How Much Fabric to Buy

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Today, I’ll walk you through a simple process to calculate yardage on your own. All you’ll need is the pattern you’re working with, a measuring tape, and a clear, spacious surface. Let’s get started!

Understanding Fabric Widths

Before we dive into the yardage calculation, let’s quickly cover the two main fabric widths you’ll encounter: quilting cotton and apparel fabric.

Quilting cotton typically comes in a width of 44 inches (when folded in half, it’s 22 inches wide), while apparel fabric is usually 58 inches wide (resulting in a folded width of 29 inches).

This distinction is essential, as it affects how you lay out your pattern and calculate yardage accurately.

Preparation: Creating a Layout Space

First and foremost, locate an appropriate work place. It might be a tabletop, a kitchen island, or even the floor—just make sure it’s free of clutter so you can quickly measure and lay out the fabric.

I’ve marked out both fabric widths on the floor for demonstration purposes using painter’s tape and washi tape. The red tape represents the 22-inch width (quilting cotton), and the blue tape indicates the 29-inch width (apparel fabric).

Laying Out the Pattern

Let’s get started on your pattern now. Most patterns need you to cut the cloth on a double fold, which means folding it in half twice before cutting. Keep this in mind as you determine how much space you’ll need. You’ll need more space if your design calls for a single-fold layout.

Calculating Yardage

Once you have your pattern laid out on the appropriate fabric width, it’s time to calculate the fabric yardage. Let’s take an example using a self-drafted top pattern. Lay out your pattern pieces and consider how they fit within the available space.

For instance, if your knit fabric is 29 inches wide (apparel fabric), you can arrange your pieces side by side comfortably.

Using a measuring tape, measure the distance your pattern occupies on the fabric. Remember that fabric is usually sold by the yard, which is 36 inches long.

In your case, if your pattern only takes up around 27 inches, it’s equivalent to three quarters of a yard. Refer to the yardage conversions chart to understand various fractions of yards based on inches.

Adding a Little Extra

It’s always a good idea to add about 10% extra fabric to your yardage calculation. This accounts for potential fabric shrinkage after pre-washing. So, even if you calculate 26 inches needed, it’s better to round it up to 27 inches or three quarters of a yard to ensure you have enough fabric for your project.

Adjusting for Different Fabric Widths

In case you’re working with fabric that has a different width—let’s say 44 inches—you’ll need to adjust your layout and yardage calculation accordingly. Patterns that fit within the 29-inch width might need more fabric if you’re dealing with a 44-inch width. Always ensure your pattern pieces fit comfortably within the chosen fabric width to avoid surprises during the cutting stage.

FAQs about Calculating Fabric Yardage for Sewing Projects

Why do I need to calculate fabric yardage on my own?

Some sewing patterns might not provide yardage information, so knowing how to calculate yardage helps you buy the right amount of fabric for your project.

What tools do I need to calculate fabric yardage?

You’ll need the pattern you’re working with, a measuring tape, and a clear, spacious surface to lay out your fabric.

How do I know if my fabric is quilting cotton or apparel fabric?

normally, clothing fabric is 58 inches wide (29 inches when folded), whereas quilting cotton is normally 44 inches wide (22 inches when folded).

What’s the first step in the process?

Clear a suitable space for measuring and layout, like a table, island, or floor.

How do I lay out my pattern?

Most patterns are cut on a double fold. If your pattern requires a single fold, make sure to mark out a larger space accordingly.

How do I calculate the yardage?

Measure the length your pattern occupies on the fabric using a measuring tape. Refer to a yardage conversion chart to translate inches into yards.

Why should I add extra fabric to my yardage calculation?

Adding around 10% extra accounts for fabric shrinkage after pre-washing and ensures you have enough fabric for your project.

What if my fabric width is different from the standard widths?

Adjust your layout and yardage calculation based on the actual fabric width you’re using.

Can I use the same method for different types of fabric, like knits?

Absolutely! The method works for various fabrics, but make sure to account for the specific fabric width and stretch.

Is there a resource for yardage conversions I can refer to?

Yes, you can find a yardage conversions chart in the blog post linked below this article. It’s a helpful reference for converting inches to fractions of a yard.


And there you have it, a straightforward method to figure out how much fabric to buy for your sewing project, even when the pattern doesn’t provide specific yardage information. By understanding fabric widths, creating a layout space, and calculating yardage using a measuring tape and the conversion chart, you’ll be well-equipped to confidently purchase the right amount of fabric for your creative endeavors. Happy sewing! And if you’re looking for more sewing tips and answers to common questions, don’t forget to check out my sewing tips playlist for a wealth of valuable information.