The 3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

In this article, you will learn the three essential measuring tools you must have in your toolkit; the beauty of grid rulers; how to stop rulers from slip-sliding all over your cutting surface; the importance of knowing how to read a ruler; and, what we ladies, all need to get over!

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 and make sure we have the three essential measuring tools that any dressmaker worth her salt would not want to be without.

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…

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 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 reaction!)

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

Yep, no more than an inch or so this way or that…

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

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

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.

“Get Over It, Please.”

And then, be radical and EMBRACE it!

Okay, let’s move on…

Measuring Tape

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

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

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 in the West 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:

We need to get the frack over the numbers!

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 tape. And an accurate measuring tape will have these three 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 a retractable measuring tape 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).

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

The seven-inch seam gauge pictured above 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.

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

Of course, I own it! And it can…

All that and it’s cute 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.


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

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

I have two — one is flexible (good for measuring around curves) and one is not flexible but with a special feature.

These rulers are awesome for measuring the grainline.

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

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

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)

This 1×6 grid ruler is optional.

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

But I actually like this for marking SAs and hem allowances. You’ll want more than one of these gems.

No More Slipping

I want you to be safe when using your rulers. And this is especially important when using your rulers 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 is a clear plastic film that comes on a roll. You cut a strip that is slightly narrower and shorter than the length and width of your ruler and press it on. No glue, no mess.

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

Plus, since it covers the entire ruler, it is great for protecting the markings on your ruler from rubbing off! This is probably the best choice for your pricier rulers.

But if protecting the markings on your ruler is not a concern, then even easier is..

TrueCut TrueGrips

I love, love, love this product!

3 Essential Sewing Measuring Tools

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 grid ruler safer with a rotary cutter!

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!