We wanted to get back to basics as part of our 2021 plan. There are so many different sewing skills in our community. From pros who have been sewn for decades to those that have never made a single stitch, we feel it is wise to review the core skills that all of us should have in our toolbox. Today we will be focusing on how to measure accurately. No matter your level of experience, there are always some new tips that you can learn. We hope this series proves helpful.

The first step to creating a garment that fits properly is taking accurate measurements. It can be not easy to make the right measurements. It’s common for our bodies to change constantly, and it’s not uncommon to lose or gain inches due to various reasons. It can be helpful to try a different unit of measurement if you feel anxious about those numbers. You may not recognize centimeters if you don’t know how to measure in inches. If you prefer metric measurements, then try inches. Don’t base your measurements on past experiences. It would help if you always were taking and reviewing your measurements to ensure that you are cutting the correct size. Only one body exists, and that body is now. Let’s honor it by giving it clothes that fit!

These are the things you will need

    • Downloadable measurement sheet
    • Flexible tape measure
    • Regular, comfortable undergarments
    • Mirror
    • Stool or chair
    • Safety pin and an elastic piece for around the waist
    • A necklace or chain with a pendant
    • Hair elastic

While I will show you how to measure yourself, it is best to have someone help you. Wear the undergarments that you will be wearing with your final garment. When measuring for a form-fitting dress, make sure to wear it with Spanx or a bra. You can wear any undergarments that you normally wear, such as a sports bra or an underwired bra.

FYI: To get a consistent waist measurement, you can use a piece of elastic to pin around your smallest waist. This is your “natural waist”, which will be the basis of a few measurements. Be consistent and decide if the tape will be used at the top or bottom.

Our free worksheet is printable and includes a variety of measurements. Although you may not require all the measurements, it is a useful resource to fit many different garments. Next week, I’ll show you how to use the measurements today to make common adjustments to patterns.

HAT

Although a head measurement isn’t something we often use, it’s useful to know my hat size. This measurement might be useful one day, and it can help you if you’re unsure about other measurements. The measurement is taken from the largest part of your skull. Try to align it front to back.

NECK

A necklace with a pendant is a great option if you have trouble determining where your neck is. A chain will generally fall in the same spot as a collar or neckline. To find this, wrap the tape around your neck. Measure around the points where the chain touches the sides and back. This is not an extremely common measurement, but it can be useful for making a collar or turtleneck and choosing the right size. This measurement is very common for men’s clothing.

SHOULDER

Measure your shoulder from the spot where a necklace chain is attached to your neck. The measurement ends at your shoulder bone. This measurement should be taken in a mirror to see where your shoulder ends. If the shoulder is a bit too soft or sloped, you can visually mark where it should be. You can also raise your arm to see where the joint is. If you have a tight-fitting shirt, this is where the sleeve caps would begin. You can also measure the seams of a shirt that you like the feel and look of.

Measure your shoulder length from shoulder to shoulder. You should note whether you measure at the front or back. They will probably be slightly different.

HIGH BUST

Measure your chest higher than your full bust to determine your high bust. Make sure the tape is flattened by wrapping it behind your back. To make sure the tape is straight across your back, you can look in the mirror. To ensure that you don’t engage your pectoral muscles, which can alter the measurement, relax your arms.

FULL BUST

The full measurement of your bust is, as the name suggests, the largest part of your bust. You should ensure that the tape is flat and level. Relax your arms.

APEX to APEX

This is the measurement of the distance between the breasts’ fullest parts (or the apex). This measurement is especially useful if your bust is larger. You might need to adjust dart placements or FBAs for patterns with smaller cup sizes. These measurements are also important if you make very fitted bodices, lingerie, or bathing suits.

SHOULDER TO APEX

Measurement is taken from your shoulder seam to your bust apex. This measurement may vary if you have a larger bust.

BICEP

Measure the bicep around your upper arm’s fullest point. You should ensure that the arm you measure is straight and relaxed. You can do it!

BACK

This one is the most difficult to do by yourself. However, if you hold the tape at your neck with your other hand, and the tape falls down your back, you can grab your end with your other hand. Then you can lay the tape at your waist against the elastic; after placing the tape against the elastic, place your fingernail on the point where the tape meets it. This is your back length.

LENGTH OF ARM

Although this is a difficult one to do solo, I have a trick! To hold the tape’s beginning:

  1. Wrap an elastic around your wrist (a hair elastic is great!). This should fall exactly where your ideal sleeve would be.
  2. Measure your straight (relaxed arm), then measure up to your shoulder point.
  3. Mark your arm length with your nail!

CENTER FRONT

This is the distance from your clavicle (collar bones) to your waist elastic. This is a great tool for determining the size you want and adjusting your length.

WAIST

This elastic will be replaced by the one you have. The elastic should be at your natural waist. You can choose the most proportionate place to fit your waistline with a rectangular torso or a lower natural waistline. It is also a good idea to measure seated. Both take both, and if you notice a difference in the measurements, note them both.

HIP

Your hip measurement is the width of your lower body. Use the mirror to make sure the tape is straight from the front to the back. Slide the tape down and up until you reach your widest point. This is the measurement we refer to as full hip. It is also one of our main measurements. This measurement can be taken seated and recorded separately or in place of the standing measurement. Next week, we’ll discuss ease in greater detail. However, if you intend to sit down in the pants you’re making, the seated measurement will be invaluable to help you compare.

LEG LENGTH

Another one that can be tricky is this. You have two options. One, you can stand on the tape measure’s edge and trace it to your waist elastic. Then subtract 1 inch. You can try both to make sure they are the same.

RISE/STRIDE/CROTCH

This measure is the distance between the waist in front and the waist back. This measurement is crucial for fitting pants. It can also be called rise, stride, or the crotch curve. This is important because most patterns will add ease to the area.

THIGH

This is your fullest upper leg. This measurement can vary depending on many factors, so ensure that the tape is level and recording the fullest part. If you are unsure, sit down and see if it changes the measurement. Keep both measurements.

Next week, I’ll share how these data points can help you choose the right size, grade between sizes, and make common fit adjustments. Once you have a good understanding of your measurements, there is so much you can do with pattern drafting. I hope this inspires you to take on some challenges in this series. Remember that your body is perfect right now and deserves clothes that fit. Math is also fun!

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