Measuring yourself and creating a body measurement chart is the first step for making your own clothes. If you’re using a store bought pattern or drafting your own, you have to get this right!
The beauty of sewing for yourself is that you don’t have to settle for something that almost fits. You get exactly what fits you, that’s your favorite fabric and color and that flatters your body shape the most. No more searching for sizes!
But…this only happens when you master the art of using the tape measure. Measurements are very important to getting perfect fitting clothes.
Making a Measurement Chart
A body measurement chart contains all the information that will help you select the right size for your store-bought patterns. If you’re drafting your own, this becomes even more important. It’s the basis of everything you do.
Make a chart with your own measurements and save it so you don’t have to take them again. I like to print blank body measurement charts and keep them in a folder. When I need one, I just pull it out and fill it in.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Flexible tape measure (It’s the only thing you should ever use)
- Pencil (so you can easily erase)
- Thin ribbon
- Thin necklace
Start by measuring someone else so you can see how the tape adapts to the body and the details you should be looking at.
It’s not a good idea to take your own measurements because you have to bend and they don’t turn out right. Always ask someone else to do it for you.
- Create a body measurement chart template so you don’t forget important things. You can make one with all the measurements and make several copies.
- Tie the ribbon around the model’s waist. This is usually the skinniest part of the belly, just above the belly button.
- To easily find the base of the neck, ask the model to wear a thin necklace.
- The model should be wearing snug clothing. If she’s wearing a thick sweater or many layers of clothes, the measurements will turn out larger than they actually are.
- Make sure the model is standing with her back straight and her arms are falling by her sides. If she’s curving her back, or dropping her shoulders, the measurements won’t come out right.
- The measurements should be as accurate as possible. Never take them while the model is holding her breath or pulling her stomach in. This will result in tight clothes.
Here’s how to take them. Fill in your body measurement chart as you go along.
How to Take Body Measurements
Bust: Measure around the bust at nipple height, this is the widest point. Wrap the tape measure around the back in a straight line.
Waist: Measure around the skinniest part (where you tied the ribbon). The tape should be parallel to the floor.
Hips: stand by the model’s side, not in front or behind her. This will allow you to find the hip’s widest point. Place the tape measure around widest part in a straight line parallel to the floor.
Hip depth: stand by the model’s side. Measure along the side, from waistline to the hip’s widest point
Knee length: from waistline to knee along the side.
Pant length: from waistline to floor, along the side.
Whenever you take measurements that go AROUND the person (waist, hips, bust, neck width, thigh), allow two fingers to fit under the tape. This will add an extra 2″ and let the finished garment be loose enough for the person to move.
Neck Width: around the base of the neck (use the necklace as a guide).
Shoulder Length: from side of neck’s base to shoulder’s edge.
Bust Separation: from bust point to bust point in a straight line.
Point of Bust (A): from side of neck base to the nipple
Front neck to waist (B): from side of neck base, passing on top of the nipple and to the waistline.
High Hip: place the tape measure parallel to the waist line and about 3 in. below it (where the waist starts). Measure all around.
Upper Arm: around the arm’s widest point. Measure both arms, if you get different measurements, use the larger one.
Wrist: around the wrists. Measure both, if you get different measurements, use the larger one.
Thigh and calf: measure the widest part (usually about 3 in. below the crotch for the thigh) on both legs. If you get different measurements, use the larger one.
Knee: measure around the knee at it’s widest part
Ankle: measure it all around.
Back neck to waist: from the base of the neck (use the necklace for reference) to the waist line.
Back width: from armhole to armhole across the back in a straight line.
Point of elbow (A): from shoulder’s edge to the elbow, take with the arm slightly bent.
Sleeve length: from shoulder’s edge to wrist (passing on point of elbow) take with the arm slightly bent.
Crotch depth: sit on a chair and measure distance from the waist line to the chair along the side.
Practice measuring the same person a couple of times until your measurements are consistent. It takes practice at the beginning, but remember this is the foundation for your patterns. You have to get it right every time! When you’re sure that you have the right nummbers, put them on a chart and safely store it in a sheet protector.
This tutorial is just an introduction. Learn more about measuring yourself and altering a pattern before you sew a stitch. Save time and fabric by getting your fitting done first! Try Fast Track Fitting, an online sewing class by Craftsy.
- Course Index: 9 steps for Sewing With Patterns
- Next lesson: 10 things to check before buying a pattern
- Measuring tools used in sewing