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.
The fabric measurements basics
Fabric is usually measured by the yard.
How much is a yard of fabric? Your quick conversion is:
This means that when you buy a yard of fabric you’re getting 1 yard x the width of the fabric (usually measured in inches).
The most common widths of fabrics 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 width, 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.
How much fabric do you need for uplholstery?
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, then at least you can use the excess fabric for pillows or something creative.
Generally speaking, you need:
- 1-1 1/2 yards to cover the cushion of a chair
- 6-8 yards for a small to medium sized sofa
- Up to 13 yards for a large sofa
- Throw pillows usually don’t need more than a yard each and often less
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.
How much fabric do you need for drapery & window treatments?
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 or bunch the drapes.
The number of panels (cut pieces of fabric) 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, then you would want to buy fabric that is 75 – 100 inches wide or you can sew narrower fabric together as panels to achieve the width. This way you will have enough fabric to gather or bunch the drapes.
How to measure how much fabric you needs if your window that’s 50 inches wide x 40 inches long:
- If you choose 54 inch wide fabric (a very common width):
- 2 panels of fabric sewn together will give you drapes that are 108 inches wide and gather nicely
- Each panel will need to be 50 inches long (about 1.5 yards) to cover the length of the window + 10 inches for hemming
- The total amount of fabric you’ll need is 3 yards (1.5 yards/panel)
How to measure fabric for clothing
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.
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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.
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