10 Measuring tools & Rulers used in Pattern drafting and Sewing

Different tools that can help you to accurately measure, such as tape measures, rulers, curves, and other specialized tools, to improve your pattern drafting skills and create patterns for your sewing projects with greater precision.
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Drafting dress making patterns to your own custom measurements, or making pattern alterations, and then measuring and marking on fabric and then cutting it all out accurately, all are a breeze if you have the right tools.

The following measuring tools are what you need if you want your sewing life a lot easier, while you conceptualise your own patterns and then materialise them and make beautiful garments.

Just ensure that whatever you buy, they are not made of flimsy material and they are made well without any jagged edges and the markings and printings on them are clear and readable. It is an advantage if the rulers have metric and imperial measurements marked

Important measuring tools

Measuring tape

Measuring tape
Measuring tape

Goes without saying that measuring tape is the number one thing you need in sewing. You can do without any other tool in this list when sewing, but not this one. Sometimes it can be enclosed in a case and can be extended and retracted.

Read more about measuring tape here

Straight rulers /Yardsticks

The measuring tape is a flexible measuring tool but sometimes you need a non-flexible (read rigid) measuring stick for your measuring. For eg., you need to measure straight on fabric.

These rulers can be made of metal or wood or plastic. The one I have are made of wood. It can be 24 inches or 36 inches long.

drafting tools - straight ruler
Wooden ruler

Ideally you can buy a 18″ x 2″ clear plastic ruler; You also need a small plastic ruler  for small measurements. I have a 24 inch plastic ruler. Transparent rulers are great as you can see where you are putting the ruler on.

Plastic scale for measuring
Transparent ruler

I have a scale with a small projection in the middle with which you can hold on to it. I really like it. No grappling with the edges to lift it up. I think this is what designers use.

L-shaped ruler (L-scale)

L scale as a measuring tool
L shaped ruler for marking corners square

This scale has two sides – it usually measures 24″ x 14″ and is used to mark fabric straight, corners correctly. It can help to keep the grainline of the fabric correct. Keep the scale on the fabric and align against the edges so that the other edge becomes completely straight. Also called Tailor’s Square.

French curve ruler

french curve for armscye measurement
French curve

This is a ruler with a variety of uses in sewing – primarily it is used to shape armholes and necklines.

Square Quilting scale

square quilting tool
Quilting ruler

This is a clear ruler which has a square shape and is used for cutting fabric square pieces accurately. It is great for squaring half square triangle blocks and is a must have if you like patchwork and quilting.

stencil tool

Other curved rulers

Useful in patterndrafting when you need to make long curves.

Hip curve. 

hip curve scale
Hip curve ruler

Hip shape scale/curve ruler; Leg curve ruler; arm curve are some rulers available in the market that can come to be of use when drafting and marking the hip side line, inseam in pants, arm curve – the open edge of the sleeves etc.

Leg curve. 

Leg curve scale
Leg curve

The hip curve can help in giving a natural look to the hip line you draw for pants and skirts.

Arm curve.

Sewing guage (Hem guage)

Sewing guage
sewing guage

This is a tool you can use to mark your hems and seams accurately. It is an adjustable ruler. You can make this one yourself using a cardboard sheet. 


This is helpful to make small circles. The regular compass can be used to make small circles – useful in marking designs for embroidery. But for large circles you need something bigger.

You can make a compass yourself by attaching string to two pencils. The string should measure slightly more than the circle you want. Tie the two pencils on both edges of your string with the circle’s radius as strings length. Hold one pencil at the center of the circle you want to draw and using the other pencil draw your circle..



You can use this to mark angles. This is especially useful when you are cutting fabric pieces for patchwork when you will need to match edges and angles accurately, especially if you do not own the quilter’s scale.

Cutting mat

cutting mat
Cutting mat

This is an excellent measuring surface – the primary purpose of the mat is to protect your work surface as you cut with your rotary cutter. But the other purpose is wonderful too – measuring and marking with accuracy. The mat has all the markings on a ruler on a larger scale with 1/2 inch grid markings and inch and metric measurements.You can buy it as big as 36″ x 48″

I have all the above tools, but you can do better and buy even more. You know the adage – measure twice and ….. Other measuring tools you can use are Grading ruler or Grid ruler, flexible ruler, design curve ruler, Triangle ruler, and Bias ruler. The best type of tools will give you great accuracy in your sewing projects. And more the better.

What is L-square ruler used for?

The L square ruler is used to get perpendicular lines against a straight line. You can use this to check that you are cutting your fabric correctly and ensures alignment of fabric along the grain. The L-square ruler has 2 arms on either side meeting at a 90 degree angle. One side of the L square ruler is kept along the edge of the fabric or pattern piece (flush against the edge) – this will ensure that you will get a perpendicular line against the other edge of the ruler.

Difference between a flexible ruler and a measuring tape

Flexible rulers are usually shorter in length compared to measuring tapes. The flexible ruler is used to mark curved lines or irregular shapes. Measuring tape is usually used to mark straight lines.

Related posts : Marking tools ; 30+Sewing tools ; How to learn to sew – tips. ; Cutting tools in sewing ; Pressing tools

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

8 thoughts on “10 Measuring tools & Rulers used in Pattern drafting and Sewing”

    • Hi Davies
      Depends on your country. But they are not very costly. You can get them on amazon or other web shops or retail shops, depending on where you are located.

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