How To Properly Measure the Amount of Fabric You Need

How To Properly Measure the Amount of Fabric You Need

Calculating how much material you need can be intimidating whether you’ve been sewing for a long time or in the beginning stages. It’s the question you ask yourself before you begin any project.

Have you ever been in the middle of sewing and run out of fabric? It’s incredibly frustrating. There are many factors a sewer has to consider before they utilize a formula to determine how much material they’ll need for the project. This blog post will explore how to properly measure the amount of fabric you need for your next sewing project.

Decide Your Project First

The first step to measuring the amount of fabric you’ll need is deciding on your project. There are so many sewing projects to choose from:

  • Skirts
  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Dresses
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Stuffed animals

Decide what you’re making so that you can get the correct measurements. There’s no reason to run out and buy fabric before you’re ready. Material is expensive. There’s no reason to waste money on unwanted fabric.

Time To Measure

Figure out the length and width of your project to understand its total dimension. Then, you need to determine the measurements in inches. Don’t forget to include hemming, edging, and seam allowances. You’ll also need additional material for smocking, gathering, and crimping. An excellent way to visualize your project is to sketch it on graph paper.

Use this formula if you’re working on a project requiring several fabric pieces. Divide the width of the fabric by the width of a single piece, and that equals the number of pieces that fit into that width. Ensure you round down to the whole number. To find the number of rows you need, divide the number of sections that fit into width by the total number of pieces. The entire project in inches is the number of rows multiplied by the length of one piece. Then, divide by 36 inches to find the total yardage needed. Round up to the nearest whole number if needed.

Let’s look at an example. The width is 100 inches, and one piece needs a width of 46 inches with a length of 32 inches. And you need 10 pieces in all. The formula laid out would look like this:

  • One hundred inches divided by 46 is 2.173; you would round this down to two.
  • Ten times two is 20.
  • Twenty times 32 inches is 2,560 inches.
  • Then, 2,560 inches divided by 36 inches is 71.11. Then, you round this up to 72.

This project requires 72 yards of material. Use this formula for many sewing projects, such as bedding, clothing items, cushions, and pillows.

For significant-sized projects, it’s worth having a local, professional opinion. Snap a few photos and calculate the measurements to hand to an upholsterer. This way, you’ll gain peace of mind before investing in so much material.

Picking a Fabric

So many fabrics are available that it can feel impossible to pick the correct material. You may feel overwhelmed when you walk into a fabric store. With all the patterns, designs, and colors, you want to choose the right one, but how do you decide? Some factors will affect the amount you’ll need.


If you choose a repeating pattern, understand that you may need extra fabric. Repeating designs can be as close as three inches and as far apart as 54 inches. The further apart the repeat, the more material you’ll need. For example, 18 inches means around 20 percent more fabric. A 27-inch repeating pattern means 40 percent more.

You’ll want to center specific parts of the design, which may show up only every 16 inches. You’ll have to snip away excess material to fit the pattern how you’d like it to appear on an upholstered chair or pillow.


Different fabrics automatically come in standard widths. It’s common for materials to be 54 inches wide in the United States. However, there are many garment materials available in wider widths, such as 60 to 72 inches. Most fabrics from Great Britain come standard at 48 inches. Gingham and oxford are excellent examples of this. Imported textiles, like Indian silks, come standard at 40 or 42 inches.

If you’re able, choose a material with a 54-inch width. Most yardage estimates assume this width; therefore, it will create the least amount of cutting waste.


Working with solid fabrics is the easiest. When choosing stripes, polka-dots, florals, or other patterned materials, you must consider carefully matching the seams to ensure the design looks good. This task may be challenging for specific projects, such as upholstered furniture. A smaller striped pattern won’t cause much cutting waste, so you’ll need less fabric.


All the different knits are knitted together instead of woven and have a natural two-way stretch. Each type of knit material has a distinct pull. Sweater and jersey knits fit into this category. Most people describe these materials as having comfortable and loose wear. How you want the clothing piece to fit depends on how much extra fabric you’ll need.

If you’re working with a patterned knit, such as floral knit fabric from Express Knit, you’ll have to think about the pattern and the stretch.

Woven Materials

Woven fabrics have a limited amount of stretch due to their woven-together threads. Linen and cotton are excellent examples of woven fabrics. You can find woven materials combined with stretchier materials, like Lycra, that help give it more stretch, but they look more rigid.

Woven fabrics are perfect for the summertime. They’re incredibly breathable and will help you stay cool in the heat. Create pants, shirts, and dresses with woven materials for the summer.

There are many deciding factors when properly measuring the amount of fabric you’ll need for a project. Take your time with each project and use the formula above to help cut down on fabric waste. Don’t forget to land on the perfect fabric and factor that into your sizing needs. Stretch and pattern play substantial roles in the amount of material you’ll need.

If you have the space, save your significantly sized scraps for future projects. You never know when inspiration may strike. Leftovers are perfect for quilts, stuffed animals, and baby clothes.

How To Properly Measure the Amount of Fabric You Need