Fabric measurements – Best answer to “How much fabric do I need”-

Calculate Fabric yardage for clothes 

If you are buying your sewing patterns to make your clothes you will not have to read this post, unless you forgot to read the pattern instructions before going shopping for fabric.If you are drafting your dressmaking patterns yourself you will need to calculate how much fabric you need to complete the garment.

If you are mathematically challenged like me, you will need to have an idea about what it takes to sew clothes. This post is aimed at guesstimating the fabric yardage for some of the clothes you sew.

One very important thing before going about to buy fabric is to get the measurements of the body right. Checkout this tutorial to measure the body right and learn how to read the tape measure.

how to read a tape measure

Some general facts about fabric – Fabric is usually measured by yards or meters.One yard is around 3 feet which is about 90 cms. One meter equals 1.09 yards or 39.4 inches.The width of the fabric  ( checkout the different types of fabric available ) is usually 35-36 inch, 44-45 inch, 54 inch and 58-60 inch, 72 inch. Fabric with width around 110 inches are also available but not so commonly found in stores ( atleast where I shop). Pant/trouser materials are available mostly in 58-60 inch width

Checkout this post on some tips for buying fabric. 

For tops and dresses with panels, and when sewing with one way prints or fabric with naps or cutting fabric on the bias, or matching prints/ patterns these guesstimates will not apply. You may need extra yardage if you want particular prints in a particular direction on your garment. For this, making paper patterns and then calculating the yardage is the way to go.Some general guidelines on the fabric yardage are as follows.

fabric yardage

How much Fabric do I need ?  

How many yards / meters of fabric to make  Men’s Jacket ?

For an average man you need about 2 meters (2.18 yrds) to make a Blazer/Jacket

How many yards / meters of fabric to make  pants

For most of the pants you need twice the length + 1/4 meters extra

For men’s pants /trousers the yardage needed is as follows ( as mentioned by a tailor who sews men’s clothes):

If you have 58 inch wide fabric you can make pants with 1.30 meters. For an extra tall man you may need to buy 1.40 meters

How much fabric is needed for making formal shirts  ?

Full sleeved shirts

If you have 36 inch wide fabric , you will need 2.40 meters to sew formal shirts

If you have 58 inch wide fabric you can make the shirt with 1.60 meters of cloth

Half sleeved shirts

If you have 36 inch wide fabric , you will need 2.20 meters to sew formal half sleeved shirts

If you have 58 inch wide fabric you can make the shirt with 1.40 -1.50 meters of cloth 

How many yards / meters of fabric to make Flared gowns

A very flared gown ( the kind worn by brides) need about 6 meters ( and about 5.5 meters extra fabric for lining) 

How many yards / meters of fabric to make dresses & tops 

T shirts are usually of lengths ranging from 25 inches for a small size to 29 inches for extra large size. I double the length and then add 1/4 meters extra. For a knee length tunic with half sleeve I usually buy 2 meters of cloth ( 2 1/4 yards).

A line dress – twice the length of the dress + 1/4 meter ( with just enough flare that is in the fabric)

Tunics & tops, kurti – twice the length of the dress + 1/4 meter

Princess line dress with flare – twice the length of the dress + 1/2 meter – 3/4 meter

Dress with gathers – Twice the length + 1 meter extra

Dress with circle skirt- 3-4 meters

sleeveless vest – 1 meter ; A drapey jacket like this one 2 meters

For sleeves longer than elbow, 3/4 meter – 1 meter extra for the sleeves. If you are drafting a ragalan sleeve consider the length from the shoulder.Checkout the pattern for a raglan sleeve top or the raglan sleeve pattern and plan accordingly

How many yards / meters of fabric to make skirts

The fabric needed for sewing skirts largely depends on the flare and then on the width of the fabric you have at hand. A 44 inch wide fabric may fit both the front and back panel of a straight skirt in a single length but a  pleated skirt will not

You can make a long gathered skirt for a small child for about 2 meters

For making a pleated skirt an adult will need about 3 meters

For a full flared skirt ( Umbrella skirt ) with a big flare you need about 4.5 meters of 42 inch wide fabric. In 3.5 meters you can sew flared skirt but with less flare

You can make wrap skirts like this one with about 2.25 meters .


How much fabric is needed to make a circle skirt 

If you are sewing a half circle skirt the minimum width of the fabric should be equal to –  the waist round divided by 3.14 plus the height you need for the skirt + 2-3 inches. Take  this measurement as X. The length of the fabric needed is the X measurement multiplied by 2

For eg if my waist round is 30  Divide this by 3.14 and I will get 9.5 . Add 32 inch which is the height I would like to have for the skirt, plus 2 inch for seam allowance and hem. So 44 inch is the width I should have to cut the circle skirt (this is the X). The length of the fabric would be 44 inch * 2 = 88 inch, which is 2.25 meters. 

 For a gathered skirt the yardage will depend on the fullness you need – Usually doubling the waist measurement will give you enough fullness for the skirt. So if your waist round is 30  inches if you have got 60 inch wide fabric you will need only single length ; for more than that you will have to join fabric. 

Straight skirts can be sewn in 1.25 yards of fabric if you get a 60 inch wide cloth. As I said depends on the width of the fabric


 32″ * 82 ” ; 45 inch * 67 inch ;  Scarves can be made in many sizes; You can even piece small fabric scraps to make the scarf.

One yard of fabric is easily made into infinity scarves ( Checkout the post with 20 patterns to make infinity scarves) . A length of about 65-70 inches is a good one for most women.

A normal Indian Dupatta / shawl ( which is an oversized scarf) is about 32-37 inches wide and 90 inches in length.

Very skinny scarves with width around 5-8 inches are also around. A bandana is a square fabric piece starting from 18 inches to an oversized one at 27 inches. Checkout the post on making a bandana.

For more details checkout the post on scarf sizes 

scarf sizes

Easy reading of the measurements

To convert inches to millimeters multiply by 25.4
inches to centimeters -multiply by 2.54
inches to meters -. multiply by .0254
yards to centimeters – multiply by 91.44
yards to meters – multiply by .9144  


1/8 (.125 yard)4 .5 inches 11.4 cms
1/4 (.25 Yard)9 inches 22.9 cms
1/3 yard12 inches 30.5 cm
3/8 (.375 yard)13.5 inches 34.5 cms
1/2 (.5 yard) 18 inches 45.7 cms
5/8 (.625 yard) 22.5 inches 57.2 cms
2/3 yard24 inches 61.0 cms
3/4 (.75 yard) 27 inches 68.6 cms
7/8 (.875 yard) 32.5 inches 80 cms
1 36 inches 91.4 cms
1 1/8 ( 1.125 yard) 40.5 inches1.02 meters
1 1/4 ( 1.25 yard) 45 inches 1.14 meters
1 3/8 ( 1.375 yard) 49.5 inches 1.25 meters
1 1/2 ( 1.5 yard) 54 inches 1.37 meters
1 5/8 ( 1.6 yard) 58.5 inch1.48 meters
1 3/4 yd (1.75 yard) 63 inches 1.6 meters
1 7/8 ( 1.87 yard)67.5 inches 1.71 meters
2 yard 72 inches1.82 meters

Calculate Fabric yardage for Bed covering & pillows

To make a bed spread for a bed you will have to measure

  • the width & length of the top of the mattress,
  • the drop from the top of the mattress to the floor or where you want the bed spread to drop
  • Pillow tuck (If you tuck the pillow with the bedspread this also – 15″ for a twin and double bed a& 20″ for queen and king) 

Calculate the bed spread dimensions as follows
Width = Width of the top of the mattress + drop  * 2 
Length = You should add the length of the top of the mattress, then add the pillow tuck and also the drop

You can make pillowcases up to 20 inch * 40 inch from about 1.15 meters of fabric ( about 1 1/4 yards)

Checkout the post on different Bedsheet sizes for more details on this.

bed cover sizes

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