Do you have a seam gauge in your sewing basket? Do you love it as much as I do?
This little 6″ strip of metal with a slider in the center is THE handiest of tools in any sewing room. If you don’t have one, drop everything and go get one now! (You can find them in the notions section of your local fabric store.)
I use mine so often I would be totally lost without it!
Do you know all the ways you can use this handy gadget? Let’s look at a few uses where this tool is helpful when sewing historical reproductions (or any sewing, really).
#1 – Evenly mark a hem. The seemingly most basic task… simply slide that center piece to your desired hem width and mark right at the end of the gauge. Follow this step around the entire garment. Then press up and finish the hem in your chosen method.
My little cheat here: rip off the slider on an old gauge and put it on a new one. Use the far slider for your full hem width and the second one for the turn under without having to reset the measurement.
#2 – Press under a tiny seam allowance on self-made bias tape before seaming to the garment. Sure, you can eyeball that ¼” turn under… but you’ll want to start with a precise fold when you begin pressing.
#3 – Measure a seam allowance to know where to start/stop sewing. When needing to stop or start a particular distance from an edge, use your gauge to align your point and also to be consistent if you have several places you need to do this on (like making multiple channels in your lobster tail bustle.)
#4 – Check your seam allowance when hand sewing a seam. Unless you’ve been hand sewing a LONG time, you’re gonna want to keep your stitches in check so you don’t end up with a wobbly seam or have a 3/8″ on one end and finish with a ½”. Oops!
#5 – Accurately measure the fold placement for tucks. You know all those lovely even pleats along a petticoat hem or Edwardian sleeve? Except for a very wide tuck area, the small seam gauge works well for marking & pressing the folds before you stitch down.
#6 – Measure the width of a bone or wire channel to verify your bone will fit. Although the seam ripper is a BFF, save the anguish of using it by measuring where to actually sew down that strip of twill tape. You’ll be confident the wire will fit just fine because your other BFF was there to help.
#7 – Verify the placement of your stitching and seam allowance when at your machine. A seam gauge lives next to my sewing machine, for several reasons. One being to double check that I’ve pinned the fold of my bias *right on* the seamline of my garment. Even though I did this as I pinned, I will sometimes go over it again right before stitching just to be sure.
#8 – Verify seam allowance width when sewing “blind”. This is another reason a seam gauge is handy by my machine. How many times do you pin a ruffle, trim, facing, or other layer to your main garment piece only to have to shove it all into your machine blocking the allowance guide? The perfect solution, of course, is to have your seam gauge within reach to monitor your sewing.
#9 – Use when pin pleating to mark even distances between points of where to fold & press when making pleats. Simple knife pleats need only three marks to be made. A seam gauge set to a specific width will give you nice, even pleats.
#10 – Use to measure pleats in ribbon trims. Now this is a fantastic use of our little ruler! So much easier to pin mark a ribbon for pleating with a 6″ gauge than wielding a 18″ ruler around our work area.
#11 – Make sure your ruffle or lace trim is applied the same distance all around your finished edge. This is especially helpful when tacking trim to the inside of a hem or neckline or layering multiple trims. Measure from the trim edge up to where you see or feel the finished garment edge, pin in place and sew.
Despite only 11 applications listed here, dozens abound for using the ever practical seam gauge. What are your favorite uses?