OK, it’s a bit of a pain. And it can be painful facing up to some of your measurements. But armed with accurate measurements, you can create clothes that fit you, rather than clothes that fit shop dummies.
Your sewing pattern size is unlikely to bear much resemblance to your ready-to-wear (RTW) size so it helps if you can forget what size you think you are and start to think of yourself as a whole set of numbers, not just one.
You will need:
- a tape measure
- pen and paper or some kind of snazzy app to store your numbers
- a helpful friend, partner or relative
- some string, or knitting wool that’s long enough to go around your waist
- about twenty minutes.
First up, strip down to your underwear and check that it fits you well. Ladies, pick your bra carefully for this. If you want to make tops that fit, then put on the bra you wear most often – one that’s comfy and gives you a shape you like. If you’re making something that will need a non-standard bra, like a strapless dress, then put on the bra that you’ll wear with the garment.
Similarly, if you’re making something you want to reach the floor, like full-length trousers or a very long skirt, then put on the shoes you plan to wear with it.
What to measure and how
If you’re just making a top or a skirt, you won’t need to take all these measurements, but while you’re at it, I always reckon you might as well.
I use the measuring diagrams from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear by Winifred Aldrich. And there’s another very similar one in How to Use, Design and Adapt Sewing Patterns by Lee Hollahan. I’d love to reproduce them here, but I suspect I’d be in breach of copyright. (If you’d like to have a go at drafting your own patterns, then either of these books is a great starting point, showing you how to create the basic blocks.)
If you’d like some video help to take your measurements, I recommend this tutorial by Create/Enjoy.
I’d suggest you also add your current bra size to the list of measurements – this can be helpful when working out your cup size – as I’ve learnt. If you’ve worn a non-standard bra, jot this down too.
When to re-measure yourself
Your measurements are unlikely to stay the same for life. So you’ll probably find you need to re-measure yourself every now and then, or when you go through certain life changes. I’d recommend you re-measure if you lose or gain 7lbs or more, during and after pregnancy, breastfeeding and the menopause. And some ladies may find that they want to re-measure if they change to or from hormonal contraception. All of these can affect your shape and your fat distribution (nice!). For children, it’s best to measure every time you start a new project as they seem to be able to grow inches overnight.
Metric or imperial
Oddly I always measure myself in inches but my son in cm. I think this is because women’s pattern sizes are (in my size, at least) roughly two inches apart and it’s just easier to get my head around the alterations.