A measuring tape is a vital sewing tool that is a must-have in any sewer’s toolkit whether you are just starting out or have sewn for years and years.
A tape measure is commonly used to take measurements of your body, such as shoulders and hips, as well as for laying out patterns on a piece of fabric. It can also be utilized to check the length of a garment and determine the size of hems.
What are the best sewing tape measures? A good tape measure for sewing is usually a soft and flexible strip or ribbon that has linear-measurement markings. Most commonly, it measures 60″ (152 cm), but there is more to a tape measure than just the markings.
In this article, let’s take a look at what you should know about the tape measure, how to use it, and see what the best options on the market are.
As we’ve mentioned, a tape measure is something that you are going to use in every single sewing project. For something that is used on a daily basis, you should take a look at some important factors below that can affect the performance and longevity of your tape measure.
The material of the tape measure is no doubt one of the most important factors to consider since it should be strong enough to serve you for a long time.
The tape measure is usually a soft, flexible tape that can be wrapped around you for easy measurements. However, a soft material doesn’t mean it’s not strong. The material needs to resist stretching because a stretched-out tape measure means the measurements are no longer correct.
Polyester, vinyl, and fiberglass tape measures are known to be very durable and do not stretch. These materials fit the profile of being strong and durable yet still flexible and easy to work with. They also won’t stretch over time, keeping the measurements accurate even after years of use.
Speaking of accuracy, an inaccurate tape measure is definitely a useless one. You need to make sure that the scale is correct so that your measurements are always precise. It’s important to make sure that the scale is clear and bright enough to effectively identify the numbers.
To get the most accurate measurement, make sure that the tape measure’s scale begins at the edge of the tape. This way, you don’t have to identify the markings every time you need to measure something.
While you can certainly find tape measures in inches or centimeters, it’s better to get one with a double-sided scale with inches on one side and centimeters on the other. It can be very useful if you usually use patterns that come from other countries that have adopted the metric system.
The inches side is marked with fractions, like quarter-inch, ⅛”, or 1/16″. These markings are quite useful if your pattern demands this kind of accuracy.
The metric side is marked with centimeters and millimeters, which are quite straightforward. We’ll go over how to read these markings in the section below.
When choosing a tape measure, make sure to go for a bright color to avoid getting lost in the creative mess that usually occurs when you sew.
You should also see whether the markings are clearly printed on the tape to make sure that there’s no confusion when you try to use it.
You can most commonly find tape measures with the length of 60″, but you can also find tape measures that are 80″ and 120″ in length, although that’s really not necessary for common sewing projects.
Longer tape measures are more suitable for floor-length gowns, bedding, or curtains. Still, you almost never use up the length of a tape measure when working with clothing, so there’s really no need to buy an extra-long tape measure if your project doesn’t demand it.
Retractable or not
Tape measures come in two different designs – retractable or flat. A retractable tape measure has a button that automatically rolls up the tape measure to keep it nice and neat. This makes it great if you want to keep your sewing corner tidy.
However, a retractable also wears out faster since you have to pull at the tab to the desired length, so the tab can stretch out quite easily after a few months of regular use. After that, the tape measure can no longer be functional, and you will need to replace it.
On the other hand, a flat tape measure can be quite a big mess, but it will last for years of use without stretching out. In addition, some tailors love wearing the tape measure around their necks for easy access, so this old-school design would be the perfect choice for that.
There are some basic designs for tape measures, and there are some new, ergonomic designs that make them suitable for various tasks. If you love vintage sewing tools, you can easily find these as well!
Some seamstresses love to have a tape measure on their person for easy access throughout the day, so if this is something you’d like to have, you can look for ways to attach the tape measure to your person.
With a regular tape measure, you can just wear it around your neck, making it easily accessible when needed.
Some retractable tape measures also have keyholes and clasps that allow you to attach them to your belt or a lanyard to wear around your neck. Some others have clasps that allow you to ‘close’ the loop on the tape measure, and you can wear it that way.
If the retractable tape measure doesn’t have these additional features, you may end up losing it in your workspace or having to put it in your pocket, which is not very accessible or convenient.
Best Sewing Tape Measures
What are the best sewing tape measures? While the design is up to your preference, you should choose a durable tape measure with clear markings on both sides that allow you to easily access and measure things as needed.
Let’s take a look at some great options below.
1. Soft Tape Measure Retractable
This Retractable Tape Measure is specially designed with non-stretch fiberglass, which is durable and wear-resistant.
It measures 60″ (150cm) in length, with dual-sided markings in both inches and centimeters.
The inches and cm on the tape are both large and clear to read off. It’s a very practical sewing tool for both tailor and home sewing.
The case is made of soft plastic with a metal end and a push-button retraction. The retractable design can prevent the tape measure from being entangled with itself.
There’s no drag or pull on your fabric when measuring, making this sewing tape measure very easy to use.
2. Body Measure Tape 60″ (150cm)
Whether you are working on a sewing or crafting project, this tape measure has a convenient feature for you.
This is a portable, easy-to-use measuring tool that allows you to quickly and easily measure your body in inches and centimeters, with a maximum length of 60″.
This tape measure is flexible with an ergonomic design with a lightweight construction that makes it easily accessible. With great accuracy and a push-button retraction, this is the perfect tool for measuring prior to making clothing alterations.
The self-locking feature not only makes it convenient to measure around tricky parts to get accurate measurements, but it’s also great if you want to wear the tape around your neck when you need it to be portable, which is a feature that other retractable tape measures cannot match.
3. Sewing Tape Measure
This tape measure is a tailor’s best friend. It not only offers great portability with its lightweight and small size, but it features a stylish case.
Its leather case provides convenience for carrying, and the tape measure can easily be extended for use and retracted for storage by pressing the button on the case.
The tape measure is 60″ in length and can provide accurate measurements in both inches and centimeters.
This tape measure features professional-grade fiberglass material for long-lasting reliability. The ergonomic design fits comfortably in your hand, and the leather zipper end makes pulling the tape easy while still preventing the fiberglass tape from stretching.
4. SINGER 50003 ProSeries Retractable Tape Measure
When in doubt, you cannot go wrong with the SINGER brand – one of the most popular brands for sewing supplies out there.
The SINGER 50000 Pro-Series Retractable Tape Measure is a simple yet extremely helpful tool for any home sewist or crafter.
Measuring 8ft (96″) in length, its durable vinyl tape ensures long-lasting quality for years to come. A sleek, compact design makes transporting and using the tape measure simple – add it to your keyring, attach it to a lanyard or clip it to a peg.
The classic retractable design makes it easy to keep this tape measure organized in your workspace. The rounded prominent pull tab also makes it easy to access the tape without stretching it out.
Its light weight makes it easy too! The tape measure is designed with both inches and centimeters on its face. This tape measure will be an easy addition to your collection of sewing accessories and help you keep track of your projects far into the future.
5. SINGER 00258 Extra Long Vinyl Tape Measure, 96-Inch
For those who love wearing their tape measures around their necks for easy access for tailoring, you can’t really go wrong with this classic option.
The Singer 00258 Vinyl Tape Measure is a flexible and durable tape measure, perfect for a variety of sewing measuring needs. This is an extra-long vinyl tape measure specially designed for sewing and crafts projects.
This flexible and durable 96″ tape measure is perfect for measuring both flat and rounded surfaces. Each end is tabbed to prevent fray for dependable measuring over time.
This vinyl tape measure is ideal for a tailor’s kit or seamstress’ sewing kit. This tape measure is designed to measure both in standard and metric, with clear markings in black against a yellow background for easier identification.
6. Clover Shiro Tape Measure
This is a must-have item for any sewist. Shiro Tape Measures feature an easy-to-read scale, a push-button retraction, and high-quality fiberglass material so it won’t stretch or break.
It is well made and has a nice feel to it. You can use it for measuring fabric length, waistlines, sleeves of shirts and pants, etc.
This tape measure features inch measurements on one side and metric on the other. This is great for helping you convert your patterns, especially patterns that use an unfamiliar measurement system.
The total length for this tape measure is 60″, and it retracts nicely into a square plastic case that is quite convenient for storage and keeps your working area clean.
7. 3m/120″ Tape Measure
This leather tape measure is an essential tool for the savvy seamstress or tailor.
Its leather case features a push-button mechanism to retract the measuring tape without any damage, plus it’s equipped with a self-locking function when pulling the tape.
This is also an extra-long measuring tape – 120″ in length, which is great for sewing projects for your home, like curtains or bedding.
The case is made of high-grade litchi leather, which rolls the tape up into a small, convenient package that you can keep in your pocket for easy access for sewing.
A superior fiberglass construction promises long-lasting durability, while the retractable tape makes it simple to measure hems, collars and cuffs, curtains, and any other sewing projects with accuracy and ease.
8. Prym Spring Tape Measure
This is one of the unique designs for tape measures out there. It is designed with ergonomics in mind, where the case can fit nicely in the palm of your hand, and is designed for an easy application of the tape measure.
This 60″ tape measure makes a great measuring assistant, ideal for sewing and other crafts. Retractable with a button, the easy-to-read markings are printed on both inches on one side and centimeters on the other.
This tape measure is designed to be easy to hold and use while you measure. The simple and ergonomic design the tape flat and firm as you measure, making it ideal for both tailors and seamstresses.
9. REIDEA Soft Tape Measure
The REIDEA Soft Tape Measure for Sewing is proudly made of a soft, flexible, but strong fiberglass material. The tape is highly accurate and easy to read.
The measuring range extends to 80″/ 200 cm with large and clear marks in both inches and centimeters on both sizes.
The push-button retraction makes it quite convenient when you want to keep your workspace tidy. The casing is made of high-quality ABS plastic, which makes it more durable than others.
This tape measure is extra durable and accurate, thanks to its high-quality construction. The size is conveniently portable, so you can take it anywhere, and the push-button retraction and hold function make it easy to use.
10. Fons & Porter 7780 Retractable Tape Measure
Measure twice, cut once. Whether you’re sewing a quilt, designing your next tatted lace, or attempting to get the measurements of your favorite pair of pants, this is a great tape measure to have in your sewing kit.
Fons & Porter’s retractable tape measures 120″, with inches printed on one side and yardage printed on the other, which makes it perfect for those quilting or sewing projects like measuring around a large quilt to cut your binding or measuring fabric on the bolt.
The tape is polyester reinforced, allowing minimal stretch while giving the tape a flexible feel. The lock button enables you to hold the measurement in place with one hand free to make pencil marks or extract pins.
Sewers can also use the swivel hook at one end of the tape to attach it to their shirt or pants for easy access and visibility right at hand when needed and easier retrieval.
11. Kiemeu Retractable Tape Measure
This retractable tape measure from Kiemieu is perfect for sewing, crafts, and other projects in which you need to measure yourself or items around the house.
The tape can expand up to 60″, with inches measurements on one side and centimeters measurements on the other. The easy-to-read measurements are printed in bold black on white background.
The lock on the tape helps maintain the length of measurements until you choose to retract or adjust it yourself.
The handy round circular shape comes with a fabric case that protects the tape when not in use and has a convenient pull-tab allowing you to quickly and easily access the tape without stretching or damaging it. This is definitely a handy tape measure to have in your toolkit.
How To Read A Sewing Tape Measure
In Canada and the US, tape measures have both imperial and metric markings, with one side printed in inches and the other side printed in centimeters and millimeters.
Most people in the US grew up with the imperial system of measurements, so using the inches side comes quite naturally to them.
Each inch is also divided into halves, forth, eights, and sixteenths. The smaller the fraction, the shorter the marking, so the half marking is the longest, and the sixteenth marking is the shortest.
You can easily use this to read the measurement on your tape measure with ease.
Most of us learned about the metric system in school, but if you want a refresher, let’s take a look at what the markings mean.
The tape measure is divided by centimeters (cm for short), with each marking referring to 1 centimeter. The smaller markings are in millimeters (mm for short), and each cm equals 10 mm.
1 cm = 10 mm
Each marking is divided into ten equal parts, with each part being one millimeter. So if you have 10.2 cm, that means 10 centimeters and 2 millimeters, and you can find the markings accordingly on the tape.
Tips and Tricks To Use Your Tape Measure
Find Half Of The Measurements
No calculations are needed! When you need to find half of anything, just measure it with your tape measure, and fold it in half to find the midpoint – that would be your half measurement.
Similarly, you can fold the tape multiple times to divide the measurement into an even number, which is useful when you want to make pleats on a skirt, for example.
For Accurate Measurements, Keep The Tape Straight
While the tape measure is flexible, it’s easy to get the measurements slightly wrong if your measurements are skewed, especially around your body.
When you want to measure your waist, for example, you should stand up straight and keep the measuring tape horizontal to the ground. That would be the most accurate measurement. If you go slightly up or down (especially in the back), you’ll see that the numbers are slightly bigger.
For patterns in the metric system, if you want to gauge how long or short a certain measurement is, you can pull out your tape measure, find the number on the metric side of the tape measure, and see the corresponding markings in inches on the other side.
That’s how you can easily convert your pattern from metric to imperial units of measurements!
Tips For Using A Retractable Tape Measure
If you have a retractable tape measure, you should know that all the tugging and pulling can really damage the end of your tape measure, and you’ll see visible stretches and disintegration after a few months of use.
Because of this, it’s best to pull slowly when you use a retractable tape measure, and when you want to retract it back to the case, you should guide the tape using your fingers to make sure that it’s not twisted when retracting. That way, the tape can maintain its accuracy for longer.