So one of the major bone of contention in sewing especially for Beginners and even Intermediate sewists alike is the inability to determine the right amount of fabric to use for a particular style or outfit without the use of patterns. To be real, in Nigeria, we rarely use patterns( which are usually more likely to indicate this for you), so it can be very disastrous when after cutting out a particular style, you find out that you have no fabric left to continue. For Advanced sewists, that can literally put you in a bad place with clients/customers.

Some sewists in time via theory of thumb eventually get used to guessing right. But isn’t there like some shortcut or way of figuring it out?

Well, there is and I’ll love to share my formula with you but before we get into these, let me quickly point out that there are several factors that help you decide what amount of fabric to use and these are:


  1. Type of fabric: This could be knitted(stretch fabric) or non-knitted( non-stretch fabric). While less yardage of fabric is used when sewing a knitted fabric, more fabric is used when sewing a non-knitted fabric. This is because non-knitted fabric will need extra space for movement and zip allowances at the back, front or sides.
  2. Length of fabric: Now, most fabrics come in a length of 45 inches or 60inches. A 45 inches fabric is shorter in length than a 60 inches fabric. So there is a higher chance of using more yardage in a 45 inches fabric than in a 60 inches fabric. Take for example, I want to make a straight gown that stops at my knee and the distance between my shoulder and knee is 38 inches plus seam allowance. In a 45 inches fabric, I might be about to cut out that length. What will be left will be 7 inches and this will definitely not be enough to cut out my sleeves. So I would have to move to another length of the fabric to cut the sleeves. But in the case of a 60 inches, I will have 22 inches leftover fabric which is more likely to be enough for sleeves.
  3. Height  : One of the biggest factor that helps determine the right amount of fabric of use is the height of the individual you plan to make the outfit for.
  4. Hip & Bust measurement: These two measurements are of course the most vital factors that also help to determine the right amount of fabric to use.
  5. Style in question/ Sewing technique: Lastly, the style you plan to make can also determine how much yardage you intend of use. If the style depends on the use of pattern/sewing techniques like slash and spread, slash and reduce(princess seam/dart), darts, breast padded techniques, there is a chance that you will require more use of fabric.

So with all that firmly established, let’s get down to the juicy part.

I’ll divide my formula into the four basic style-making concepts in sewing which are Blouses, Skirts, Gowns, Trousers, in light of the two major types of fabric popularly used in sewing. i.e stretch and non-stretch fabric.


When making a blouse, it is essential to always note down the basic body measurements which include

  • Shoulders,
  • Bust,
  • Nape,
  • Waist,
  • Abdomen,
  • Blouse length(The distance between your shoulder and where you want the blouse to stop).
  • Sleeve length

However, among all these body measurements, the most relevant in determining how much yardage you will need for a basic blouse is the bust measurement because this is the widest part of the upper body. So let’s assume that the bust measurement is 38 inches.

Calculation of the yardage for a basic blouse:

Tips: Always approximate to the nearest whole number.


For a basic skirt like straight skirt or pencil skirts, the body measurements required are:

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Hip length
  • Skirt length(Long or short)

However, among all these body measurements, the most relevant in determining how much yardage you will need is the Hip measurement because this is the widest part of the lower body. So let’s assume that the Hip measurement is 40 inches.

Calculation of the yardage for a basic skirt:

Tips: Always approximate to the nearest whole number


For straight gowns, the greatest determinant is of course the hip measurement except in unusual cases, where the bust is bigger than the hip.

While for gown, the right amount of fabric to use is identical to Basic Skirt, Trousers includes the calculation of crotch. When making trousers, the crotch lengths of the back pieces are inevitably longer than the front( see more here) . Then there are other major accessories, like pockets, bands, zipper fly etc.

Calculation of the yardage for a basic trousers/pants:

So that’s it, my formula…It’s not a 100 percent solid but it gives me an idea of how much fabric to buy or use while sewing.

Got your own ideas that work for you? please share on the comment box.

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