There are three different techniques that you will use to measure. The techniques are circumference, conforming and straight.
Circumference simply means that you will wrap the measuring tape around a body part. A circumference measuring tape makes quick work of this, if you have one.
A conforming measurement means that you will hold the tape against the body and conform it to the body as you measure.
A straight measurement means that you will hold the tape straight up and down. You can use a ruler or yardstick for these measurements because you don't want it to conform to the body.
If you are taking measurements of yourself, its a lot more work. If at all possible, get a helper. We are going to line out the body before measuring, which means that someone with no sewing experience can take measurements. Recruit a significant other, child or friend to take them for you.
Model Posture & Mood
Ask the model to stand with their weight evenly distributed on both feet. When being measured, people have a tendency to lift their shoulders in tension or straighten up their posture. Keep your model relaxed and comfortable. You might want to warm the room up for them.
Never talk about the measurement you are taking or make comparisons. Being measured can be stressful for people. Talk about something else entirely and keep the mood light.
Measure Both Sides
Always take measurements on both sides of the body. This accomplishes two things. First, if you misread the tape on one side, it will be obvious when you do it again on the other and you can fix it.
Also, we are not perfectly symmetrical and the measurements may vary. Right handed people tend to have much more developed arm and leg muscles on the right side. Always use the larger of the two measurements.
Most patterns are drafted in half and are placed on the fold or on doubled fabric. If both sides of your body are very different, you may want to create two separate pattern pieces and blend them to join. This isn't something that's done very often, but it is an option when necessary. In this case, take two complete sets of measurements for each side of the body.
Humans Grow & Shrink Hourly
Our sizes fluctuate throughout the day. Keep this in mind as you measure. A big lunch is going to expand that waist measurement! Remember that we are organic and measuring is never going to be an exact science. Do the best you can.
Practice a Bit
Taking measurements takes a bit of practice. Give it a try on an inanimate object, like a dress form or doll before you take on a human. It is much easier to measure something that doesn't move or fluctuate in size. You can take your time and get the hang of it.
Baby dolls and male figures aren’t the best for honing your skills. The female form with breasts will give you the best challenge for learning. Barbie dolls are also difficult because they are so small.