Fabric Measurements Guide

Whether you’re buying fabrics for interior design or clothing, it’s extremely important to get your measurements right. Buying too much fabric can be ok, but buying too little can turn your fabric purchase into a total waste.  I’ve put together a small guide based on my experience as well as some resources found online.

The fabric measurements basics

Fabric is usually measured by the yard.

How much is a yard of fabric? Your quick conversion is:

1 yard = 3 feet = about 90 cm

This means that when you buy a yard of fabric you’re getting 1 yard x the width of the fabric (usually measured in inches).

The most common widths of fabrics are 36″, 45″, 54″, 60″, 72″, and 118″.

Be sure you know what the usuable widths are as some fabrics have borders. Usable widths are usually 1-2 inches less than the full width, though in some cases the entire width is usable.

You can also estimate a yard of fabric by holding one end of the fabric to your chin while fully extending your other arm which should hold the other end of the fabric.



How much fabric do you need for uplholstery?

It’s always better to be on the safe side when purchasing fabric for upholstery. If you don’t buy enough fabric, you can’t cover your furniture. If you buy too much, then at least you can use the excess fabric for pillows or something creative.

Generally speaking, you need:

  • 1-1 1/2  yards to cover the cushion of a chair
  • 6-8 yards for a small to medium sized sofa
  • Up to 13 yards for a large sofa
  • Throw pillows usually don’t need more than a yard each and often less

Here are some directions for sewing throw pillows.

The following seems to be a very popular chart I’ve seen at many retail shops, though I’ve never tested its accuracy.

How much fabric do you need for drapery & window treatments?

Measuring for drapery can be a lot more complicated since there are many styles and customizations that can be applied.

For simple curtains though, all you need to know are the dimensions of the window you want to cover and how much you want to gather or bunch the drapes.

The number of panels (cut pieces of fabric) that you need depend on the width of the window and the width of the fabric. If for example, your window is 50 inches wide, then you would want to buy fabric that is 75 – 100 inches wide or you can sew narrower fabric together as panels to achieve the width. This way you will have enough fabric to gather or bunch the drapes.

How to measure how much fabric you needs if your window that’s 50 inches wide x 40 inches long:

  • If you choose 54 inch wide fabric (a very common width):
    • 2 panels of fabric sewn together will give you drapes that are 108 inches wide and gather nicely
    • Each panel will need to be 50 inches long (about 1.5 yards) to cover the length of the window + 10 inches for hemming
    • The total amount of fabric you’ll need is 3 yards (1.5 yards/panel)

Simple Curtains photo: Posh Living LLC
Simple Curtains that gather nicely photo: Posh Living LLC

How to measure fabric for clothing

Measuring for clothing isn’t simple either since we all come in various shapes and sizes.

Generally speaking, it takes about 1.5 yards of fabric for a skirt or blouse, 3-6 yards for a 2 piece suit, and about 4-6 yards for a dress.

Other Stuff

Handbags take about 1/2 yard of fabric
Handbags take about 1/2 yard of fabric

Handbags usually need no more than half a yard of fabric, larger canvas bags shouldn’t need more than 3/4 of a yard.

Duvets need between 5-10 yards depending on the size of the bed, bed pillows need 1-1.5 yards.

Scarves need very little yardage, as 1 yard can make a few scarves.

Car interiors can take up to 15 yards.

Online Resources

eBay Fabric Guide

Upholstery Chart

Measurement Links

featured image by incurable_hippie

How to Tell if a Fabric is Natural or Synthetic


So you want to know how to tell if a fabric is natural or synthetic?

With so many variations, blends and materials it can be pretty hard to tell if a fabric is cotton, silk, linen, wool or a polyester. Below we go over a few ways you can test your fabric yourself.

The fabric burn test

A fabric burn test is simply burning the edge of a fabric so see how it burns (and how the burnt fabric smells).

Just light the edge of the fabric with a match or lighter – take precautions since you’re dealing with fire, like using a fireproof container or tweezers. Let the fabric burn for a second or two and then analyze the results.

How to tell if a fabric is natural or synthetic depends on how the burnt material burns, smells and behaves after being burned.

If a fabric is 100% cotton

Cotton fabric will burn like most natural materials since it comes from a plant. The ash will be delicate and turns to dust when you touch it.

The material should also burn pretty quickly and the smell should be pretty weak like burning paper or leaves.

how to tell if a fabric is natural
photo by Stacie

If a fabric is silk

Silk fabric a natural material, but not from a plant. The fabric won’t burn quickly, but it will leave a fine ash that turns to dust if you touch it.

The silk fabric should smell like burnt hair.

how to tell if a fabric is cotton
It’s best not to wear the fabric while burn testing it. photo by Jason Brown

If a fabric is wool

Wool is similar to silk in that it’s natural but not from a plant. It also should smell like burnt hair and will crumble on touch.

The biggest difference is that its ash is not as fine and it takes longer to ignite.

If a fabric is linen

Linen comes from a plant and burns a bit slower than cotton does. Its ash will crumble on touch.

If a fabric is synthetic

Synthetic fabrics are sometimes hard to differentiate from natural fabrics by look and feel, but behave much different in a burn test.

Most synthetic fabrics will burn like plastic when lit. The fabric will curl backwards as it burns.

The burnt fabric will also harden to a plastic-like consistency and smell like plastic as well. Did I mention it burns like plastic?