While reading the much anticipated first issue of Simply Sewing recently (have you heard of this new magazine?), I came across a little note within an article on essential sewing tools. The note mentions that it is worth spending a little extra on a good quality flexible tape measure so that it will not stretch out easily and render your measurements inaccurate.
This note reminded me of my orientation day when I began sewing for an interior designer a few years ago. The very skilled and knowledgable seamstress that I was working with told me to handle our tape measures very carefully and to drape them softly over their hook on the wall each time I put them away. This careful handling would prevent them from stretching out – something that is very important to someone who is sewing precise roman shades! When she told me this I nodded quietly while guiltily visualizing my tightly rolled tape measure within it’s plastic case in my sewing box at home! When I got home I inspected my tape measure closely – it was a cheap plastic blue one (rather than coated fabric or strong, reinforced plastic) and, after several years of use it featured visible stretch marks along it’s entire length! Needless to say, when I compared it’s measurement markings to my metal pattern drafting rulers, they were quite off!
Aside from resistance to stretch, there are a couple other features I like my tape measures to include. I prefer to use tape measures with very clear and simple markings – I find it annoying when inches and centimeters are crammed onto one side of the measure – the Merchant & Mills tape measures that we carry in our shop are particularly simple and clear to read since one side is black and one side is white making it very easy to refer to your desired unit of measurement instantly. Lastly, I like to use tape measures that feature no blank space at the beginning or end of the measure. I prefer tape measures to start at “0” exactly where the metal tip begins and to include measurements right up to the other metal tip.
While I only own basic tape measures, I have seen some really useful specialized ones when working with other sewists at pattern drafting workshops and school that I would like to add to my tool box. For instance, I have noticed drapery weighted tapes are a common tool within many seamstress’s sewing boxes. They drape the chain over the body to measure various rounded areas (for instance, the front shoulder to waist measurement that extends over the bust). They pinch the chain at either end point and then remove the chain to a flat surface where they measure its length.
Have you tried working with circumference tapes that feature a slider and locking button to measure the circumference of various areas of the body? Or, have you attached an adhesive tape measure to your sewing table? Or are you a fan of working with quilting rulers while garment sewing?
I’d love to hear your measuring tips and tricks!
If you are feeling the need to update your measuring tools like I am, our Merchant & Mills measuring tape is currently 25% off this weekend!