How to Take Measurements Without Tailor’s Tape

If you enjoy making commissions, you may already know that some, like my gauntlets, require specific measurements to ensure proper fit. If you knit or crochet clothing of any sort, you also know that you need at least a rough estimate of how large or small you need to make it.

I find TMNT pencils and rulers work best.
We’ll not mention they were all I had on hand at the time.

Most people who already make their own clothing or clothes for others already have tailor’s tape handy, but if you don’t, there are ways around it.

You’ll need four things at most to get the measurements you need:

  • String (preferably light colored)
  • Pen or pencil
  • Ruler, Yardstick or Tape Measure
  • Scrap paper

I’ve recruited the help of my Styrofoam head model, Roberta. Of course, when she wears a mustache, she becomes Robert, since inanimate objects don’t have gender identities.


Step One: Wrap the String
Since we’ll be measuring for a hat band, pull the string around the back of the head and overlap the ends in the center of the forehead, then mark with your pencil where they meet.

Yellow isn’t really her color.

Step Two: Clear Feline Helpers From the Area
Granted, this step is optional, since not everyone has cats. There are three in the house, and two of them got curious. However, our tux cat was the stubborn one.

I cleverly allowed him to strangle me with the pull to my hoodie while I moved the string and ruler to the side, so I could shoo him off the table.

The cat that makes me go *hurk*.

Step Three: Measure String
If you have a tape measure, this step is pretty simple. All you need to do is line up the mark you made on the string with the beginning of the tape measure and see what number the end of the string ends.

Shorter rulers are much more common, but they’re usually not long enough to measure the entire length in one go. In this case, start by aligning the mark on the string at the beginning of the ruler, then pick the string up where it hits the end of the ruler.

Taking the first measurement.

You will then move the string pinched between your fingers to the start of the ruler. Keep track of how many times you do this until you either run out of string, or it’s not long enough to reach the end of the ruler.

Write down how many inches or centimeters that last measurement is and how many times you cycled through the length of the ruler.

Step Four: Calculation
This is where simple math comes in.

Multiply the length of the ruler by how many times you cycled through its length. Then add the final measurement to that number, and you’ll have your measurement!

In this case, I cycled through 3 times. The final time, I got 2.5 inches, and the length of the ruler is 6 inches.


If I were to make a hat for Roberta, I’d need to make the band 20.5 inches around.

It may be a little more complicated to use this method for larger measurements, but it will work as well as if you had tailor’s tape handy!

Stubborn cat.

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