It is important to know how to take sewing measurements for your body correctly so you can choose the pattern size that will give you the best fit. Even a small error can mean you cut the wrong size from your pattern, which can be a disaster in fitted garments. Today’s tutorial will lead you through the basic sewing measurements listed in most sewing patterns.
How to Take Sewing Measurements
Different designers use different sewing measurements for their sizing charts and pattern making, so it is important you are able to measure yourself or your kids accurately in order to choose the correct size.
While this seems frustrating that designers can't all decide on a universal sizing system, you need to keep in mind that many are designing for different countries and markets with different personal tastes.
Some countries or cultures have a preference for tighter clothing, and some prefer looser styles. This is called ease in clothing.
Many of the Big 4 sewing pattern companies are using sizing charts designed years ago, while average body shapes and sizes have changed considerably over the years.
Children's sizing seems to be far more consistent across designers than adults, but you should still check your pattern chart before cutting the size you think you need.
There is no right or wrong. Designers have to pick something! All the Treasurie and My Childhood Treasures patterns are based on ASTM, which is the American Society for Testing and Materials standards, but I expect even these will evolve over time.
If you are looking for sewing conversion measurements, see my article on Metric and Imperial Measurements for Sewing
Pro Tips for Taking Sewing Measurements
- Always take sewing measurements over the underwear that will be worn under the clothing. This is especially important if you wear push-up bras as they add bulk in the chest area meaning you may need to go one size up. Underpants don't affect the measurements as much.
- Hold the tape measure firmly but not so tight that it cuts into the body.
- Stand as you would normally stand. Slouching does tend to affect measurements.
- It is really hard to measure yourself accurately, so get someone else to help if possible.
- Have bribes ready if you are trying to measure kids. They will probably wriggle and giggle, so be prepared and patient! My daughter runs if she sees a tape measure.
- Use a good quality fabric tape measure. Cheap plastic tape measures can stretch out over time resulting in incorrect body measurements for sewing.
Body Measurements for Sewing
The body measurements for sewing that you will generally need are:
- High Bust
- Center Back
- Crotch Length
- Outseam (Waist to the knee, or waist to ankle)
Depending on the style of clothing you are sewing, you may only need to measure a few of these. The most common are the chest, waist, and hips. There is no point in measuring your ankle or bust if you are sewing a mini skirt.
Loose clothing with lots of ease only needs minimal sewing measurements taken also. A loose dress will probably only have you measure your chest and hips as it is not fitted.
Take any shoes off and get your subject to simply stand up against a wall. Measure from the floor to the top of the head. If you are measuring yourself, use a ruler and place it above your head touching the wall. Spin around and then measure where it touches.
A lot of patterns don't specify height but if yours does, it can be a good comparison to judge whether you want to alter the length.
Another consideration when looking at envelope covers is that models are taller than the average person. If a dress or skirt hits the model at the knee, then it will probably be below the knee or look a couple of inches longer for most people.
Measure around the fullest part of the bust and continue all around the back.
3. High Bust
This is generally only specified in women’s patterns and is measured directly under the armpits, around the front to the back.
Take a piece of elastic, wrap it around the waist and tie a knot. (Don’t make it too tight.)
Move around a bit, and it will settle at your natural waist, which is the smallest part of your torso.
Measure around the elastic at this point with the measuring tape. This is often referred to as the natural waist. After measuring, don’t remove the elastic as you have more to do!
For younger kids who don’t yet have a defined waist, just measure around the front and back at the belly button level.
5. Center back
If you tilt your head forward, you will notice that one bone at the back of your neck sticks out more than others. Measure from this bone down to the elastic at the waist. You will mainly find this measurement listed on leotard patterns rather than dresses or tops.
6. Crotch length
This is measured from the waist elastic at the front, through the crotch, and ends at the elastic at the back. This measurement is generally only important for pants and leotards.
Measure the widest part of the hip.
This sewing measurement is only found on pants patterns. It is measured from the crotch, straight down to the ankle, which is where most pants finish.
Put your tape measure around your ankle circumference.
Once again, this is a pants sewing measurement. Measure from the waist down to the ankle. Some patterns may have you measure to the knee instead.
Treasurie Sewing Measurement Chart
All designers use different measurement charts and sources for their sewing patterns and clothing designs. But if you need somewhere to start as a comparison, here are the charts from the Treasurie sewing patterns. My patterns are based on the US market.
Here are the Women's sizing charts for Treasurie sewing patterns.
Other Sources of Sizing Charts
- Individual Designers
Sewing Measurements - In Conclusion
Now you know how to take sewing measurements, keep a record of yours for quick reference when sewing. It may also be useful to purchase a sewing or dressmakers dummy of similar proportions to make your sewing fit perfectly.
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