Shows bolts of fabric with text overlay "What is a YARD of fabric?"

What is a Yard of Fabric? Everything You Need to Know

Always wondered what exactly is a yard of fabric? How big is it? How wide is it? What about half a yard? Two yards? Read on to learn more and figure out how much yardage you need for a project!

How Big is a Yard of Fabric?

A yard of fabric refers to 36 inches in length of the fabric, and it is measured along the selvedge of the bolt of fabric. It is called a yard of fabric because it has the same length as a yardstick.

A Yard of Fabric Equivalents:

  • 36 Inches (in)
  • 3 Feet (ft)
  • 0.9144 meters (m)
  • 91.44 centimeters (cm)

How Wide is a Yard of Fabric?

Here in the United States, common fabric widths you will find in stores are 44”, 54”, and 60” . Quilting cotton is usually 44”/45″ wide whereas apparel fabrics run between 44”- 60” wide. Interior decor fabrics are generally 54” or 60” wide.

Other widths of fabrics are: 35”-36”, 39”, 41”, 44”-45”, 50”, 52-54”, 58”-60”, 66”, 72”, 96”, and 108”

Shows 4 bolts of fabric with different widths: 120 inch, 90 inch, 44 inch, 36 inch. What are the dimensions of a yard of fabric?

Photo shows 4 different bolts of muslin fabric in varying widths: 120″, 90″, 44″, and 36″

When you visit a fabric store, you will see bolts of fabric wound around a rectangular cardboard or a long cardboard roll.

Shows bolts of fabric wound around rectangular cardboard. What is a Yard of Fabric

The fabrics around the rectangle cardboard is usually first folded in half (width-wise), then rolled around the cardboard. This means that the fabric that you see on the bolt is actually only half the actual width.

Shows bolts of home decor fabric that are rolled into a long roll. What is a Yard of fabric.

Fabric around a long roll is generally not folded. This means that the width of the fabric is the width of the roll.

How Do You Measure a Yard of Fabric?

As mentioned previously, fabric is measured along the length, which is along the selvedge. Simply take a tape measure (or yard stick), unravel the bolt and measure out 36″ (or the length of the yard stick).

What Is a Bolt of Fabric?

A bolt is a unit of measurement for a piece of cloth woven on a loom or a knitting machine. The length of a bolt usually varies between 40-100 yards. The term “a bolt of fabric”or “fabric bolt” refers to the fabric you see in stores that is wound around a long roll or around a rectangular piece of cardboard.

What Is the Selvedge of Fabric?

The selvedge of fabric (also known just as selvedge) is the side edges of fabric that runs along the length of the fabric. The selvedge of fabric is very tightly woven and prevents the fabric from fraying or unraveling.

Shows selvedge of fabric that is different colored from print fabric with manufacture's logo printed. What are the dimensions of a yard of fabric.

Sometimes the selvedge of fabric will be a different color than the fabric itself (usually a narrow white edge) and may have the manufacturer’s logo printed.

Selvedge of denim. What are dimensions of a yard of fabric
Selvedge of denim. What are dimensions of a yard of fabric

Other times the selvedge of fabric will be the same color as the fabric with a frayed edge. If you look closely, you will find little holes along the selvedge of fabric. These little holes are where hooks were placed to hold the fabric taut as it is being woven.

What is the Width of my Fabric?

To determine how wide a fabric is at the store, simply look at the bottom of the bolt and you will find the following information:

  • Width of the fabric
  • Fabric composition: (cotton, polyester, spandex, etc)
  • Pricing: listed as price/yard
  • Fabric Care Instructions
Shows bottom of fabric bolt with fabric information: Width of fabric, composition of fabric, fabric care instruction, price/yard, total yard of bolt

A 43″ wide bolt of fabric.

Shows fabric info of a bolt of 57 inch wide fabric. What is dimensions of a yard of fabric.

57″ wide bolt of fabric

Shows fabric info of a rolled bolt of fabric that is 54" wide. What are dimensions of a yard of fabric.

This tag at the bottom of a rolled bolt of fabric indicates the fabric is 54″ wide.

Be sure to check the width of fabric when determining how much fabric you need for your project. A wider fabric will allow you to stack patterns next to each other which means you won’t need as much (length of) fabric.

To determine width of fabric at home, simply measure with a tape measure from selvedge to selvedge.

How Do I Get Fabric Cut?

Here in the United States, fabric is sold in the yard. Depending on the store, you may have to buy the fabric in 1 yard increments or you may be able to purchase them in fractions of a yard. When purchasing fabric in fractions, you can get them cut in increments of 1/8th 1/4th, or 1/2 of a yard. The chart below will help you figure out how many inches/cm these fractions mean.

Fabric Yardage Conversion Table

Yard(s) of FabricInches (in)Centimeters (cm)
1/84.5 in11.43 cm
1/49 in22.86 cm
3/813.5 in34.29 cm
1/218 in45.72 cm
5/822.5 in57.15 cm
3/427 in68.58 cm
7/831.5 in80.01 cm
136 in91.44 cm
1 1/840.5 in102.87 cm
1 1/445 in114.3 cm
1 3/849.5 in123.19 cm
1 1/254 in 137.16 cm
1 5/858.5 in148.59 cm
1 3/463 in160.02 cm
1 7/867.5 in171.45 cm
272 in 182.88 cm

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Photo of fabric store worker cutting 6" of fabric in the United States. What are dimensions of a yard of fabric.

Fabric store worker cutting 6″ of fabric (United States).

Certain stores like Joann Fabric and Crafts allows you to purchase fabric by the inch when you purchase in store, with the smallest amount being 4.5″ (1/8 of a yard).

How Many Feet are in a Yard of Fabric?

To determine the number of feet in a yard, simply multiply the yard by 3.

Yard(s) of FabricFeet (ft)
13 ft
2 6 ft
39 ft
412 ft
515 ft
618 ft
721 ft
824 ft
927 ft
1030 ft

How Many Meters are in a Yard of Fabric?

To determine the number of meters in a yard, multiply yard by 0.9144.

Yard(s) of FabricMeters (m)
10.9144 m
21.8288 m
32.7432 m
43.6576 m
54.572 m
65.4864 m
76.4008 m
87.3152 m
98.2296 m
109.144 m

What is the Dimensions of a Yard of Fabric?

The dimensions of a yard of fabric depends solely on the width of the fabric, because the length of a yard (36 inches) always stays the same. If the width of the fabric is 44”, then it’s dimension will be 44” (width) x 36”(length). If the width of the fabric is 54”, then it’s dimension will be 54” (wide) x 36” (length), and so forth.

How Many Yards of Fabric Do I Need?

The number of yards of fabric you need depends on the project. While there is no magic formula, the following tips should give you a general guideline to figure out how much fabric you need.

Commercial Patterns

For commercial patterns, you will find a chart at the back of the pattern that tells you how much fabric is needed for the apparel size you are wanting to make. The chart will also tell you how many yards you need based on how wide the fabric is (usually 44” or 54”wide).

Back of commercial pattern with overlay of text to help determine yardage of fabric needed for different pattern size, and either 45" width fabric or 60" wide fabric

Sewing Clothes

For sewing apparel, first check to make sure the width of the pattern fits within how wide your fabric is when the grain line is parallel to the selvedge. Don’t forget to add seam allowance (usually 1”) when figuring out if the pattern fits within the width of the fabric. Otherwise, your clothing will be turn out tighter than you planned.

Next, measure the length of each pattern piece, add those lengths up and divide that number by 36” (1 yard). This will give you the number of yards of you need. Again, make sure to add seam allowance and Hem allowance when measuring pattern length. Otherwise, your clothes will end up shorter than planned

Pillows and Other Small Projects

For every pillow you sew, make sure the pattern fits on the folded width of the fabric (because you need 2 pieces of the pattern to make 1 pillow). Next, determine the length of the pattern and add the seam allowance of 1” (if not already included). Divide this number by 36″ to get the yardage you need.

For other small projects (hats, bags, zipper pouches, etc), the same method applies for determining how much fabric you need.

Other Considerations

  • Fabrics Shrink in the Wash, so make sure to get a little more fabric to accommodate the shrinkage, otherwise your pattern may not fit on the fabric once it’s been pre-washed.
  • You don’t get the actual amount of fabric you asked for. Why? Because often times the fabric isn’t cut perfectly straight. Other times the fabric is cut in a slight diagonal and you end up with once side of the fabric bigger than the other. Again, try to get a few more inches to account for this cutting error.
  • Your fabric has a specific design or motif (for example, a large flower you want centered on the tote bag). Take that into account as you may need extra fabric so the motif is cut at the right place.

ALWAYS get more fabric when you aren’t sure, and always round up. It is misery when you come home to cut your pattern pieces out just to realize you didn’t buy enough. Even worse when you return to the store and they are sold out of the same fabric * cry *. Also, there is always the chance you cut the wrong pattern piece, or you make a mistake during sewing and now you need to re-cut the pattern. This is true for beginner and advanced sew-ists, so yes, more is better!

However, it is understandable that fabrics costs quickly add up. This is why custom clothing includes the use of making a muslin. A muslin is a mock up of what the end product will look like and usually made with a cheap fabric (called muslin fabric) that is usually a off-white (un-dyed) cotton. This allows you to make sizing adjustments on the model and helps you know how much fabric you actually need.

How to Make Sure You Have Enough Fabric?

The Number 1 tip (and I abide by this rule) to make sure you buy enough fabric is simply to bring your patterns to the store. Unroll the fabric on the cutting counter and lay your pattern pieces on it. Doing so has saved me countless trips back to the fabric store. It also helps me not overbuy fabric as I can lay my pattern pieces out and move them around to see if I can fit certain pieces next to another one.

I hope this post was helpful to you in understanding what a yard of fabric is and related questions! Let me know in the comments below if you have other questions 🙂

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