Whether you’re buying fabrics for interior design or clothing, it’s extremely important to get your measurements right. Buying too much fabric can be ok, but buying too little can turn your fabric purchase into a total waste. I’ve put together a small guide based on my experience as well as some resources found online.
First off, fabric is usually measured by the yard. For a quick conversion, 1 yard = 3 feet = 90 cm. This means that when you buy a yard of fabric you’re getting 1 yard x the width of the fabric (most common widths are 36″, 45″, 54″, 60″, 72″, and 118″). Be sure you know what the usuable widths are as some fabrics have borders. Usable widths are usually 1-2 inches less than the full, though in some cases the entire width is usable.
You can also estimate a yard of fabric by holding one end of the fabric to your chin while fully extending your other arm which should hold the other end of the fabric.
It’s always better to be on the safe side when purchasing fabric for upholstery. If you don’t buy enough fabric, you can’t cover your furniture. If you buy too much, than at least you can use the excess fabric for pillows or something creative.
Generally speaking, you need about 1-1 1/2 yards to cover the cushion of a chair, about 6-8 yards for a small to medium sized sofa, and up to 13 yards for a large sofa. Throw pillows usually don’t need more than a yard each and often less than that.
Here are some directions for sewing throw pillows.
The following seems to be a very popular chart I’ve seen at many retail shops, though I’ve never tested its accuracy.
Measuring for drapery can be a lot more complicated since there are many styles and customizations that can be applied. For simple curtains though, all you need to know are the dimensions of the window you want to cover, and how much you want to gather the fabric. The number of panels (drapes) that you need depend on the width of the window and the width of the fabric. If for example, your window is 50 inches wide and the fabric you want is 54 inches wide, you need the following:
Using this example for a window that’s 50 inches wide x 40 inches long, you’ll need 3 yards total to make 2 panels of 54 inch fabric (this would obviously have to be adjusted for different width fabrics) with each piece about a yard and a hlaf long.
Measuring for clothing isn’t simple either since we all come in various shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, it takes about 1.5 yards of fabric for a skirt or blouse, 3-6 yards for a 2 piece suit, and about 4-6 yards for a dress.
Handbags usually need no more than half a yard of fabric, larger canvas bags shouldn’t need more than 3/4 of a yard. Duvets need between 5-10 yards depending on the size of the bed, bed pillows need 1-1.5 yards. Scarves need very little yardage, as 1 yard can make a few scarves. Car interiors can take up to 15 yards.