How to Know Fabric Requirement for Your Dress (Sewing)

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How would you know fabric requirement for your dress to ensure you have enough fabric length for completing your dress?


This fabric requirement question seemed tough, as a result I wasted a lot of expensive fabric material when I was learning sewing as a beginner.


And there were times, when I was stuck because fabric length was short!  


Estimating the correct fabric requirement is a challenge but you get to master it with practice.


After a few times of sewing a particular type of dress, you get to know exactly how much fabric would go into that. 


Would you wait so long, and take the guesswork to understand fabric need for your sewing project? You have a better choice to take the expert route to know the practical tips explained in this post.


Related Post : When To Cut Fabric Lengthwise and When to Cut it Widthwise.

How to Cut Fabric Grainline

How to Cut Fabric Grainline

3 Things that Decide Fabric Requirement for Any Type of Dress - 

1. Your Height and Weight

Fabric requirement depends on your height, weight, your built and fitting. For example, you will need lesser fabric for a slim fit suit but you may need double the fabric for a long flared dress. 

2. Tailor who is stitching your dress

Some tailors keep a part of the fabric for any inconvenience caused to customer in the later stage. It is helpful to keep extra fabric in case any parts of your dress gets damaged in the process of stitching by oil spill or tear.


If you are a beginner sewist, then you must keep at least half meter to one meter fabric extra. In case of wrong cutting, you can change the design slightly.

3. Your Design requirements

  • Pattern of the dress. If you need additional frills, pleats, plackets, gathers, pockets, belts and of course you need to keep fabric provision for that.
  • Texture of fabric. That means, how it looks and feel. If fabric is stretchy, we don't need EASE allowance but if fabric is hard and stiff we may need to make adjustments.
  • If dress is cut on bias or lengthwise. Direction of pattern layout would also decide requirement of fabric. An umbrella dress cut on bias would definitely need at least 5 or 6 times more fabric than you need for A-Line dress.

Rule of thumb to buy fabric for Your simple dress

How to Know Fabric Requirement for Your Dress

How to Know Fabric Requirement for Your Dress

You must know what is length and width of a fabric. It is like this -

  • A yard of fabric is measured 36″ along the selvage of the fabric, that is the length. 
  • The width of the fabric varies by the type of fabric. Most cotton fabrics are 44″–45″ wide.

What is the standard width of a fabric bolt? 

  • The standard widths for fabric bolts include 36, 38, 42, 44/45, 48, 54, 58, 59, 60, 72 and 108 inches, with 45, 54 and 60 inches being the most common.
  • The width is often listed on a label at the end of a flat fabric bolt.

Fabric requirement : wide width vs. narrow width (Kapde ka Panna)

Wide width
60 inches / 150 cms

Narrow width
45 inches / 120 cms

Do You Need More?

  • 2 metres (3 yards)

4 metres (5 yards)

Make an upper dress or a lower for size small to medium.


Add extra if size differs or design pattern demands so.

  • 4 metres (5 yards)

6 metres (7 yards)

This much fabric is enough to cover you from collar to ankle. If you want pleats, frills, tucks etc, then keep adding.

Buy 2 or 3 meter extra if you are not sure what kind of dress you want it for.

Different methods to measure your fabric need

To make a simple dress, the rule is :-


Width of a single layer of fabric should cover widest part of your body and a few inches should be left on the sides.


Generally, widest part of body is hip but exceptionally it could be chest in some people.

So, stand in front of a mirror. Hold the fabric length wise in both your hands stretched out as if you are hiding behind a curtain and check if the fabric is covering your body part widely enough.


If yes then great! Add a few more inches to this width. These few more inches depends on the dress you are making and the design requirement.


The wideness required could be more than a few inches or lesser.

How Start to Sew

How Start to Sew

LENGTH OF THE FABRIC X 2 + SEAM ALLOWANCE / HEMMING / STITCHING ( i.e.a few more inches).

If you get single width from a 35″ wide fabric then you will need double the length of your dress requirement + additional for stitching and seam allowance etc.


For some fashion or style requirements, you may be needing extra fabric as mentioned in the drafting or by the instructor.


If you get double the width of a dress from single width of fabric, then calculate as follows :-

2 WIDTH FROM FABRIC = ONE LENGTH OF DRESS + ONE SLEEVE LENTH + SEAM ALLOWANCE / STITCHING EXTRA (ABOUT 6″ TO 10″ EXTRA).

For example,

A fabric width is 1 meter i.e. 39″ wide.


Now your Hip width is 36″.


This is single layer of fabric. When we cut a fabric, we fold it in 4 layers and divide all the measurements of chest, waist and hip by 4.


Therefore, when you fold this fabric from mid, you get half of 36″ i.e. 18″ but we need 36 divided by 4 (36/4) to get our hip measurement to cut a skirt/ pants or any lowers.


And we need to add 1″ more to this 36/4 = 9″ i.e. 9″+1″ = 10″

We may need another an inch for seam allowance and stitching and therefore we take about 11″ at four fold fabric width wise.


Now, this 11″ x 2 = 22″ and our fabric is 1 meter (39″).

Hence, we need width of this fabric x 2 + 10″ extra


But, if the fabric width is around 80″ or 2 meter then you need only one width of the fabric + 10″ extra for seam allowance etc.


FROM SINGLE WIDTH = DOUBLE LENGTH OF DRESS

If you have knee length pants of 40″


then, you may need 40″ x 2 = 80″


Plus around 5″ for hem fold / stitching etc. 


If it’s a shirt, then also you need shirt length x 2 + 2 sleeve length + seam allowance.


To sum it up, fabric requirement will be double the length + sleeves + seam allowance for upper dress and


double the length + seam allowance.


But, you will get to know with time and experience that the fabric requirement may increase as per the style / design requirement.


Secondly, if you observe the measurement closely, you will get to know the fabric required for any particular design.


Though, going by the given method, you’ll get to have fabric of your required length and width but you can save waste by using paper patterns.


At least during beginning of your sewing learning days and for making any complicated design, it is always better to use a paper pattern to curb waste of fabric.

simple Tips to know correct fabric requirement for your dress

  • If you know basics of metric system of measurement it would be easier for you to understand how sellers measure, cut and sell the yardage to you.
  • You can check the fabric requirement on each sewing pattern packing but if you are making your own patterns like me, then it is important to know the basics yourself.
  • Ask your tailor. Because it really depends on your tailor and how they work with cutting the pattern out of the bolt of fabric.
  • It is always good to have a bit extra fabric, just in case you make some changes in design, you'll need that.
  • If the fabric has a pattern, always get more fabric, as proper pattern matching will need more fabric.

Palazzo, Plazo, Pallazo, Plajo, Palajo, Palazo Pants – and so many other names, I have got to know this super comfy women’s trousers for comfort.

Common Fabric Requirement Problems, you may face


Before we begin, let's understand the practical problem you may face while making a dress or doing a sewing project. 


1. You feel helpless and dependent

Suppose, you select a design and want to get similar dress for yourself. But you don't know how much fabric you need.


You ask a shopkeeper or your designer for estimation of fabric. That person measures some fabric and gives you, and you hope you got the right fabric length. 


2. Fabric costs you more

Sometimes, you pay more for the fabric that is extra.


Many times, the seller's suggested fabric length would be much more than required and you must know that. This awareness would help you make your design changes if required.


If you are getting your dress stitched by someone else, then you will not get the extra fabric back.

You can estimate requirement of fabric by -

  1. reading sewing books,
  2. draping the clothe,
  3. take body measurements. 
  4. You can also learn basics of sewing from online videos, they will provide you a fair idea about the fabric needed for your kind of dress.

Basic Fabric Requirement Guide - Ready to use

There could be fabrics of different widths or lengths. You need to cut them according to the requirement of style and size of your dress proportions.

Not only your length, width and height matter in measuring the fabric requirement, but how you are cutting and designing the overall dress also matter.

If you choose straight grainline of fabric, then you may need standard length and width; if you cut the fabric crosswise grain, then you may need slightly lesser fabric.

Whereas, if you design the dress on bias, you need double and sometimes more fabric for your dress. Therefore, understand how fabric grainline will affect your requirement of fabric.

grain line

Straight grain line / Lengthwise Fabrc

This understanding to know fabric requirement comes with constant practice and experience.

So, let’s make it easier to cut your linen as per your needs.  

Related Read : Sewing Guide to Stitch like a Pro

How much cloth is needed for 2 piece suit?

Depends on the size, the fabric pattern, and additional features like patch pockets and double breasted.


A solid suit with regular pockets is generally around 3.5 yd/3.2 meters. Reputable manufactures will use more fabric than cheap shops because they take care to match the patterns and larger patterned fabric will require more fabric as well.


If you are 5 feet 8 inches tall and you weigh 72 kg then for a pair of trousers, it would take 1.3 to 1.4 meters of cloth (slim fit trousers).


For the blazer, it would probably take around 2.5 meters of cloth.


How Do You Test Shrinkage for Fabric

How Much Cloth Is Needed For a shirt

  • For 36″ fabric width half sleeves shirt 2:20 metre
  • For 36″ width cloth full sleeves shirt 2:40 metres
  • For 58″ width cloth half sleeves shirt 1:40 metre
  • For 58″ width cloth full sleeves shirt 1:60 metre

How to Make Shirt

How Much Cloth Is Needed For gown | Long dress

It depends upon the style of gown that you want to stitch. It also depends upon the width of the selected fabric.


If it is a straight gown then it would require maximum 2 meters fabric of 60 inch width or about 3 meters of 44 inch width fabric.


In case of flared gown, it depends upon the amount of flare required. The more the flare, the more the fabric requirement.

WHAT TO DO, IF FABRIC IS NOT AS WIDE AS DESIRED?

Good question! We can’t stretch a fabric to cut and stitch. We need to accept it as it is! Then, what to do?

  • ADD PANELS

Okay. Once you have accepted that the fabric is lesser than the width required, then you may add panels, godets or joints on the sides to cover up the fabric shortage width wise.

  • CUT WIDTHWISE

For a good long time now, a new fashion trend has come up in the ready made garments and printed dress material market, that you get your fabric designed width wise.

Weft, Crosswise grain line

Weft, Crosswise grain line

Though, it’s always better to lay and cut fabric length wise for ease of movement but if you need that dress, the way it should be made and do not wish to compromise on the design pattern then go ahead and cut it width wise.

It means get the length from the width of the fabric.

  • ALTER THE DESIGN

I know most of you would not agree with me but I do it many times that I change my design (if I’m making it for myself) to suit the fabric availability.

If you are making a dress for somebody else then it’s always better to convey them the exact situation honestly and save your broken head later.


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