There is a question that often stumps new sewers and dressmakers when shopping at a fabric supplier: “how many yards would you like?”. Your immediate response may be: “what’s a yard?”. This is understandable as yards don’t come into everyday life. So, how much is a yard of fabric and how can you be sure of getting the right amount?
How much is a yard of fabric in inches?
While suppliers and haberdashery departments will sell material by the yard, it is difficult to visualize what this means. The yard is a very old-fashioned measurement that you only really see when measuring a piece of land or fabric. Even then, we would prefer to use feet. All you need to know is:
~ 1 yard equals 3 feet, which converts to 36 inches
~ 2 yards equals 6 feet, which converts to 72 inches
And so on. It gets a bit more confusing when suppliers start talking about eights of a yard and thirds. The idea here is that gives you more precision when choosing your length of fabric for your project so you don’t get too much or spend more than you need to. But, this does turn the conversions into more of a headache.
If you are serious about sewing and measuring out your fabric based on yards, you can look for a yardstick. Meter sticks are quite common in other countries but there are still yardsticks that offer a precise yard measurement.
What about the width?
It is important to remember that the yard measurement is the length of material taken off the roll. This is just one dimension. The width of the roll will give you a more precise idea of the surface area and exactly what you can do with the material. The standard or “single” width of a piece of material is 36 inches. So, to cut a yard is basically to cut a square. But, there are wider options that are around 60 inches wide. Keep this in mind when browsing options so you don’t end up spending too much.
How much is a yard of fabric in metric measurements?
Do you remember decades ago when we all had to learn metric measurements in preparation for the new metric system becoming a bigger deal in the US? But then we just kept on using inches and feet? This is where measuring fabric becomes a bit confusing in different countries. Europe, in particular, focuses on the more straightforward meters and centimeters approach, with its simple conversions.
So what does this means when buying or ordering fabric from suppliers more used to metric measurements? Well, the measurements aren’t quite as precise there. 1 yard is actually equal to 91.44cm, but many people just round this up to 92cm. This equates to 0.9144 of a meter.
How many yards do you need for your sewing project?
If you are sewing using a store-bought pattern and have all the pieces in place, you should be able to get a good idea of the amount of fabric that you need when you add the pieces together. It is a little more difficult when creating your own pattern pieces or creating a piece on a mannequin. Be prepared with all your measurements and pieces before you buy your fabric. Don’t buy 2 yards of a really nice fabric in the sale and assume it will be enough for your needs.
Why is it so important to get more fabric than you need?
You may find that you get your measurements for your sewing project and have a very precise idea of how much material is needed to cover the body or to make the perfect-sized blanket or quilt. However, it is a good idea to get more than you need and have leftover material than to assume that 1 yard of fabric is precisely what you need. This is because of the following.
- 1) You will need excess material for cutting, pinning, and hemming the material. There will be gaps around the pattern pieces and then excess material in case your measurements were slightly out and you need to adjust a hem.
- 2) Pattern matching requires a lot of extra fabric. Pattern matching isn’t easy and you may have to space out your pattern pieces carefully for the best result. This could lead to large gaps of excess fabric. But, it also means that any pockets or other elements will match perfectly.
- 3) You could go wrong and need to cut another piece out. We all make mistakes when sewing intricate patterns. It isn’t uncommon to deal with two left sleeves or pant legs by accident. Excess fabric means you can cut them out again without any issue.
- 4) If you don’t have enough and need to go back, the supplier may be out of material from that specific roll. You may have found the perfect texture and color for your garment but didn’t quite have enough to finish it off. When you return, you may find that the next batch of material doesn’t have quite the same look because of the printing.
Don’t worry that you are being wasteful by getting 2 yards of fabric when you suspect you can manage with one. You can always use the leftovers for matching items, quilting squares, or to cut out material for appliqués. it is better to be safe than sorry. I recommend using electric scissor if you have one.
Get used to yards, feet, inches, and even meters for better measuring for dress-making.
It is important to get a better idea of how much is a yard of fabric when sourcing your material for all your projects. If you don’t want to rely on a yardstick then you need to be able to convert to inches and feet for better accuracy. Metric measurements can help too depending on your source. The more familiar you get with these measurements the better the chance of getting the ideal amount – not too much that you are wasteful and not so little that things get tight.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.