Whoever discovered you could use cheap spring clamps to hold your fabric for measuring and cutting is a genius. For me, they're one of the Nine Essential Measuring & Marking Tools that make home decor sewing so much easier.
Clear Plastic 18" Ruler
Every sewing book will tell you to get one of these. The ruler's transparency allows you to see your fabric under the ruler as you measure. This is especially useful when you're using a rotary cutter. If you can, get one with both dark and light markings, they'll be easy to see on any color fabric. Find it at any fabric store.
I use a knitting ruler but you could even use a school ruler, provided the markings are clear enough to read at a glance. A little ruler is handy for measuring bottom and side seams. Plastic or metal is fine. Find it at a fabric store or anywhere that sells school supplies.
Cardboard Pattern Cutting Board
The most useful piece of cardboard I own. It has grid markings printed on one side and comes in sizes 3' x 5' and up. Just lay it on top of your sewing table and measuring big pieces of fabric becomes a whole lot easier. Find it at any fabric store for about $5.
A classic wooden yardstick works wonderfully with your cardboard pattern cutting board. You'll use it for measuring and as a straight edge. Find one at any fabric or hardware store.
These look a little like jumper cable clamps and work like an extra set of hands. You'll use them to hold your fabric, or even your yardstick, in place while you measure, mark and cut. Get a set of four in two different sizes. They should hold firmly but not be so stiff that you can't open them with one hand. Find them at a hardware store or home improvement center.
20' Retractable Tape Measure
Just like your dad had. You'll use it when you measure for window coverings, bed linens, table linens, and other big projects. Find one at any store with a hardware aisle.
These triangular pieces of marking chalk look like a giant guitar pick. They're so useful because they're made with a special kind of chalk that can be brushed out of any fabric. Get a lighter and a darker color so you're ready to mark any shade of fabric. Find it at any fabric store.
Tailor's Chalk Pencil
I like these for really fine marking. You can sharpen them just like a pencil. Find it at any fabric store.
Air Soluble Markers
This is my preferred method of marking items I'm NOT going to wash. The lines simply fade away in a few hours. However, you should plan on cutting soon after you mark with one of these or risk losing your measurements. You'll find a good selection at any fabric store.
- For any home decor item you want to wash at some point, like a slipcover, you must pre-shrink the fabric. Otherwise, you'll be in for a nasty surprise the first time you wash it. To pre-shrink simply wash and dry the fabric using the recommended settings before you layout your pattern or do any cutting.
- If you're using pre-shrunk fabric or fabric that came folded from the store, be sure to iron it before measuring and cutting.
- Don't forget to use those clamps (see above) to hold your fabric still for measuring and cutting.
- We don't recommend water-soluble marking pens for home decor projects. Most of the time, you won't wash these projects right after you're done.
- Never iron over a water-soluble or air-soluble pen mark. Pressing can permanently set these marks into fabric. Use water to remove either kind of mark before ironing.