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, 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  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 2.20 meters of cloth


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

Tunics & tops – 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 

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.

A full  sleeved shirt – about 2.5 meters 

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

How much fabric is needed to make a circle skirt 

First measure your waist round. Divide your waist round by 6.28 . To this Add the length of the skirt + 2 inches ; consider this as A.
To know the length of the cloth needed to sew a circle skirt, take the above width measurement . Multiply that by 4 and then divide it by 40. This is the length of the fabric in meters you should buy with the above calculated width

Eg, For my 30 inch waist when divided by 6.28 I got 4.7. I want a 20 inch skirt.So adding 4.7 + 20  gives me 24.7 ; when this is multiplied by 4 I get 99.I divide this by 40 and I get 2.4 meters which is how much I would buy to make the skirt

The minimum width of the fabric should be equal to the A measurement you calculated earlier.

 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

Scarfs – 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.

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


Related posts 

How to take body measurements for sewing ? 

How to buy fabric – 10 types of popular dressmaking fabrics.

free sewing patterns