How Big is a Yard of Fabric Really?: How to Calculate Fabric Yardage for Basic Sewing Projects – Beginner Sewing Projects

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Working with fabrics can be time-consuming if you’re a beginner at sewing. To learn this set of skills, you’ll need time, practice, and patience.

However, the first thing you can start with is knowing how to measure your fabric accurately. To do that, you should ask yourself one important question. How big is a yard of fabric?

In this article, we’ll answer that question. We’ll also help you with your sewing journey by giving you some basic sewing tips. Let’s dive in!

How Much Is a Yard of Fabric?

Pin striped fabric with yard stick

If you’re in a country that uses the imperial unit system, then you probably use the ‘yard’ unit on a daily basis. A yard equals 3 feet, which equals 36 inches. For visual reference, it is the length of a yard stick.

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However, if you use the metric system, things can be a bit confusing. You might start working on a project that provides directions in yards. But converting yards to meters is quite easy.

A yard equals 0.9144 meters or 91.44 centimeters. You can always use an online converter to keep yourself from getting lost while you’re knee-deep in work.

Measuring a Yard of Fabric

Now, you’ve picked the type of fabric that you want to use in your project. Also, you’ve decided how many yards of fabric you’ll need, which we’ll discuss how to do later on. It’s time to learn how to measure a yard of fabric correctly.

Woman measuring blue fabric with yard stick

The first thing to know is that a yard of fabric is measured from the selvage in the direction of the bolt. The selvage is the woven edge of the fabric that keeps the threads from unraveling. While the bolt is a cardboard cylinder that the fabric is rolled around.

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More importantly, while a yard of fabric is 36 inches long, the width can vary according to the type of fabric.

However, most fabrics come in widths from 33 to 44 inches. Choosing a suitable width depends on the dimensions of your project.

In some cases, the material is laid out in front of you and isn’t rolled around a bolt. Mindful of the position, use the same steps that we’ve previously mentioned to measure a yard of fabric.

Importance of Accurate Measurements

Cloth fabrics close up

Yes, you probably understand why correct measurements are essential for any sewing project. But let’s discuss this point in-depth.


While working on a sewing project, especially when you’re a beginner, every step seems to take you forever. Now, if you get the measurements all wrong, you’ll need to fix that problem.

If the fabric is too short to use, you’ll have to replace it or join it with another piece. In some circumstances, that might not be an issue. Yet, most of the time, it can be problematic.

Going back to the store for the second time that day? Sometimes it’s not an option, especially if you’re a busy person.


Say that you’re okay with paying the store another trip. This isn’t the only thing you’ll need to pay!

Blue fabric with scissors and measuring tape

More fabric means more money spent. Not just that, but some fabrics tend to be more expensive than others. To keep your high-quality fabric from going to waste, make sure you get all the dimensions right.

Calculating Fabric Yardage for Different Projects

Now, we get to the fun part! For beginners, it might be a bit confusing to determine how much fabric they need for a certain project.

Whether you’ll use it for cushions, curtains, or clothes, there are a few rules you should follow.


To get the calculations right, you should measure the width and height of your window first. Then, you should add the dimension from the bottom of your window to the floor.

Of course, as curtains tend to extend beyond the window frame on both sides, you’ll need to add a few inches. This depends on your preference and how much space you have left.

After that, you need to follow these steps.

  • For the hem, add four times the length of it to the length and width
  • Determine the style of your curtain to get the fullness ratio
  • Decide the number of curtain panels that you need
  • Divide the overall width by this number
  • Make your calculations
  • Round up the resulting number to the nearest whole yard


Deciding the fabric yardage for a pillow can be easier. Since they’re smaller and don’t have many details; they shouldn’t take you too much time to figure out.

Fabrics with Measuring Tape

Naturally, you have to measure the length and width of the pillow or cushion. After that, find out how much fabric you’ll need for the seam allowance.

Then, multiply it by 2 and add these few inches to the length and width that you’ve written down. Round the results to the nearest yard and there you go!


If you’re working on pants, skirts, or dresses, then you probably know that they all need to be hemmed. Therefore, after getting all the measurements, you should add the hem amount to the sum.

You should be careful to remember this. Because if you don’t, the skirt or pants will end up shorter than you need them to be.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a curtain fullness ratio?

This describes the ratio between the length of the curtain pole and the width of the curtain fabric. For instance, the bigger this ratio is, the more folds you’ll get when you set up your curtain.

The fullness ratio depends on the style of the curtain. For example, if you want to go for the pencil pleat style, the ratio should be 2.

Therefore, when it’s time to calculate the yards of fabric, you should multiply the length of the pole by 2.

What if the width of my design is wider than that of the fabric?

As we mentioned before, most fabric widths end at about 44 inches. If your project’s width is more than that, then you’ll have to sew two pieces of fabric together.

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To do that, determine the desired width and divide it by the width of the fabric. After that, round it to the nearest yard. This way, you’ll have the number of pieces to sew together.

The step after that is multiplying this number by the length. Then, divide the result by 36 to get the number of yards you have to buy.

How do I work with patterns?

Patterned fabrics can be a bit challenging for beginners. This is because they need to match in all directions of your model.

Measuring white fabric with yellow measuring tape

To make sure this goes smoothly, you should add an extra repeat of the fabric to your calculations.

In Conclusion

We understand that learning how much fabric to buy can be tricky. However, practice makes perfect!

The more you experiment with different designs and projects, the easier it will be in the long run. After all, not only is sewing productive, it can also be therapeutic.

Now that you understand how big a yard of fabric is, you can start your journey down this road with confidence.

Pin this information for later, and check out some of these easy sewing projects for beginners to get started.

How Big Is a Yard of Fabric?

If you want an in depth reference at your fingertips, we recommend purchasing one of these top sewing books for beginners.

We also have some more helpful sewing tips and techniques listed below.

More Fabulous Sewing Tips

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