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The French Curve Ruler

This month I will be reviewing rather a large and odd looking tool used by various serious seamstresses: the French Curve Ruler. I jumped at the chance to test out this ruler but must admit that when it arrived, I felt daunted looking at its curvy glory and wondered how and what I was going to use it for. Rest assured though! Since picking it up I have acknowledged its worth as a staple tool to have on hand not just for pattern drafting but in my case garment adjustments, tracing patterns and as a very handy straight ruler too so I did not need to keep switching between tools.

First let me talk a little about the item a bit. The ruler was sent well protected by Minerva enclosed in a highly handy cardboard sleeve which upon looking inside was full of invaluable diagrams and information on all the possibilities the ruler could be used for in pattern adjustments such as drafting sleeves to be fuller/slimmer, hip and waist adjustments, neckline adjustment etc... I now have it stashed away safe somewhere but there are also a lot of information on the web on how to utilise your French curve ruler to the max. 

The ruler itself looks like a scroll and the cleverness of it is that is has any imaginable curve starting from barely curved on the long end curving into a tight curve at the other end with a straight edge on the inside edge with incremental squares which help draw out seam allowances or in my case allows me to be lazy and not have to swap for my bog standard ruler when pattern tracing. 

This ruler is also beautifully light and smooth so it glides over tracing paper happily without displacing it making it a dream to work with whilst tracing.

Last Christmas I was rather boldly requested of by my sister to make her an outfit which I idiotically agreed to before asking what outfit she wanted. Rather blithely she nattered about how it was “just a simple top and dress from this anime”… at which point alarm bells started ringing in my head. “Do you have a pattern or ay images for this outfit?” I hopefully enquired, at which she then replied “No, is that necessary?” Now I am usually happy to accept a challenge but let me tell you I only had violent thoughts when my sister opened her mouth; this response is almost on par with the plebs who dare ask if you can make a princess ball gown for under £50… I am sure we’ve all seen that photo! Moving on I begrudgingly accepted her challenge warning her that she will not magically turn into a stick like anime girl with bulbous eyes – and needless to say my first attempt was horrible, so horrible in fact that this outfit ended up sitting in a corner of my cluttered sewing room for around 6 months before my husband forced me to fix it. I can usually adjust length but anything curved is just that much more complicated and in my head, too scary to tackle.

Now this is where I wished I had turned to the ruler sooner. With nothing to lose I took this crazy curvy thing and lined it up to fix the neckline that wouldn’t fit over a baby let alone an adult’s head. 

I made a centre mark on the front and back then lining up the ruler until I liked the neckline I traced onto one side then taking note of where the marking touched the ruler I flipped the ruler and traced the other side. 

Just like that in less than a minute my front neckline was ready to be cut. I was amazed. I turned the dress around and continued the neckline from the front to the centre back, once again flipped the ruler and completed the other side of the back neckline. 

Just like that I had a symmetrical and beautifully drawn neckline without having to do any guesswork, freehand drawing or calculations. I bound the neckline in a French seam and that was that, and the outfit I had put aside for months was as my husband had reassured me fixed in one night – all thanks to this ruler, I will never again be scared of adjusting curves!

I print out a lot of PDF patterns despite best efforts to not buy too many. In an attempt to save paper and time spent sticking bits together I choose to trace my patterns and file away the hardcopy for next time. Freehand tracing is fine but takes a bit of time when curves are involved so I tried out the ruler to see if it might speed things up a bit. I am happy to say that whilst tracing with it I have learnt a lot more about how it works as I gently rotate the ruler to fit the curves I am tracing. Tracing curved hips and flies of trousers are definitely easier with this ruler whereas I would still freehand trace on smaller pieces like a pocket.

I am looking forward to using this ruler a lot more in my dressmaking in the future and consider it a necessary item even if you’re not into pattern drafting. It really aids in speeding up pattern tracing and garment adjustments!

Thanks for reading,

Zoe @MadameShannanigans

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