The Best Tools for Measuring, Pattern Design and Sewing

I always say that if you have the right tool, any task is easier. So, in this blog post I would like to share with you some of my favorite measuring tools and aids. Here at Cochenille, we carry many of these items and you can find more information in our web store. In addition, we have created Fact Sheets on a few of the tools, so see these sprinkled in. Let’s take a look!

Hurth Ruler

This is my number one favorite tool of all tools! The ruler was invented by Ursula Hurth from Germany. It has three parts to it and can be used in multiple ways. I really like how you can use all three parts to easily measure things like armhole depth and neck width. You can take these by yourself, without having another person to assist. It works for both measuring a body and for measuring garments laid flat.

Hurth 3-part ruler system
Measuring Armhole Depth (left) and Neck Width (right)

There is a little window in one of the arms that allows you to see the angle. I use this to determine the angle of a shoulder seam on either the body or a garment.

The ruler is flexible, so measuring around a curve is simple. Simply turn it on its edge and move around the curve.

I also use the ruler to measure my favorite clothing items, so I can mimic the fit.

Measuring the cap height and Sleeve Girth all in one step (left) and measuring the neck width (right).

Shop Store
See the Fact Sheet for more info, but also look at these few videos: and

Hurth Band Measuring System

Ursula Hurth also developed an elastic band system that facilitates taking body measurements. You snap these in place at the various body key points, and then use them as guides as your measure. There are videos you can look at online to see how to best use these bands. There are three different sizes, Regular, XL, and XXL. Shop Store

See these videos as well.

Part 1: Attaching and Removing

Part 2: Measuring

Curve Runner

This unique ruler developed by Stitch Buzz allows you measure curves simply by rolling it around a curve. It comes in two different sizes, 8” and 12”. I use it a lot to measure necklines of a garment as I calculate the length that I need for the binding I plan to use. Shop Store

Using the Curve Runner to determine the perimeter of the neckline
The top I made using the ruler to measure the neck so I could cut and apply a band. Shibori techniques were used with indigo dye on orange fabric.

Measuring Made Easy Measuring Tape

This is a measuring tape set and booklet that are developed by Lorraine Henry of San Diego. One tape is quite long, and has a unique feature in that the ‘0’ is centered. This allows you to measure e.g. a front and back bust/waist/hip measurement in one step.

Measuring Made Easy Tape and Book by Lorraine Henry
Measuring, starting with the ‘0’ point at one side seam and then reading both Front and Back measurements on the opposite side seam.

Shop Store

Fact Sheet is here

Hot Hemmer

This aid by Clover allows you to quickly press up a hem that is evenly measured. The gridded tool can withstand the heat of your iron, and it allows you to quickly press up a garment edge to your desired width. Shop Store

Clover’s Hot Hemmer

Curvy French Ruler

I like this tool because it is easy to draw a curve and see how long it is while you are drawing it. The gridded nature of the tool also serves as a tool for adding seam allowances when you need to do so manually. Shop Store

Curvy! French Ruler, used to measure/true/draw curves.

Pattern Making Small Ruler

Stitch Buzz makes a variety of rulers and curves we carry, but I particularly like the small patternmaking ruler. If I am altering a Garment Designer pattern, and need to add a quick seam allowance, it is so easy to do this with this ruler…. Even on the curves. Shop Store

It’s easy to add seam allowances, or simply draw parallel lines using these handy 6″ rulers.

Expandable Sewing Gauge

This tool by Slim Flex has been around for a long time, but it has become increasingly hard to find. I like to use this expandable gauge to quickly help me plan the spacing between buttons/buttonholes, or any other space dividing task.  Simply stretch the tool between your two decided endpoints and mark the divisions on your fabric. How easy is that! Shop Store

Expandable Sewing Gauge, great for measuring equal distances between two points.

Knit Stretch Ruler

This is such a fantastic tool if you work with knits. I just created a new webinar on Working with Knit Fabrics, and this ruler becomes a must-have device if you want to really understand your knits and how to determine the stretch factor of one knit to the next. No more mistakes! Shop Store

This great tool keeps you out of trouble when working with knits. It helps you to understand, easily the stretch factor of the knit.

Dritz Seam Gauge

Who hasn’t used a Dritz Seam Gauge? I always want this super handy tool to be nearby. In fact, I have more than one.  I used it at my sewing machine to check widths between the needle and the gauge on the metal plate. I use it at the ironing board to confirm seam widths or hems. It is in inches and centimeters and the handy plastic slider lets you set a width to quickly check up and down a hem.

Using the Seam Gauge as another technique for creating a hem of equal width around the perimeter of the garment, and the final project, designed in Garment Designer pattern software.

Draping Style Tape

This narrow tape can be used for a variety of end uses, but as a measuring aid, I use it on my sewing machines to help me sew a specific width’s distance from the needle. Because I can add a length of the tape, I can keep my fabric straight more easily as I sew. I also use the tape when I’m measuring someone to mark center lines, and to keep a marked point consistent during the measuring process.  Shop Store

Using the Style Tape on my sewing machines to mark a line that will allow me to be consistent in stitching.
Using the Draping Tape to mark center lines on a body, and also to mark key points to facilitate measuring.

Magnetic Seam Guide

If you want to stitch parallel to the edge of your fabric it helps to have a guide. You can either use the Draping Tape (discussed above) or, we like the flexibility of this great magnetic tool. You can change it quickly to a different width, or simply set it aside to the next time. Experience has shown us that some of the magnetic guides magnetic strength are too strong for our sewing machine. The machine grunted, and chugged, and scared us. So, after a bit of searching and testing, we found this particular one. It is so simple to use. Shop Store

Magnetic Guide for sewing parallel to the edge

So, there you have the quick overview of my best friends in my sewing and pattern world. Having the right tool can make any job easier, whether it is measuring your body, working with a pattern, or sewing up a project.

Susan… Cochenille

Want to be notified when we post a new blog entry? Sign up here.