If you were to ask a quilter, a knitter or a sewist of almost any kind the number one irritating practical problem they face it would be estimating yardage for a project. Unless you are using a pattern and relying on the exact number of yards called for, you’re in the guessing realm. Even for written patterns, almost all depend on a system whereby they round UP….. meaning you have too much, OR if you’re like most creatives you make a pattern your own by adding (or subtracting) length, sleeves, ease, style or size of a quilt or home dec project.
You can guess, or round WAY WAY up— but that leaves a lot of money on the table that could be better used for another project, right?
Quilters can use any number of quilt programs for PC or Mac where you can input the block type and add fabric to the blocks resulting in a fairly accurate yardage count.
Sewists can look at a similar pattern and guess–
Knitters can do the same.
But it all relies on a basic foundation.
Quilters need a block type and count + sashing + backing
Sewists need length and body width, knowledge of how many pattern pieces they’ll be cutting and their length (ex. bodice front and back, sleeves, facings, etc.)
Knitters need garment type and gauge.
With these foundations in place you can much better estimate yardage needed. Add to that some excellent resources on the web and you’ll dial down the zone quite a bit.
From Jimmy Beans comes a favorite yarn calculator (and there are others!).
This example uses a cardigan style sweater 40″ in chest size with a worsted weight yarn. The assumptions are given on the right. There are lots of variables to use the calculator.
Again there are lots of resources:
& a quilt yardage calculator from Quiltbug makes it easy for main yardage and binding:
A backing and binding calculator from Quilters Paradise is very useful as well:
Sewing Garments for Misses, Men or Kids? There are calculators and estimators as well!
From (believe it or not) Dummies comes a useful list:
You still won’t be Bang On Accurate, but you’ll be close.
Closer Yet requires some sketching and some time…… you may want to estimate and call it good. If you are using a particularly expensive fabric and can’t layout your pattern in the store (!) a layout is a good idea. Draw out the length and width of the fabric and TO SCALE add your pattern pieces in an economical layout. (Use the layout/cutting instructions from your pattern if need be). You’ll be close but I suggest you add in a little bit of extra just in case!
Keep an idea ‘in your head’ (sounds scary) of the garment….. and how it is likely to fit on fabric. A skirt? Unless you are more than 90 inches in circumference you will need only one length of fabric. Length? How long do you want with allowance for hem and waistband. Shirt? Usually one length for the front, one for the back, add sleeve length and any extras like facings, cuffs, linings, etc.
Lastly, keep notes! Many knitters, quilters or sewists keep a sort of journal with each garment made. When you add a sketch or photo of each project with the yardage requirements of fabric or yarn you’ll soon get your own built in estimator. Having a written record helps jog the memory!
Plan well and have fun!