How to Read a Ruler

Hey, you!

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…

Yep! Surprising!

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:

the inch markings on an imperial tape measure

Each inch can be further divided into half, which is represented by the second longest line. This gives us a ½ inch:

the half inch marking

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?!

fourths on imperial measuring tape

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?!

eights on an imperial measuring tape

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.

sixteenths on an imperial measuring tape

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!

a grid ruler that is divided into eights and sixteenths

The End

When you started this article, you probably had no idea what every slash on a ruler meant.

And now you do!

Which means…

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.

And remember…

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

RELATED: Click to learn everything you need to know about sewing patterns!

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