How to Read a Ruler

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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.

And 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…

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

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 inches, 3 inches, 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, and ¾. See in the image below…


Did you notice how the ½ inch mark is now 2/4?!


Now, if we divide each fourth in half, we get eighths: 1/8, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, and 7/8!


Did you notice how the ½ inch mark is now 4/8?!

Okay, I think you’re probably beginning to see a pattern!



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, and 15/16!

Yep, this is what we get when we divide eights in half. These the shortest lines on the ruler.


So in a nutshell, this is how we read an imperial ruler…


What did I tell you?! Easy, right!

Sew easy tip: Grid rulers are conveniently divided into eights and sixteenths. And these rulers are lifesavers when it comes time to adjusting our sewing patterns to achieve a good fit!


Well, that’s it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn the three essential measuring tools a dressmaker must have!

The End

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

And now you do!

Yes, you actually know what all those slashes on an imperial ruler mean!

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 HERE to learn everything you need to know about sewing patterns!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking super powers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!

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