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Nine Essential Home Decor Measuring & Marking Tools

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Click to Read MoreWhoever 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.

Measuring Tools

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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.

6" Ruler

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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

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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.

Wooden yardstick

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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.

Spring clamps

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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

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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.

Marking Tools

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Tailor's Chalk

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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

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I like these for really fine marking. You can sharpen them just like a pencil. Find it at any fabric store.

Air Soluble Markers

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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.

Measuring Tips

  • 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.


Comments (4)

Ev R said:
Ev R's picture

I am looking for the cardboard pattern cutting board in your image. The one with the blue and red gridlines. I can only ever find Wright's cardboard cutting board. Who made this one and where can I find it?

ukwren said:
ukwren's picture

My new marking love is the Pilot eraseable line of pens (Frixion is one).  Heat makes the lines disappear.  This is not good when your child (or you) does a project that needs to be run through a laminator (as I have found out the hard way), but is great when marking fabric that will be ironed.  Magic.  It really only needs heat for the lines to go away, so I've also shot the steam from the iron at the lines to make them disappear when not wanting to actually iron a piece (for whatever reason).

anita_heer@lineone.net said:
anita_heer@lineone.net's picture
Instead of buying expensive 'quilter roll holders' I buy very cheap bicycle trouser clips, they hold the rolled up quilt in place just as well.