The 3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

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If we’re to sew insanely pretty dresses accurately, we’re going to need measuring tools.

And there’s plenty of options out there. I mean, seriously, like way too many.

But let’s keep it stupid simple to start with the three essential measuring tools that any dressmaker worth her salt would not want to be without.

3 absolutely essential sewing measuring tools: 60-inch measuring tape; 2x18 design grid ruler; and seam gauge

Seriously, this is all you need to get started on this amazing journey of learning how to sew insanely pretty dresses.

But before I reveal the three essentials, let me tell you a true story…

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

First, A True Story

Not too long ago, I was taking an online sewing class. And when I got to the segment on taking body measurements (interlink) and the instructor introduced her volunteer model…

Do you know the first thing that came to my mind?!

The first thing I thought was: That girl needs to eat. (And no I’m not proud of this!)

Well, you can imagine how stunned I must have been when I realized that while my measurements were greater than hers the differences were slight.

Yep, no more than an inch or so…

Now, I know that this will not be true for everyone.

But the point I am trying to make is that when we look in the bathroom mirror, we may as well be looking at ourselves through a carnival mirror. You know, the distortion mirrors in the funhouses.

So with that said, put aside what you think you know about your body and really get to know and understand how much space you actually inhabit.

a speech bubble shouting, "Get over it!"

And then, be radical and EMBRACE it! (Remember to send this message to self at the end of this post.)

Okay, let’s move on…

Measuring Tape

This sewing measuring tool probably gets even less love than the seam ripper.

60-inch dressmaker's measuring tape

And if you’re a woman, I think you know why!

But there really is no way to sew insanely pretty dresses or custom make clothes that fit you perfectly without first, well, facing the facts about you.

Or should I say the truth about how much space you take up in 3D?!

There is probably not a grown woman alive who doesn’t loathe the scale and its next of kin the tape measure.

Sadly, most of us are unhappy with how we look and with how much space our bodies have the audacity to take up in this world.

But here’s the thing…

If you want to sew and flaunt insanely pretty dresses, you have to make nice with your measuring tape!

But before I get into the details of what makes a good measuring tape, I want to tell you a true story…

I am just like you. I have never been comfortable with the way I look and certainly not the amount of space I occupy.

While I’ve been lucky enough not to ever struggled with serious body image issues or weight, I have always been conscious of how much I weigh and what my body looks like since I was 14.

And consider this…

The whole point of sewing is not only to express yourself but also achieve a custom fit.

Forgive me if this sounds mean:

Get the frack over the numbers! (I must remember to send this message to self at this end of this article.)

OK, now that we’ve got that settled, let’s learn how to choose a measuring tape…

Characteristics of a Quality Measuring Tape

A good measuring tape is an accurate measuring time. And an accurate measuring tape will have these two characteristics:

  • Fiberglass (because it less likely to stretch like cloth ones do!)
  • Double-sided (I especially like the ones that have 1″ marks on opposite ends because it doesn’t matter which end is up)
    60″ long

Sew easy tip: Never leave home without a tape measure. I keep one the retractable kinds in my handbag at all times.

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to take your body measurements!

Seam Gauge

This is a small ruler with a movable slider. Dritz makes one that is six inches (black) and another that is seven inches (blue).

a 7-inch seam gauge with point turner and 6-inch seam gauge

The seven-inch seam gauge includes a point turner. It’s a twofer. And who doesn’t love a twofer?!

These tiny rulers are real workhorses. You can use them for so many things, such as…

  • marking hems
  • checking SAs
  • measuring pleat depth
  • marking button and buttonhole placement

Clover makes a super one called the 5 in 1 Sliding Gauge. It is a seam gauge on steroids.

clover 5-in-1 sliding gauge

Of course, I own it! And it can…

  • mark seam allowances
  • measure straight hems
  • measure right angles
  • space buttons holes
  • create perfect circles

All that and it’s pretty too!

But Clover couldn’t stop themselves. They have supersized the 5 in 1 Sliding Gauge to a whopping 11″.

Now, you can do all the above AND more like measure the all-important grainline when laying out your pattern pieces.

Mm, I see a possible seam gauge upgrade in my future.


If you want to sew, you need a couple of rulers to start. And you will need to learn to read your rulers, whether they are metric or imperial.

Did I just put the fear of math in you when I said you have to read rulers.?!

Well, don’t be scared.


When I started sewing, I had only a very basic knowledge of what all those slashes on an imperial rule mean.

I could identify 1⁄8, ¼, ½, ¾, and 1. But that’s all I knew.

Since then, I have learned what every single slash means. And if I can do it, you can do it too.

But we’ll get to that later. For now, just know that you need this ruler:

2×18 grid ruler

two different styles of 2x18 design grid rulers

You will use this ruler a lot! I use mine for drawing and marking perpendicular lines and checking grain line placement.

I have two.

The ruler on top was the first one I owned. It can measure grainline. Plus, the small holes in the center can also be used to draw circles or scallops.

Then, I discovered the ruler on the bottom through a Craftsy class. And I had to have it, because of the little knob in the center. That little knob is everything!

a 2x18 design grid ruler with knob in the center

That magical knob allows you to hold our ruler firmly in place, keeping it stable when you’re drawing lines (or using a rotary cutter). Very cool!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how easy it is to read an imperial ruler!

1×6 grid ruler (optional)

1x6 grid ruler

This 1×6 grid ruler is optional.

But I actually prefer this for marking SAs, hems, and button placement. And did I mention how dirt cheap it is! So dirt cheap, in fact, that I have three of them.

No More Slipping

I want you to be safe when using your rulers. And this is especially important when using your in conjunction with a rotary cutter.

And there are two ways you can make sure your rulers are stable and not slip-sliding all over your cutting surface:

Omnigrid Invisigrip

dritz omnigrid invisigrip

Dritz Omnigrid Invisigrip is a clear plastic film that you cut just smidge smaller than the width and length of your ruler and press on. No glue, no mess.

I bought it from my local Joann store.

But even better and easier is..

TrueCut TrueGrips

truecut truegrips non-slip adhesive rings

I found this gem at my local Hobby Lobby. And I love, love, love them!

TrueGrips are just little non-slip adhesive rings that you peel off and tack on to your ruler in mere seconds! And just like that no more slip-sliding nonsense — no measuring, no cutting, no glue, no mess!

These magical rings make using my favorite ruler (shown in the image above) an absolute joy to use safely with a rotary cutter.

In fact, I think they work even better than the Invisigrip!

Sew easy tip: Make it standard operating procedure to apply either the Invisigrip or TrueGrips to every new ruler you buy!

The End

While there are many options, you only need three rulers in the beginning:

  1. a measuring tape;
  2. a seam gauge; and
  3. a 2×18 grid ruler.

That’s it. That’s all.

Finally, if you are to sew insanely pretty dresses that are custom fit for YOU, you must embrace your body and the space it occupies.

And remember:

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn the other essential tools you need to sew insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn The 14 Commandments of Sewing!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies!

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