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Measure a long length of fabric evenly

ellejohnson | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I am working on a canopy for a bed that requires lengths of very long fabric – about 114 inches long. I have been trying to use a tape measure to measure the finished panels for the hems, and it seems like no matter how often or accurately I think I am measuring, the canopy panel hems are not straight across. Does anyone have any tips for measuring a long length of fabric? Thanks in advance!


  1. starzoe | | #1

    Try using a hard (wooden, metal) ruler to measure....a yardstick or meter stick. Tape measures are notoriously inaccurate, I only use one to take body measurements, everything else is measured with a metal meter stick.

    Also, if you have a long table you will have a better chance of getting an accurate measure. If you even have to borrow a friend's long dining table I believe you will have a better chance of getting an accurate measure. Measure the table and measure the fabric in lengths on that. A hardwood floor might do if you can work on your knees, and better still if you can lay out all the lengths side by side.

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #2

      If you have a linoleum or tile floor, measure the tiles and use them as a guideline for measuring longer lengths. Working on the floor is hard, but worth the effort. Cathy

      1. starzoe | | #4

        Your answer was directed to me, but ellejohnson was the questioner....guess she will see it.

  2. sewforit | | #3

    I was having that problem when I was making long drapes for the living room.  After my daughter and I finished (we laughed a lot), even though I had a cutting table, we found out we should never pull the material up on to the table but lift it gently.  We even had a chair to put the balance of the material on instead of leaving it on the floor.  This material also had to be matched with the pattern.  What fun, but we got it done but we don't want anyone to examine it too closely.  We have much more to learn if we do it again.  By the way, we used a metal yard stick. 

  3. Pattiann42 | | #5

    I do not know if this will work with your particular fabric, but I straighten cotton buy snipping the selvage and tearing it across the grain of the fabric to get a straight line, then I measure one selvage edge and tear again for the length I need.

    Any time you wish to try this method, do it on scrap first to see if the fabric cooperates.

    Best wishes for a successful project.



  4. Teaf5 | | #6

    With long lengths of fabric, you run into off-grain issues magnified.  It's not practical to true long panels, and it's not usually necessary for decorator projects anyway.  If the canopy will be washed, make sure to pre-wash it before measuring or cutting.

    I usually cut the panels at least 3" longer than I expect to need, stitch as many seams as I can before trying the piece in its final location and then do the final trimming.  On very long seams, it's a good idea to start in the middle and stitch toward each end rather than starting at one end and stitching to the other.

    Bed and window frames are rarely exactly square, so line up the straight first edge with the most visible line of the frame, and then pin or chalk mark the less visible, final edge. 

  5. Stillsewing | | #7

    I retired some years ago, and the only thing I miss about the job was using the conference room tables to lay out fabric before cutting it out. I found this most useful as the dining room table does have limitations. However for the project you are working on, it would be rather difficult to carry such a large amount of cloth into the office!!

    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #8

      I never thought of cutting things out in the conference room at the office! How resourceful of you. I confess that when we built our house 30 years ago, that I purposely had a free standing bar built in my kitchen so I would have a waist high cutting surface long enough for most of the items I was sewing at the time. Draperies and a few things like that required crawling around on the floor, but I've never regretted the bar. Now I have a shop out back so the bar has been relegated to other duties.

      1. jjgg | | #10

        As I'm in the process of moving into my new house (the movers were actually due here an hour ago (go figure) I'm getting my sewing room set up. I have a 4'X 8' very nice piece of plywood, I just purchased 5 kitchen base cabinets from Lowes to go under it. Lots of storage, 2 stacks of drawers. The are arranged so that they are recesses just about 2 inches from the edge of the plywood. I will cover the plywood with canvas. I'd like to eventually get a cutting mat to fit the board.
        Just yesterday though I realized I don't really have room for all my fabric though! I'll have to figure that one out soon.

        1. User avater
          JunkQueen | | #14

          That is a wonderful solution to the cutting AND storage dilemma. Storing "the stash" is always a problem. Have you come up with a plan yet? And are you moved yet?

          1. jjgg | | #15

            I think your name may apply to me at the moment. Now, not all of the boxes you see are for my sewing room - there may be one or two (at the most) that don't go in the sewing room! So Yes, I'm moved, but not "in" yet!You can see my cutting table somewhere in this mess. I need to go back to Lowes and get one more base cabinet. I just couldn't fit them in my car at the time

            Edited 7/19/2008 11:55 am ET by jjgg

          2. moira | | #16

            Welcome to your new home, and to what looks as though it's going to be a fabulous sewing room! You will have fun unpacking and sorting all those boxes and I'm probably not the only one to envy you!
            With my newly graduated daughter moving home again I think I'm losing my sewing room, and with orders continuing to come in, I'm burying my head in the sand and agreeing to take them on. I really don't know where I'll find the space to sew, but I'll just enjoy the homecoming and worry about the work later.
            Happy unpacking!

          3. jjgg | | #17

            Thanks Moira, it's getting there bit by bit, I can only take so much of unpacking at one time

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #19

            Looks like you are in the process of setting up a fab sewing studio. Welcome to your new home. Just think of all the new treasures you will find as you unpack and find a place for everything in your new home :) Cathy

      2. Stillsewing | | #12

        I really miss the decent long surface which I did appreciate when I was working. One problem then was to ensure that my colleagues never got the idea that I was using the conference rooms during working hours and as we worked all sorts of times, this was quite difficult.
        I refuse to crawl around on the floor to cut out fabric, and nowadays as I have to use the dining room table and then add chairs, the picnic table, etc. eventually I get there. It would be lovely to have a dedicated room for sewinng....... ah well!!! I do have some other hobbies as well so it isn't such a big issue.

    2. Ralphetta | | #9

      Especially if you rode the bus. When I read your note I envisioned you walking down the sidewalk with a great long swath of fabric trailing behind you.

      1. Stillsewing | | #13

        Sorry to disillusion you but I never took more than 4-5 yards of cloth into the office. That along with a box of pins and a prepared pattern was enough to set me on my way as I did the cutting out at home. I never wanted to make work extra wok for our cleaning staff by dropping threads.

  6. DONNAKAYE | | #11

    A few years back I was in the business of drapery fabrication.  Mind you, I did this on my 6-foot cutting table.  After trying a variety of things, I finally settled on bringing a measure of fabric (or fabric plus lining) to the length of the table.  Then I pinned crosswise at the end of my first measurement, i.e., placing pins across the line measurement.  Then I pulled/lifted the one or two layers to the head of the table and repeated throughout.  My draperies came out level every time with only one exception.  It's a real back-breaker, but it worked fine for me....donna kaye

  7. Susan -homedecsewing | | #18

    Hi , you may have found the solution to your problem by now, but here's what I do. When measuring long lengths, I always use a square to get my first line.Then I mark in increments. I accordian fold my fabric , so I'm always on the table. In my shop I have 2 hollow core doors padded in natural cotton batting and covered in muslin. They make a great surface to iron on. I purchased 4 large rotery mats for cutting and pinning. I stack them off to one side when I need to iron. But often the measurement is still off an inch one way or the other. It could be stretching, stitching making it gather a bit , who knows , so I always go longer by an inch or 2 and correct in the hem. Often fabric relaxes when hung .All fabrics are different, so we must compensate for that fact. Happy sewing, and ripping lol Susan

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