How to calculate the fabric footage

 How to calculate the fabric footage

In this article garment merchandising will guide you about How to calculate the fabric footage. I remember that when I went to buy fabrics and scraps  with my mom. She talked about meters, simple heights, double heights and made calculations with disarming ease. And I, on the other hand, did not understand a tube. I mean, I didn’t even try to understand, so much was she there.

Over time I have NOT improved. I also found myself in trouble the other day when I went to buy some fabric. Undecided between two types of fabrics (one was a single- width fabric and the other a double-height fabric). I could not calculate how much fabric to buy or how much I would have spent in both cases.

So after a couple of multiplications, I waved the white flag and asked the gentle clerk for help. I am consoled by the fact that even the bold young man was not very good at counting (but he was handsome, so we forgive him 😛). Long story short, I came home with the fabric I wanted. But I still don’t know if I bought too much or too little. We’ll see.

Heights of the pieces of cloth

Meanwhile, let’s try to review something together (I with you who need it).

The fabrics have:

  • A length  which is the one rolled up on the roll and which can be bought a lot per meter
  • A height which is that between the two selvages or edges.

On the market there are fabrics of different heights depending on the type and use to which the fabrics are intended:

  • H70 / 80/90 cm you can find lace, silk or household linen fabrics
  • H90 / 100 cm cotton for shirts or for the home
  • h140 / 150 cm fabrics for tailoring
  • H180 / 200 cm fabrics for tablecloths and curtains
  • H280 / 300 cm fabrics for sheets, curtains, sofas.

However, if the height of the fabric is less than 100 cm it is said to be a simple height, if it is greater than 100 cm it is said to be double height (the fabric is the one folded in two on the roll).
Are we up to here? Here we are.


Fabric length calculation

Now comes the fun. How do I calculate how much fabric I need to sew Thing X depending on the height of the fabric? Here is the SUM to do:

The measurements of the lengths of the things you want to sew  the centimeters needed for other parts such as sleeves, collars, cuffs, placket, belts, pockets etc. The centimeters needed for seam allowances, hems etc.


I give an example. If I know that I have to sew a simple straight knee-
length skirt, I have to add the measurement that goes from the waist to the knee
– the centimetres needed for the strap
– the centimetres needed for the seam allowances and for the hem


Another example. If I know that I have to sew a classic shirt with long sleeves, I have to add
the measurement that goes from the shoulder to the desired length of the shirt
– the centimetres needed for the sleeves (+ collar and cuffs and yoke if any)
– the centimetres needed for the seam and hem allowances.


The total of these measurements will be the length that I need . And that I will have to measure on the length of the fabric (towards the warp) and NOT on its height (towards the weft).

This is because by washing the fabric, the warp shrinks more than the weft and therefore, badly, it can shrink in length. But not in width (which would make the sewn garment unacceptable).
Here we are? Here we are.


So it is easy to understand that for the same project the length of fabric to buy changes according to the height of the fabrics: if they are double-wide, only one length will be needed, while two lengths will be needed for single-height fabrics.

Let’s take an example. Given that the height of the fabrics for tailoring is usually 140/150 cm.and therefore in double height,  to make a simple straight knee length skirt I will have to measure on the fabric only once the length that I found in my initial SUM (one length). If, on the other hand, I find a fabric with a simple height. I will have to measure on the fabric twice the length that I found in my initial SUM (two lengths).

How much fabric is needed for?

Since I know for sure that calculating the length of the fabric based on the project to be done is something that is not only unpleasant to me. I thought of creating a useful table where to insert INDICATIVELY how much fabric is needed to sew various types of jobs.

To make this table I called the expert ( my cuGGina Esse  whom I told you about a few years ago) and I kept her on the phone for three quarters of an hour, demanding that she explain to me in a few minutes what I have not understood in forty years. .


However, I would like one thing to be clear.  The table is not specific but generic and that is it takes into consideration simple and straight basic garments (skirt, shirt, dress, trousers, bodice, jacket, coat) with standard sizes.

For this reason the table is  used ONLY to get an idea of ​​the fabric to buy,  but above all it serves to no longer make the figure of the allocca in front of the clerk on duty (and also gnocco).


Having said that, here is the table that I made with the footage of fabric to buy considering that I took as an example basic, simple and straight garments with medium sizes and the standard fabric with double height 140/150 cm as an example.

Fabric length table in cm useful for simple straight garments of medium sizes?

How to calculate the fabric footage

How to calculate the fabric footage

I re-emphasise that the table is ONLY indicative and serves ONLY to get an idea of ​​the fabric to buy. I know that it will not be useful to the centimetre (because we all have different sizes). And not even to make particular models.But – I mean – if you want to make a full skirt at least it will save you from buying fabric for a circus tent.


How much material you need: tips and tricks


Since I’m fresh of notions, I take this opportunity to make some other useful suggestions.

  • To calculate the length of the fabric to be purchased. It is necessary to take into account the direction of the designs or the direction of the fabrics (such as velvet). When these have a verse or repeat in the same direction, you need to buy more footage of cloth.
  • In the case of particularly complicated garments to be packaged, to calculate the length of the fabric to buy, you can help yourself by first spreading the pattern at home on a surface that simulates the fabric and then measuring its lengths.
  • The method of unfolding the pieces of the pattern in advance can always be useful, even and above all if you want to save money and buy as little fabric as possible.
  • Make a pleated skirt you need a width three times the size of the pelvis circumference, plus 25 cm for the finishes, whatever the height of the fabric.
  • To calculate the length for classic curled awnings, you need to know the length (ground ceiling) and the width, which must be double the width of the pole.
  • To calculate the footage to cover an armchair or sofa , create the pattern by making it from the old cover. Unfold the pattern and calculate the square footage.

However, for particular projects with footage that is particularly difficult to calculate. It is better to ask the shopkeeper or the handsome clerk on duty for help .

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