Thursday, 23 September 2010

M is For Measure

M is for Measure

Yes, that ever boring but ever necessary part of any project: measuring. For all you disbelievers out yonder, there's a reason the phrase "measure twice, cut once" exists. And everyone will get to know why in time, if you don't measure and mark!

So, measurements. For any project, these are crucial: and take this from someone who has made both an ill-fitting dress a really rather wonky patchwork quilt!

Taking accurate measurements is an abolute given for creating a well fitting article of clothing and a professional looking project, no matter what it may be. Measurements should always be taken when wearing underwear but not with outer layers of clothing as this can skew the measurements dependent on what type of fabric you are wearing.

For example, when wearing a thin top this measurement is 38 3/8"

But when wearng a thicker cardigan it is 38 7/8"

Although this measurement may not seem much, when taking into account the ease of the finished garment it can mean the difference between a well fitted or a baggy outfit.

When making clothing and choosing the size of your pattern (and thus how much fabric you will need), there are a number of different measurements to take. The measurement that is most crucial to getting a correct fit is the bust measurement. All others can be adjusted, but this is the hardest to make work. Most commercial patterns available tailor to the lady with a 'B' cup. I am not a B cup, nor will I ever be, and so I often have to adjust my patterns. There are many ways to do this (whcih there simply isn't the room for here!) so I suggest hoking out your faourite sewing book and following the instructions in that. As for the adjustments themselves, they fall into two categories: small bust adjustments or full bust adjustments. These methods may be used where the discrepancy between bust and waist size is so large it will make grading a pattern too difficult.
Measurements that should be taken when choosing a pattern to make include:

BUST: This is the measurement around the fullest part of the bust as shown on the purple cardigan above.
WAIST: This is the measurement around the slimmest part of your torso, as shown below. If you own a dress dummy it might be pertinent to mark your own natural waist on it so you can refer to it in future.

HIP: This is the measurement around the fullest part of the hips, as shown below. For some patterns - such as those incorporating a circle skirt into a dress, or for a circle skirt itself - this measurement is not as important. It's always useful to make a note of it anyway, for future reference.

Other measurements which are of importance when making or designing your own clothes are explored in detail elsewhere (people have written tomes on this, so only expect the basics here!). You can find out this information from books such as S.E.W Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp and The Perfect Fit: A Practical Guide to Adjusting Sewing Patterns for a Professional Finish are two personal favourites of mine. Other books or guides may be just as helpful and be more to your stylle so find one and go with it!

I haven't gone into tremedous detail about measuring for dressmaking because there have been tomes written about it elsewhere, and I could write a tome about it myself. The crux of it is, what you're making is to fit you, so make sure any pattern you buy will either fit or be adjustable to your own measurements, then make sure you actually make those adjustments. There is no better way to do this than to make a muslin - see the sister post to this one for more details!

This post was written by Aileen McKenna sewing enthusiast and author of

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