844-BIG-Z-FAB (244-9322)

We cut our fabric by the yard. Currently the minimum length of fabric you can order from our store is 1 full yard of fabric. But how do you know how many yards to order in total? While we can’t give you an exact formula because every project is different, we are hoping the information below can help you get a better approximation or at least give you something more to consider before making a purchase.

One more note before we move on… this is a broad guide that we know will leave you with more questions than answers. But that is why we are always available to you by calling 844-244-9322 or emailing sales @ bigzfabric.com. Our team can help you through the process on a more individual and tailored basis.

Ok, let’s begin.

Understanding Fabric Dimensions

Fabric is generally sold in linear yards (36 inches or 91.44 cm). However, a yard of fabric refers to the length of the material only. This means we “cut at the yard”. In fact you can view a video of how we do this here. However, the width can vary from fabric to fabric. We sell fabric that is commonly available in 45, 54, or 60 inches for example. Therefore, the total square footage of the fabric is given by the formula:

Square footage=Length (in yards)×Width (in inches)×(1/144)

This formula takes the length of the fabric in yards, multiplies it by the width in inches, and then divides it by 144 to convert the area to square feet.

Project-Specific Measurements

In order to precisely calculate the amount of fabric required, one must first determine the project’s needs. Here, we showcase how to translate project dimensions into fabric requirements:

Detailed Analysis of Project Requirements:

List down the individual sections of your project that require fabric. Note down the dimensions of each section in inches or centimeters. Often times a pattern you buy will include this…which is simply what this step is detailing. Imaging exploding your project into individual components that each needs to be covered by fabric. This will give you the template you need to calculate your total fabric needs.

Conversion to Yards:

Convert the dimensions from inches or centimeters to yards using the conversion formulas:

  • Yard length from inches = Length (in inches)×(1/36)
  • Yard length in centimeters=Length (in cm)×(1/91.44​)

Why might you want to do this? Well, you’re going to want to do this for the length and width of your project. This will give you an overall area that you know you need to cover.

Most of the fabric we carry is wider than 1 yard. This would mean that the total you get from this step would be a good estimate of the total yards you would order from our store. See below…

Calculating Fabric Requirement:

You must be able to visualize how your cutting will look. It is not common to have your total calculated yards equal the amount you actually need to accommodate every component of your project due to shapes. Try to imagine cutting out each piece from a square whole yard and see if you can get two parts out of one full yard, for example. Sometimes you’ll need to order more to fit. This is covered below some more.

Let’s give an example. Imagine you wanted to upholster the top of a round circular table. We are going to show 3 diagrams below.

In this example we are buying the “Classic Ostrich Upholstery Vinyl” shown above. In that image you can see that it has a shipping width of 54 inches. Lets discuss:

Scenario 1: Your circular table is 36 inches in diameter. In this case if you bought 1 yard of fabric you could upholster the entire table. Why? Well…you ordered 1 yard which is 36 inches which would cover one direction. And the fabric is 54 inches wide which would leave you with about 18 left over inches rectangularly. In fact you’d have more left over portions following the curvature of the table…more on that later.

Scenario 2: Your circular table is now 63 inches in diameter. Here, no single yard of fabric will cover the entirety of the diameter. Here you can see that if you ordered 4 yards of fabric you’d have more than enough to do the job. You’d be left with a lot of scraps of fabric so you might want to spend a bit of time thinking through your project in case it allows for…

Scenario 3: The same 63 inch table can actually be covered by ordering only 3 yards of fabric! You’ll notice that in the scrap portion of one of the yards of fabric you could cut out the last piece of the circular table.

As you can see from this simple example, it is a great idea to spend some time visualizing and/or diagramming your project so that you can save money and make the most of your fabric. There are some considerations that are not covered in these diagrams that are important to highlight still:

  • These diagrams and this example do not account for seam/hem allowances and edge waste. In reality many fabrics have about 1 inch of fabric on the edges that are unusable. We should note this in product descriptions.
  • When you order multiple yards from us we only cut ONCE. So in this example if you ordered 4 yards or 3 yards, we’d measure out the full 3 yards and then cut it from our roll. You’d need to cut your fabric yourself for the project.
  • Understanding that we only make one cut…you should think through your project and consider how many cuts is optimal for you. Obviously every cut means you need to sew a seam. This could work against your aesthetic so you you might want to figure out how to use the most amount of contiguous yards at once and limit your cuts.


Calculating how much fabric you need is an important skill to master. If you’re able to plan out your fabric needs correctly you’ll save money by reducing wasted fabric and you’ll save time by reducing your wait time for more fabric to arrive to finish a job. As you work though your project planning you should always think one or two steps ahead so that when you’re placing an order or fabric you’ve got exactly (and only) what you need. As always…we are around to help! Just reach out!

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3400 Slauson Ave Unit A,
Maywood CA 90270

213-745-BIGZ (2449)

844-BIG-Z-FAB (244-9322)

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