Saturday, February 16, 2008

How I Take Measurements

Several years ago, I attended the Worcester Sewing Expo with my friend Lisa. I took almost two full days of sewing classes with Cynthia Guffey and after those classes my sewing changed dramatically. One of the reasons was because I took a class on measuring your body and purchased Cynthia's book, "Precision Measuring & Pattern Alterations for Bodice, Skirt, Jacket." Lisa and I spent an entire afternoon after the Expo, measuring each other so that we both ended up with a complete set of measurements.

I use this list of measurements whenever I start a new pattern...comparing the flat measurements of the pattern to my measurements and then making changes to the patterns based upon those measurements. I rarely have a fitting issue with a garment when I take the time to compare the numbers and alter the pattern pieces. So I thought I would share this information here and encourage you to visit Cynthia's site and purchase her books and DVDs! To me they are worth every penny and will definitely take your sewing to another level!

Here is her opening paragraph to the book on Precision Measuring (copyright 1995):

"Accurate measurements are the first step in assuring proper fit. This booklet illustrates a basic measuring process plus jacket measuring techniques. There are separate charts for each with descriptions and measurements. You will need a partner to take your measurements. Even if they do not have a sewing background you can instruct them on what to do. If this is the case, select someone who is patient, knows how to listen, and can follow instructions."

And a few more of Cynthia's salient points:

- For a jacket take the measurements fully dressed

-Measure the waist and hip area over a skirt or pants this helps to eliminate guessing about the amount of wearing ease

-She stresses the importance of making a muslin and including the sleeves...mark the center front lines, waistline - front and back, and any pocket placement

-transferring a proper set of measurements to the pattern in the beginning should yield a muslin that needs few, if any adjustments

But I love this sentence:
"By following the system that is outlined, you can achieve beautifully fitting, comfortable clothing!"

Here is the list of measurements:

Shoulder Width:
Finished Shoulder Width:
Shoulder Slope:
Upper Back Curve:
Back Waist Length:
Sleeve Length:
To wrist - both right and left wrists
To elbow - both right and left
Circumference of Upper Arm (bicep) both right and left
Circumference of Forearm - both right and left
Circumference of wrist - both right and left
Back Bustline Area:
Front Bust:
Shoulder to Bust Apex:
Shoulder across bust apex to waist:
Right side to floor:
Left side to floor:
Center to floor:
Back waist width:
Front waist width:
Back hip width at 2" below:
Back hip width at 4" below:
Back hip width at 6" below:
Back hip width at 8" below:
Front hip width at 2" below:
Front hip width at 4" below:
Front hip width at 6" below:
Front hip width at 8" below:
Front Widest hip point at _______"
Back Widest hip point at _______"
Finished skirt length:
Finished jacket length from back base of neck:

This will take awhile to complete but you when you've taken the entire set you will be able to compare them to your pattern pieces and get a much more accurate fit.

I hope that you will take the time to measure yourself via the Cynthia Guffey measuring system! I am sure that you will be more than satisfied with the resulting garments made using her system. To me, she is a sewing goddess and has such wonderful information and sewing revelation! And yes, I am a bona fide Guffeyite!


  1. Thank you for this tip. Your timing is perfect. Just this weekend I have been reading a number of books about fitting, but this method seems way more accurate. I'll be hunting down the books and DVDs for certain. Thank you.
    Carol Trendall

  2. Thanks Carolyn! I will bookmark the links in case my Vogue fitting system doesn't work out....

  3. I used these measurements over the weekend and fixed my shirt fit issues. I can't recommend measuring enough!

  4. Thanks for the great information. Will bookmark her site.

  5. Thank you for posting this! I have needed this since before I knew I needed it. At least now I know!
    LOL if I am making sense, you are tired, girl! Sorry you are working so hard. Been there... never know when it will come upon me again. May we all survive!

    And thanks for posting this info!

  6. I always try to take accurate measurements but I always have so many problems. For example, how taut to make the tape measure? and exactly where does the front and back of my body begin? I should really look into taking a class. Thanks for the list too!

  7. This info is fantastic! I love the incredible practical tips that she gives (and that you gave us). I am definitely going to check out her site (an more than likely purchase her book). Thank you!

  8. I have never taken Cynthia's classes but this looks very similar to the system I developed for myself after playing with different fitting and patternmaking books for a couple of years. I actually think this type of system is easier than many of the "easy" methods found in books, because it is more flexible and also because it forces you to measure, measure, measure the pattern at key points.

  9. Wow, this list is so helpful. Thanks so much!

  10. Carolyn, you are absolutely right about Cynthia Guffey's system! I had the good fortune to take her class a few years ago and the set of measurements we produced in the class was invaluable. Unfortunately (in more ways than one!), I have gained weight and they are no longer accurate. Anyone only needed to look at the dresses that Cynthia wore during the classes to see that her system was wonderful; I've never seen a more perfect fit. I hope she comes back to Little Rock sometime soon!

    Sherry in Little Rock

  11. Thanks for this article, Carolyn! I will certainly look into Cinthia Guffey's books and DVDs!

  12. After your recent post on comments I kind of regret reading through your whole blog without making more than a few comments when so much affected me. I'm also finding that I regret not taking notes. I'm so grateful for being able to google your blogs with specific words to come back to this entry and find out your recommendation for this technique. I will definitely look into purchasing some of her stuff. Thanks for this entry and your other ones, too.


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