Sewing is one of those skills that needs accuracy, and an arsenal of sewing tools for measuring will take you a long way.
I’m sharing my favorite tools for measuring. All of these will help you cut and draw cleaner lines, better hems, and make quicker pattern alterations.
On to the tools!
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Table of Contents
Rulers and tapes
No set of sewing tools for measuring would be complete without some good rulers. Here’s some good ones!
The good old reliable yardstick
A plain old yardstick is a great sewing tool. They’re lightweight, they take up little room, and they’re wide enough that you can check grainlines on even the widest fabric.
Quilting rulers are another must in any sewing room. Because they’re see-through, you can mark about anything without guessing.
Their durable edges also make them perfect for using with a rotary cutter. If I have a choice between making a rectangular pattern piece or cutting directly on my fabric with a quilting ruler, it’s ruler 100% of the time.
And they have angle markings on them so you can cut bias tape perfectly! You’ll see my favorite ruler in action on how to make bias tape.
I have a few quilting rulers that are in regular rotation in my sewing room. This Dritz 2″ X 18″ ruler is a good all purpose measuring tool. It has a easy to read 1/8″ grid printed on it which makes it fantastic for adding seam allowances.
This 8.5″X 24″ Omnigrid ruler is another favorite. The added length makes it perfect for measuring out even the longest pattern pieces. The long angled lines can help you make a lot of bias tape quickly. It has a permanent spot on my sewing pegboard!
A flexible ruler is another handy ruler to have. If you’ve ever taken a pants fitting or drafting class, you’ve probably been shown one of these guys. The idea is that you can bend them into a curve to accurately mimic curves on your body.
They’re great for crotch curves and sleeves especially!
Measuring tapes are cheap and plentiful. They’re wonderful little sewing tools for measuring because they often have both metric and imperial markings. You can quickly switch between measurement systems if it fits your need. That plus their small nature make measuring tapes indispensable in the sewing room.
The one thing to watch out for with measuring tapes is what it’s made from. Many materials can stretch out over time. A bad measuring tape can ruin your day and throw off your pattern adjustments.
Look for measuring tapes made from fiberglass. It’s the one material that resists stretching out over time. This retractable Clover Shiro tape is a nice compact little fiberglass tape.
If you’re not sure about the accuracy of the tapes that you have, test them against a solid ruler.
Tools for cutting and drawing circles
If you’ve ever tried to make a circle skirt with a regular ruler, you know it can be a little frustrating.
Circles are a good basic shape we use a lot in sewing. Having a tool that helps you make them quickly and accurately is a good good thing.
I talk about this Olfa circle rotary cutter in how to make a fabric yoyo. It remains my favorite tool for cutting small circles. Set the radius, and you can cut circles from 1.5″-8.75″ across. It’s a unitasker, but one worth having!
I also came across this little woodworking compass by Dasco. You can replace the packaged 12″ rod with a dowel to make draw circles up to 10 feet in diameter. That’s a pretty awesome claim for those of us who love circle skirts!
Sewing tools for measuring curves and seam allowances
As you grow in your sewing skills, you’ll want to have some tools to help you draft and tweak patterns to fit you and your style.
A few good curve rulers and tools can help you do just this.
French curve and hip curve
A good French curve ruler is a fantastic tool for helping you measure and draw beautiful smooth curves. They’re great for altering patterns and for pattern hacking!
I love my clear French curve. It’s similar to this Dritz French curve. It has a hip curve, armhole curve and straight edge with an 1/8″ inch-wide grid. It’s an excellent multi-purpose ruler.
If you like a more stand alone hip curve, I know people who swear by this Fairgate hip curve.
If you’ve ever tried to measure an armhole by standing up a measuring tape on its edge, the Curve Runner can be a revelation.
It works like a pizza wheel to roll across curves and help you get accurate measurements of them. You don’t have to worry with a slipping tape with this gadget.
Seam allowance ruler
A quilting ruler is an all-purpose solution for adding seam allowances on straight edges. You can still use them for curves as well, or you can try something like this SA Curve Ruler.
The SA Curve Ruler is a French curve ruler with a built in 5/8″ grid. I like the neon yellow color for seeing through pattern lines to quickly add seam allowances on straight edges, armhole curves or hip curves.
Since Olfa stopped making my absolute favorite seam allowance tool, the rotary guide arm, this is a great alternative.
Sewing tools for measuring hems and buttons
Can there be enough tools for measuring hems? Hemming is a big headache for a lot of people, but with these tools, it’ll become a lot less of a chore.
Clover Hot Hemmer
I’ve been using the Clover Hot Hemmer for about a year now, and it’s quickly replaced an army of other tools. The idea is that you wrap up your fabric around it to the depth of hem you need and press right on the tool’s edge.
The thick felt-like material absorbs steam well and does not warp, and the grid is so easy to read.
The classic hem gauge is classic for a reason. They’re small and multipurpose. I love this 5 in 1 seam gauge from Nancy Zieman and Clover. You can mark hems, use it as a small T-square, mark buttonholes, draw small circles, and use it to mark seam allowances.
If you travel places to sew, a little gauge like this can be a great tool if you don’t want to haul a lot of big rulers.
Literally the only tool you need for perfect buttonhole spacing is a Simflex. It expands to mark absolutely exact spaces between buttonholes.
Transfer the first marking and the bottom marking from the pattern. Then divide the total number of buttons so that the gauge hits both the markings. The intermediate slots will be precisely spaced.
I show how to use it in this video:
So there’s a roundup of some great sewing tools for measuring that are worth having in your collection of sewing gadgets. What’s your most used sewing tool?
More awesome sewing tools:
There’s a marker for every fabric
The surprising kids’ supply to time-tested tools for marking the grumpiest of fabric
Tools that will literally change your sewing life
Tailoring supplies to make pressing easier and my favorite tool of all time for turning tubes.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.