How much fabric do I buy?

I often get asked how to know how much fabric to buy for any given garment when you haven’t got the pattern or details with you.

Well there is a way to calculate this and keep the details in your bag for those times when you just see a fabric you love!

Basically there are two standard fabric widths, 115cm and 150cm (90cm is craft fabric weight). There are variants either side but don’t worry about this, just choose the nearest one.

Take some close body measurements of your bust, waist and hips;

  1. Find your largest measurement and add 15cm for ease.
  2. Measure the widest part of your hips (could be thighs?) and add 15cm
  3. Measure your sleeve length and add 10cm. (Maybe measure for short, three-quarter and full length sleeves)
  4. Measure your neck (ok to do this from front of neck if you are on you own!) to hem length and add 10cm (for dress).
  5. Measure your base of neck to finished length and add 10cm (for tops).
  6. Measure waist to hem length and add 10cm (for skirts)
  7. Measure waist to finished length and add 10cm (for trousers).
  8. Measure crotch point to side seam around back and add 5cm (for trousers)

For Tops:

Fabric width 115cm;

One bodice length + one sleeve length (unless your largest measurement (1.) is more than 115cm…..then one sleeve length + 2 x body length).

Fabric width 150cm;

One body length + one sleeve length.

For tailored shirts  Two bodice lengths + one x sleeve length.

For Skirts:

Straight Skirts.

Hip measurement (2.) is 20cm less than fabric width then;

Waist to hem (6.) x 1

If more then;

Waist to hem (6.) x 2

Flared Skirt.

Waist to hem (6.) x 2


115cm wide fabric:

Waist to hem length (7.) x 2

150cm wide fabric:

Crotch to side seam (8.) x 2 = ?

If this figure is less than 75cm (half of width of fabric) then waist to hem length (7.) x 1

if this figure is more than 75cm then waist to hem length (7.) x 2


Use top and skirt calculations (based on the style of top and skirt parts of dress) and add together.

You will have a bit extra but better than not enough!.


NB. Allow extra for prints/ checks or one way design fabrics.  Approx. 50cm should be ok unless a very large print.

A great thing to do before our next fabric shopping trip – or just ask me!