I love that we can find a reason to celebrate just about everything — including the tape measure! Sure, we dedicate an entire month to embroidery, the serger, quilting, and sewing, but why not give the tape measure it’s due?!
National Tape Measure Day
These sewing-related holidays (however new or concocted) are a fun way to celebrate our passion and the tools we use to practice it. On July 14, one handy tool has a well-deserved observance: It’s National Tape Measure Day. This is a chance to consider this clever device that is used in a variety of vocations, from sewing to surveying.
Although research at the online National Day Calendar couldn’t unearth the beginning of this observance, it occurs on the date in 1868 when New Haven, Connecticut, resident Alvin J. Fellows patented a “spring-clip tape measure.” You can read more about Fellowes’ design and its antecedents in an interesting Wired article: July 14, 1868: Tape Measure Clicks In.
Sewers typically rely on the vinyl version of this tool, rather than the spring-loaded metal one, but each type is useful. The more rigid metal tape measures are handy for marking hemlines, measuring height, and checking fabric length or width.
Tape measure trivia
- An Englishman, James Chesterman, patented a spring tape measure in 1829, an occurrence proudly commemorated in Sheffield, England, according to Wired. Chesterman’s invention cost $17 – impressive when you consider that is the equivalent of $300 today.
- In 1956, the Northern Virginia Surveyors Association presented Mickey Mantle with a gold-plated, 600-foot surveyor’s tape, Wikipedia also mentions. The tape symbolized the distance Mantle’s amazing home runs travelled. The term “tape-measure homer” was coined in the 1950s to describe Mantle’s superlong hits, according to Jane Leavy in an NPR interview.
- A tape measure is the first measuring tool listed in the Threads Sewing Guide. According to our guide, most modern tape measures are 60 inches long, with extralong versions at 120 inches. The longer versions are particularly useful for home décor sewing projects.
- Wear your love of accurate measuring on your “sleeve” with a tape measure bracelet. There are working versions, such as the Wrist Ruler by ILoveHandles. Or you can choose a purely decorative option such as the aluminum cuff from Neurons Not Included.
- I say tape measure, you say measuring tape: It’s a classic conundrum, discussed in an entry on the Separated by a Common Language blog. Some believe the terms to be synonymous, while others argue that “measuring tape” refers to the flexible vinyl tool used by seamstresses, and “tape measure” refers to the retractable metal device used by carpenters. Where do you stand in this debate?
Accurate measuring tools, and the know-how to use them, are vital to sewing. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to visit your favorite B-Sew Inn for more information and a demonstration on how to use your tape measure or ruler!
Written by: Sarah McFarland, Editor, Threads Magazine