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How Much Fabric To Buy For A Sewing Pattern

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Are you making clothes from scratch but debating how much fabric to buy for the sewing pattern? Even though most patterns recommend how much fabric is needed, you can’t always be so sure about how much fabric to cut. 

Calculating the amount of fabric needed may look confusing and complicated, but it is actually quite simple. All you need is to understand a simple formula and apply it to estimate the yardage of the fabric.

So, how do you know how much fabric to buy for a sewing pattern? The best way to find out the exact amount of fabrics to buy is to follow the sewing pattern recommendations and understand the fabric width. Due to diverse width sizes of fabrics, you may need 1 to 2 yards extra.

Prior to running to the fabric store, lay out the pattern pieces on a flat table to calculate the exact amount you will need.

This guide will help you calculate the amount of fabric that you need to buy when sewing any type of DIY clothing. Answered below are the frequently asked questions about purchasing fabric for sewing patterns, continue reading for everything you need to know.

tips to find out fabrics to buy for sewing pattern

How do I calculate how much fabric I need?

One of the first things you’ll need to consider, to determine the amount of fabric needed, is the exact type of material you are using for the project. 

Depending on the fabric material, you will first need to estimate the amount of pattern pieces for the project. Moreover, sketching your design pattern on a graph sheet would be very much productive to help in calculating the approximate measurements.

By applying a simple formula you will be able to figure out how much material you will need.

  • First, you’ll need a clear understand of how many pieces are used in the sewing pattern, required width, will you be able to obtain the measurements from the fabric yardage. You will be able to do this by simply dividing the width of the fabric by the width of the longest piece. Remember to always round the figures up to a whole number.
  • To figure out the number of rows of the required length, divide the total number of pieces by the number of pieces that fit into the width of the fabric.
  • The product of the row numbers and the length of each piece is the amount of material you will need for the project.
flatlay printed fabric yardage

What is fabric width?

Fabric width is the distance of the fabric, that is at right angles to its length, without calculating the selvedges along the raw edge. 

Generally, most selvages are self-finished edge of the fabric and printed informations about the company or fabric name along the lengthwise grain. 

In case you’re working with a cloth with no selvedges, a distance of 1 cm or ½“ is subtracted from each side. The fabric width is one of the two necessary measurements needed to calculate the amount of fabric you will need for any sewing project.

To find out the fabric width, it can get tricky if the width of fabric is from selvage to selvage. Fabric has two selvages on each side and it is referred to as “width of fabric”. 

You may or may not see company or designer information on these salvages, especially since that attributes useable or unusable width of fabric.

What does 45” and 60” mean on a sewing pattern?

On each sewing pattern, the number 45” and 60” refer to the measurements of the fabric width. 

To find the width of the fabric, you may also find the number inscribed on the end of the bolt. 45” and 60” are the most common fabric widths commonly found in shops. 

The fabric on the bolt is folded in half so it will be 44/45 or 58/60 which means half of the actual width. 

Depending on the material, in general, the common width for fabric in the US is 54 inches and 48” wide fabric is common in both US and UK. For any delicate imported fabric width standards are 42” wide. 

As you can see, there is no set standard width for all fabrics. In fact, fabrics have varying widths and that’s why it is extremely important to check this dimension before proceeding with purchasing fabric for a sewing pattern.

How do you tell if fabric is 45 or 60?

It is easy to tell whether your fabric is 45 or 60. If you are not able to find the width of your fabric on the end of the bolt, then measure the width and double it. 

Generally, the fabric wrapped on the bolt is folded and that’s the reason why doubling the width will give you the actual width measurement of the fabric.

By doubling the width of fabric, you will be able to find out if it is 45 or 60, by approximating the value.

different width of fabric rolls

Tips for buying how much yards for each project

The yardage for each garment can be calculated after you take appropriate body measurements. You don’t really need much more than a piece of ribbon and a tape measure to take measurements of your body. 

The most necessary measurements, other than your height, are – the circumference of your underarms, circumference of the widest part of your bust, circumference of your waist, circumference of the widest part of your hip, and the measurement of the length between your neck and waist. 

Make sure all the measurements are in the unit of measure that you feel comfortable working with. For simpler calculation of the yardage, also find the right measurement to fit you when choosing sewing pattern sizes.

Pants

For a pants sewing project, the yardage will mostly depend on your height and width. Generally speaking, people buy 2 yards of fabric for stitching an average sized pant from 60” wide fabric.

If you buy 58” wide fabric, you may need more yards for a narrow width, which require 2½ to 3 yards for regular pants.

Depending on the design and length, it requires different yardages, here are the guidelines for purchasing 45” and 60” wide fabric:

  • Full length: 2⅝ yards, 2¼ yards
  • Capri length: 2¼ yards, 1½ yards
  • Shorts: 2⅛ yards, 1¼ yards
  • Denim Jeans: 2 yards, 1½ yards
  • Leggings: 1¼ yards

Skirt

For a skirt sewing project, the yardage depends on the length and style of the skirt you sew.

Whether it is woven or knit fabric, if you are looking to sew a mini skirt, then ½ yard fabric works in most sizes. If you are looking for a knee length skirt, 1 yard wide fabric will work. 

A midi skirt will take around 1½ yards of fabric, and a long skirt can take up to 2 yards of fabric depending on the style.

In addition, here are different yardages for the popular skirt silhouettes based on 45” and 60” width of fabric:

  • Straight skirt: 1⅝ yards, 1¼ yards
  • A-line skirt:1¾ yards, 1⅜ yards
  • Gathered, Shirred skirt: 1¾ yards, 1⅜ yards
  • Pleated Skirt: 3 yards, 2¾ yards
  • Wrap Skirt: 3 yards, 2½ yards

Circle Skirt

Calculating the yardage for a circle skirt sewing project is a little tricky. First of all, you need to know if you are making a full circle or half circle skirt.

The difference between a full and half circle skirt is the pattern looks like a half circle or full circle shape. This could result in doubling the amount of fabric.

For a full circle skirt, you need fabric with a width of at least 60” to construct a full circle skirt. Mini full circle skirt requires at least 1¼ yards, midi length require about 1¾ yards, and maxi length require 2½ yards. This will vary based on width of fabric and waist radius.

On the other hand for half circle skirt, use 45” to 60” wide fabric to create mini to knee length. For mini half circle skirt need at least 1⅜ yards, midi length uses 2 yards, and maxi length need about 2½ yards. 

In order to find the exact measurement for yardages, you’ll need to measure the circumference of your waist and decide on the length of the skirt. 

A full length circle skirt will require more fabric than half or quarter length skirts, and give a more voluminous look. The circle skirts are made of circular pieces of fabric, hence all the measurements are usually taken in meter scale. 

The radius of the circular piece of fabric, for a full length circle skirt, will be your waist circumference divided by 2π, and subtracted with a length of 2 cm or 0.78 inches.

Dress

Both your height and width are necessary to determine the yardage of fabric, for a sewing project of a dress regardless of whether it is made with woven or knit material. 

You’ll need to measure the circumference of your waist, bust, hip, underarms, the measurement of the length between your neck and waistline, and also your height. 

Depending on fullness and silhouette of the dress, every dress is not made equal. 

Here are general guidelines for how many yards you need to make a dress based on 45” and 60” width:

  • Slip dress: 2 yards, 1¾ yards
  • Wrap dress: 2¾ yards, 2⅛ yards
  • Shift dress: 2½ yards, 2 yards
  • Mini dress: 1⅜ yards, 1 yards
  • Knee length dress: 2¾ yards, 2⅛ yards
  • Maxi dress: 6⅛ yards, 5¾ yards

Top

Calculating how much fabric to buy for tops can be tricky. from sleeve length to puff silhouette, and flowy design elements, there are many features to consider. Based on length, if it is cut in bias or the fabric width needs to be concerned.

With all that in mind, best practice is to measure the sewing pattern pieces by laying them on a table. Estimate the amount you need before running to the store to buy any more yardage. 

Here are general guidelines for the amount of fabric you need to make each style based on 45” and 60” fabric width:

  • Short sleeve shirt/ blouse: 1⅝ yards, 1¼ yards
  • Long sleeve shirt/ blouse: 2⅛ yards, 1⅝ yards
  • Cap sleeve shirt/ blouse: 1⅝ yards, 1¼ yards
  • Bias cut camisole: 1⅓ yards, 1 yards
  • Tank top: 1½ yards, 1⅛ yards
  • Crop top: ½ yard

Jacket

The yardage for a jacket sewing project depends on the particular type of jacket you are looking for. If you are wanting to make a sports jacket, 1½ yards of 45” wide fabric will be more than enough. However, if you are looking for a trench coat, it will take around 2½ yards of fabric.

On average, you need 2⅛ yards for 45” wide fabric and 1¾ yards of 60” wide width fabric to make a size 8 jacket. Based on your silhouette and design of the outerwear piece, you may need up to 3 yards of fabric.

Buying Fabric for Sewing Patterns: Final Thoughts

It gets intimidating to purchase perfect amount of fabric so you don’t need to run back to the store again. General rule of thumb is always buy a half yardage extra to allow for shrinkage or mistakes, especially if the fabric is 45 and not 60 inches wide. 

The wide of the fabric is measured from the selvage to selvage. The raw edges of the yardage are not counted in the usable portion of the material.

Majority of DIY clothing projects require any where from ½ yards up to 3 yards of fabric and more, truly depending on the type of garment you are making. Ultimately, you will have to consider your body measurements, the designs and the width of the fabric yardage.

In general, a sewing pattern should include dimensions for the amount of fabric to purchase. However, sometime we second guess ourselves when fabric shopping and question if the measurements are correct.

There you have it, everything that you need to know about buying the right amount of fabric for a sewing pattern. Start with your measurements, consult the instructions on the sewing pattern and evaluate based on the fabric width.

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