I remember reading years ago about a skill of some traditional tailors, possibly by special training or from experience. The skill was in judging by eye, to an unnatural accuracy, all the size parameters of a client without ever using a tape measure.

I have seen this particular skill used on film and TV to characterize old Jewish tailors. It's a bit of a trope actually. I should like to know the name for that skill, or its practitioner. I know some were trained in Gateshead UK so I think it has a British English term, although possibly the term is a Yiddish borrowing.


1 Answer 1


Rock of Eye

Example sentence including a definition:

For interim fittings, "Rock Of Eye" (which means trained freehand based on an experienced artistic eye to match the item to the wearer, trusting the eye over unyielding scripted approach), drawing and cutting inaccuracies are overcome by the fitting.


I could not find a Jewish term for that.

I found rock of eye by searching "a tailor who can fit by eye" (which returned about 83,500,000 results). The first sentence from the first result returned follows:

If one enters the world of tailoring (in any era), it is usually not long before you hear of some mythical era of tailoring when tailors could do everything with regards to drafting and fitting with their ‘rock of eye’. — James Williams (historical taylor)

From "Developing the Tailor’s ‘Rock of Eye’" (2 OCTOBER 2018). [historical-tailoring.com]

  • I grew up knowing a variation used in Derbyshire in other sectors such as mechanics and joinery which was "Rack o' th' eye an' a bit o' string". However this did not carry the connotation of great accuracy, more like connotations of "fitting where it touches"
    – BoldBen
    Nov 17, 2021 at 1:20
  • @KannE Having grown up knowing "rack o' th' eye" (standard English "rack of the eye") "rock of eye" sounds odd to me. "Rack of eye" makes more sense to me if the expression is English rather than Yiddish as "rack" could be either a corruption of "reckoning" or a reference to estimating something visually when it's spread out on a rack. Either way it sounds to me as though one of the expressions is derived from the other but I make no claims for either being the original.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 17, 2021 at 8:02

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