How to measure fabric. A ruler is a ribbon of cloth or a strip of wood, plastic, metal or other material, which has straight edges usually graduated in millimetres or inches. It is a common measuring tool used in geometry, printing industry, technical drawing and in quilting/patchwork projects and has three main purposes: to measure distances, straight lines and solid bodies; to mark and score a line on a surface with a rotary cutter; to help drawing accurate graphs, flexible geometric shapes and flat curves.
There are different types of rulers: standard slotted rulers, standard and flexible tape measures, rigid wooden or metallic folding carpenter’s rulers, self-retracting roll-up tape measures, line gauges, sewing gauges, straight-edges, etc.
Since the Paleolithic Era primitive human beings adopted measuring devices, according to incoming needs and rituals, mainly consisting of natural fibers, marked strips of leather or ivory sticks. Gilded bronze rulers dated 206 B.C. were discovered in China in the Hanzhong Prefecture (in the southwest of Shaanxi Province). In the 16th century wooden carpenter’s rulers and other measuring tools were found on board of the merchant carrack Mary Rose. Anton J. Ullrich invented the folding ruler in 1851. In 1922 Hiram A. Farrand started mass production of his rapid ruler. The spring tape measure existed since Alvin J. Fellows’ patent in 1868, but did not come into wide usage until the early 1900s, when carpenters began slowly adopting Farrand’s design as the one more commonly used. And which is the today design of all modern tape measures.
Measure twice, cut once! That’s the cornerstone of successful sewing, fabric cutting, patchwork and quilting. To make accurate cuts with a rotary cutter fabric is positioned under a universal ruler: along its edges readings of 30, 45, 60 and 90 degree angles can be easily taken for many projects. Use a tape measure to draw a perfect circle by inserting a pin in its metal eyelet and pivoting it around while marking the needed radius. A sewing gauge has a centre marker sliding up and down, a hole at one end and another in the sliding marker. Both useful to measure short distances repeatedly, such as seam allowances, or to draw scallops: draw a line, place a pin in the end hole and a soft pencil in the marker one, pivot the ruler to design scallops along the line.
A transparent plastic or acrylic ruler with a safe and stable non-slip-back and an easy-to-read-markers is very helpful and available in many sizes, from 3½” width x to 24″ length. Use rectangular rulers to cut fabric strips and square ones to cut fabric blocks. As well, there are triangular, diamond and circle rulers to cut any geometric shape. A hem guide is a practical variation to measure straight and curved trims as it has – in addition to standard lines – also diagonal, angled and curved grids.
All rulers have black numbers for clarity on light and dark colour fabrics and allow precise measurements and cutting angles during different applications; as well they accommodate both right- and left-handed users. It is important to firmly press the ruler with the fingers while making cuts using a rotary cutter: cut only the distance that the hand has moved forth each time to avoid unpleasant mistakes. The folded fabric edges must be staggered in order to make sure to cut across the multiple layers smoothly and gradually. Use the grid, square up the ruler on a mat, cut fabric in strips before every other cutting steps to get all required geometric shapes.
Where to buy.
1) Manufacturer’s on-line shops (please refer to images and note that these are the rulers I usually use, but there is a large number of on-topic-websites on network).
2) Quilting and patchwork fairs and exhibitions (please enter on search engines and select; there are so many shows everywhere worldwide).
3) Quilting and patchwork and /or haberdashery shops & stores & outlets.
(Fonts: thanks to Google for images, to Wikipedia and on-line technical files/data sheets of specified manufacturers)