When I started learning how to sew, the one thing that surprised me the most was this…
You must have a basic knowledge of fractions and geometry. And you need to know how to read a ruler.
Before learning to sew, I had no idea that basic math skills played such a part in the construction of sewing garments.
You need to know things like…
- The crosswise grain must be perpendicular to the lengthwise grain (geometry);
- To protect your body standing at the cutting table or sitting in front of your sewing machine, you need to know how to create right angles (geometry again);
- Sewing patterns for the home sewer are drafted ½ of the front of our body and ½ of the back of our body (fractions); and
- If you need to add 1″ to the hip measurement of the pattern and you have four vertical seams, then you’ll need to distribute ¼ inch to each vertical seam (fractions again).
But don’t you fret! Because what we need to know is very simple and not hard at all.
In this article, I will be covering how to read an imperial ruler.
In the U.S., we use the Imperial System of measurement, rather than the Metric System.
I promise you that once you’ve used your ruler or measuring tape in a few projects, you’ll be thinking to yourself, “That was so easy! Why ever was I afraid?”
So if you’re ready, let’s do this…
How to Read an Imperial Ruler
Let’s start by breaking an inch down into its parts.
The longest lines on a ruler or tape measure represent the inch markings — for example, 1 inch, 2 inch, 3 inch, and so forth:
Each inch can be further divided into half, which is represented by the second longest line. This gives us a ½ inch:
And each ½ inch can be divided in half to give us fourths: ¼, 2/4, ¾, and 1.
Did you notice how the ½ inch mark is now 2/4?!
Okay, I think you’re probably beginning to see a pattern!
Now, if we divide each fourth in half, we get eighths: 1/8, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, and 1!
Did you notice how the ½ inch mark is now 4/8?!
Alright, we down to, yes, you’ve guessed it, sixteenths: 1/16, 2/16, 3/16, 4/16, 5/16, 6/16, 7/16, 8/16, 9/16, 10/16, 11/16, 12/16, 13/16, 14/16, 15/16, and 1!
Yep, this is what we get when we divide eights in half.
Well, that’s it!
You now know what all those slashes on a ruler mean!
Now, how easy was that?!
And you thought you couldn’t do it.
Pro tip: Grid rulers are conveniently divided into eights and sixteenths. And these rulers are life savers when it comes time to adjusting our sewing patterns to achieve a good fit!
When you started this article, you probably had no idea what every slash on a ruler meant.
And now you do!
We’re now ready to move onto learning the definition of a good fit and how to bring any sewing pattern into alignment with our body proportions.
Are you excited?! I hope so, because I am.
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