My Favorite Tools: Rulers Edition

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A few days ago, a beginning seamstress asked me about what she needs to get started. She also expressed that she was reluctant to start sewing because she’s intimidated by math. I had to think about that for a second because I never associated math with sewing. Drafting, yes, but not sewing.  What she meant was she wasn’t sure how to measure patterns, yardage, etc. We got into a conversation about measuring tools and I told her how many rulers and ruler variations I own. But I also emphasized that beginners do not need to invest heavily to get started. A basic c-thru ruler and a french curve will take you far.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t need all of these rulers (and to be honest, I actually have more than the ones pictured, but they’re stashed everywhere and it was too much work to look for them – don’t judge me.). My accidental collection started when I attended FIT. I t seemed like every class required a different type of ruler. Being a financially-challenged student at the time, I was not happy to have to keep spending money, but now unless something breaks or gets lost, I’ll never have to buy another ruler in this lifetime.


I think the first one I bought was one of these:


This is my workhorse (which I accidentally stained with my Sharpie). I have 3 now, but I’ve owned probably 10-15 of these because I keep breaking, bending or losing them. I reach for this ruler every.single.time I need to measure something. Not to make the others jealous, but it really is my favorite.

I also drilled holes in it so I can use it as a compass. When I need to draw a circle or semi circle, I put a thumbtack in the center hole, measure out the radius and use a mechanical pencil in the corresponding hole. It’s like magic.


This is my very, very, very old yardstick. She’s cracked and battle scarred, but I’ll never get rid of her. I mainly use it for measuring lengths of fabric and also skirt lengths since it doesn’t curl up like my measuring tape.


These are both hip curves, but until recently I used the Fashion Ruler more because it has a more extreme curve which I thought I needed. But the other day I started using the metal one and realized that the curve actually creates a better curve for me so it may have dethroned my Fashion Ruler.

I still use the roundish top of the Fashion Ruler for drawing armholes and necklines though.IMG_2276

I bought this Omnigrip ruler during my brief flirtation with quilting. I rarely use it now, but I plan to do some quilting this year so perhaps it’ll make a comeback.


My L-square is great for pattern drafting. It’s long enough to that you don’t have to keep moving it, but short enough that you’re not stabbing yourself with its unnaturally sharp edges. One side has inches and the other side has fractions of a yard, inches, centimeters, and millimeters if you’re into that type of thing.


I also use this T-square for pattern drafting so I can start with a perfect 90 degree angle.


The blue part is really helpful when I need to measure out a specific distance from the selvedge but I can’t reach across the fabric. It hugs the edge of my sewing table so I know the ruler is completely perpendicular to the fabric without having to make constant adjustments or straining my eyes as sometimes happens with see-through rulers.


I had this Ezy-Hem for YEARS before I used it, but now I can’t imagine hemming a skirt without it. It has several hem depths marked so keeping your hem consistent is pretty simple.


I love circle skirts, but hemming them was always torture for me because I sew my hems by hand. If the finished hems were uneven (which happened more times than I like to admit), I picked them out and did them again. I’m pretty sure that if you inspect some of my skirts, you’ll find tear stains.

Anyway, since I’ve been using this tool, my hems have improved considerably. I just run a basting stitch close to the raw edge then I use my Ezy-Hem to turn the hem over and press it to make sure I got the correct depth. After that I gather the stitches and give it another press and steam to minimize any fullness.

It also has a straight side that I use on my other hems and sleeves. One caveat: it get’s hot when you press the hem on it, but that’s why oven mitts were invented.


This is my baby (shhhh, don’t tell the others). I found this vintage ruler on eBay and I had to have it. I still keep it in it’s original plastic sleeve and rarely use it. I kinda feel bad that it doesn’t see more action but I’m terrified that I’ll drop it.




She has all kinds of nifty features like slots to mark buttonholes and some nicely placed curves.


She even came with a little booklet.


I truly love vintage tools because they remind me of all the seamstresses that went before me. Sometimes I wonder about the hands they’ve passed through and what type of garments they were used on before they got to me; it makes me proud that I get to carry on the tradition.

Finally here’s an interesting tidbit I just read: did you know that the tip of a standard measuring tape is exactly 5/8″ wide? And that just happens to be the width of the seam allowance on Big 4 patterns? I was way too happy to learn that. I seriously need to get out more.


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