Fabric sizes are either measured by whole bolts or by yards. A bolt is basically the word used to describe the cardboard that holds the fabric although it may also be used to refer to the entire spool or reel of fabric.
A yard of fabric is equal to 3 feet which also equals 36 inches. At some point in history, measurements were calculated against human body parts – a yard was believed to be equivalent to an average stride and an inch the width of the average human thumb.
Fabric is usually measured lengthwise when cutting since the width of a yard may vary between 32, 45, and 60 inches although there are some extra-large bolts that are up to 110 inches wide. The narrower the yard, the less the material it has as compared to a wider one. This, in some way, affects the total yardage available for a particular project. The length is also cut depending on the size of the project for which the fabric will be used. Another factor that may affect the amount of yardage is the presence and/or design of directional prints or graphics.
Measuring the amount of fabric needed for a particular project
A yard of fabric is enough for small projects like creating one small pillow cover while larger projects like curtains require half or full bolts of fabric. On the other hand, extra-large bolts may be required for very large projects like duvets
Materials may be cut into partial yard lengths such as half-yard, quarter-yard, and fat-eighth pieces.
Before you can execute a model, you must measure and calculate the exact size of the fabric that you need to avoid any wastage. Here are some tips to help you calculate the yardage needed for a wide range of scenarios, (whether the dimensions are smaller or larger than the fabric you’re using) so that you can buy the right amount of fabric and avoid wastage:
- Think of the total yardage of the project and figure out if it fits into the width of the fabric. It’s best if you do these calculations in inches. If the width fits, calculate the length then divide it by 36 to find out the number of yards to buy. Round up this figure to the nearest yard
- When calculating the total dimensions, include all the extra fabric you’ll need for seams and other types of finishes. For instance, if your project has a seam e.g. a tablecloth, calculate the seam allowance and multiply it by two then add it to the length and width of the fabric.
Pay close attention to the allowance you leave for the seam so that you won’t have seams running through the middle of your project – that doesn’t look professional
- If the project that you’re working on needs to be hemmed, you should also calculate how many extra inches you need to leave as an allowance for the hems then add it to the total amount of fabric you’ll need for the project. If you don’t do this, your shirt, skirt, or dress will be too short.
- If the dimensions of your project do not fit into the fabric’s width, you will need to sew several pieces of the fabric together. To figure out how many pieces you should sew together, divide the width of the project by the width of the fabric. Round up your answer to the nearest yard.
Now multiply this answer you got with the total desired length. Divide the result by 36 to know the yardage you should buy.
- When you have to make multiple pieces for your project that are all of a similar size e.g. napkins, here’s how you figure out how much fabric you need. First, divide the width of the fabric by the width of a single piece. Round the answer down to the nearest whole number – that’s the total number of pieces you can get from that fabric’s width.
The next step is to take the total number of pieces and divide it by the number of pieces that fit into the width of the fabric to find out how many rows you’re going to need.
Take the number of rows and multiply by the length of one piece to find the total dimensions of the project in inches. Divide by 36 and round up to the nearest whole number to get the yardage.
- If you need to make many pieces that are of different sizes you might need to draw out the place
- If the fabric is solid and isn’t directional, it’s okay to flip the width and length if you’ll end up using fewer yards that way.
Working with patterned fabrics
Patterned fabrics look stylish and elegant but they’re a little challenging to work with. You have to be very careful with the patterns to make sure that the prints match.
Before you divide the total dimensions in inches by 36, you should add an extra vertical repeat per every extra width of the fabric. This means that at the end of the day, you will end up with a lot more unused fabric as compared to when you’re working with fabrics that don’t have a pattern.
Different types of fabrics come in different widths so you need to do some calculations to figure out the total dimensions of the fabric needed for a particular project. This way you can easily tell how long a fabric you’ll need. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur or a professional; you still have to figure out the total yardage needed before you can go shopping. Running out of fabric mid-project would be such a pain in the neck. At the same time, you don’t want to end up extra fabric that you can’t use to do anything useful.
We hope that the formulae we gave you take all the guesswork out of working with fabrics for different types of projects. Accuracy is a real deal-breaker when it comes to working on any sewing project. If you’re not so sure about how to determine the amount of material you’ll need, consult a professional to help you with the calculations