, the humble tape measure still tops my list of most used measuring tools in sewing.