[Module 3] How to take good measurements | 3. Introduction

"The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress."

Hubert de Givenchy

First of all ensure that you fill out the Master Client Sheet in the Client file which will give you all the main information you need for the client. Remember that you can continually add to this sheet and the file as you work out likes and dislikes, body shape information and style preferences etc.

In my view there are four main ways to make clothes which we look more closely at in future modules, listed here in no particular order;

  • Using a pre-made manufactured pattern (which you will no doubt have to alter to fit your body),

  • Pattern drafting to create your own patterns where your intention is a perfect fit,

  • Draping and subsequently converting the fabric shapes draped into a paper pattern,

  • Taking a pattern from a much loved garment that you currently own (guidelines and ethics of which to be discussed later).

I bet you are now vexing your brain to see if you can think of any other!

For any method you will need to be able to accurately take measurements from the body. After spending years of altering manufactured patterns to fit me, I found this method draining of both time and money and I nearly gave up sewing on many occasions when time and time again the clothes really never fitted properly. I always missed something and was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment, and so these clothes on the whole were not particularly loved.

I strongly believe that we should not be shopping for a pattern that nearly matches some of our measurements. In the Threadelicious world a good pattern really should be the best reflection of the body it is made for, it reduces human error and repetitive and time consuming alterations.

I truly believe the best approach is to set up the template for the body the clothes are intended for and use that as the starting point for all patterns made solely for that body, a method that is very much used in couture clothing or tailoring for particular clients. Unfortunately this technique is time consuming for manufacturers therefore we don’t see this service currently offered in the high street. I hope that one day Threadelicious can open up this market on the high street and make this available to anyone using my workflow idea from wardrobe to garment….. Now you know where I would like to take my company and my big vision and dream!

If I am honest this is the main reason that I found myself committing to pulling all of this workflow together because I want to make sure as many people as possible don’t make the same mistakes that I have. I think if you have some commitment to garment making and are shown a logical way through then better clothes can be made with more successful results to try to get to our goal of better fitting garments and therefore less wasted resources and time. So if we are aiming for a true replica of the body, or as near as we can make it with some design logic thrown in for good measure, we need to use a firm and comprehensive set of measurements as accurately as possible and in turn this will reduce fitting time at all stages in the process. It is not a hard process but does require an element of concentrated effort, taking one step at a time is the way to go and take your time with this, enjoy the process. I am providing you with all of the steps that you need to go through the Threadelicious workflow and I will be by you side holding your hand throughout.

While I mention this let me just make a statement on expectation. We will be talking about something that I call the Base Template in more detail in the next module (sewers may call this a Moulage but more about that later). I would just like to point out that the Base Template that you draft on paper is not going to be a 100% perfect fit at the first attempt.

No one can promise this as there are too many moving targets and components at play here. For example your client could change underwear between fittings, they may not stand still or stand straight, or they may be holding their breath, your dots may not be in exactly the right place even though you spent 10 mins checking it. Any of the above points raised and a thousand more could mean that your measurements are out by up to an inch. You might have made a mistake somewhere when writing down a number e.g. writing 7 instead of 17 (yes I have done that! But I hope you spot that one in your first check!). Your sewing may be off by 1/16 on every seam. I think you get the picture. All we can do is try to be as close and accurate as possible at each and every step and hope for an 80% fit (although I secretly challenge myself to >95%). With practice you are going to get better at this. Our saving grace is that you are going to get the best fit to the body after a fitting session when you get to put the fabric onto the body and then make your alterations. Careful and methodical is the way to go. But even then if the client loses or gains weight or inches then you are still fitting a moving target.

So although the process of measuring and drafting is lengthy, don’t lose heart just stick with it. Trust me it is well worth the effort and you will be glad that you did it in the end. This process has a very big learning curve and you will learn lots about measuring and drafting and fitting. You know what they say practice makes perfect…….well I will caveat that in this case, we can be very good but we are never perfect so don’t beat yourself up!

So here are some basic pointers to start with:

  • A Mirror positioned at the back is useful as a double check that the tape measure is in the correct place without having to peer around to check if everything is parallel to the floor on horizontal measurements, which is especially useful if you are measuring a larger body.

  • Measurements are shown on different sheets for different parts of the body just in case there is not time to take all of the measurements at one sitting.

  • Use the Measurements visual guide to assist with measurement positions.

  • All measurements are taken in inches. I know half the world now hates me. If you truly cannot deal with inches then contact me to get a copy of the measurements sheet with mm details and a conversion table.

  • Ensure that your tape measure is long enough to accommodate all body sizes especially important if you are going to measure multiple clients. It’s just another way to be client considerate.

  • When taking measurements ensure that the tape measure is snug but not pulled tight, we are not adding in any ease so don’t add in finger spaces.

  • Ensure that the side of the tape measure with the measurement points on are placed on the actual measurement line positon on the body. You may need to change the orientation of the tape measure.

  • I recommend to measure to the nearest 1/8” for ease of calculation, the fitting session will allow you to deal with any obvious consequent issues. If you are measuring an extra small body where 1/16 will be more obvious then it is your choice.

  • Where required take measurements of both sides of the body, and note them on the Measuring Sheets in the spaces provided. Measuring both sides allows you to ensure that you get a better fit, also highlighting any asymmetry that may need to be discussed with the client.

  • As you take the measurements for both sides of the body be aware of the numbers you are writing down, if one side is more than ¼” in comparison to the other side then check again, are your dots in the right place are you placing your tape measure differently, question if the body is really so different on each side. This checking is not just to see if the body is not symmetrical it is also to put you under a little more pressure to get the measurements accurate, you are checking yourself when you are measuring both sides.

  • It sounds simple but just take one measurement at a time writing the measurement down as you go, you can’t keep the measurements in your head.

  • Check measurements twice if you are not confident.

  • Don’t rush it, get this wrong and you make work for yourself.

The Measurement Chart Key;

  • Light Blue highlighted rows show measurements for the drafting the Front Base Template.

  • Dark Blue highlighted rows shows measurements for the drafting the Back Base Template.

  • White rows will be required for both Front and Back drafting, this just helps identify measurements more quickly as you look them up.

  • A dotted line shows where a number needs to be filled in, either a measurement or a calculation. * Shows that this measurement has already been taken on a previous chart and can be transcribed down as a direct copy to save time when taking measurements for all charts.

A little bit of sewing science.

Lots of pattern makers create what is called a block that is a very simple version of what I call the Base Template created using minimal body measurements, and it has no darts which are used to create shape, and no waist or back shaping included in fact no shaping elements at all. I am asking you to take lots of body measurements and in my view the more you take the better, we are trying to create something 2D from a 3D object so it makes logical sense to do this. However this means that although not complicated it’s just one measurement to take after another, there are lots of measurements to capture and this can take time. With practice you will get better and quicker at doing this and I truly think it is worth a little bit of extra time at this stage which should help save some fitting time later, swings and roundabouts. So don’t worry about the number of measurements, just go with the flow and enjoy the process.

The following instructions assume that all four measurement charts will be completed at the same time. It’s better to capture everything whilst you have the clients focus on this, however there are many measurements to capture so this will take some time to work through and shouldn’t be rushed. So given enough time take the measurements for the Bodice, Skirt, Sleeves and Trouser ( (please note trousers are not currently in the ThreadBox although there are plans to add this later in the year). Although it is good practice to capture the sleeve measurements at this time in reality a new Sleeve pattern should be created every time a new bodice Flexible Pattern is drafted and fitted to ensure a perfect fit around the armhole (more about Flexible Patterns later).

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