Years ago I read a bumper sticker reading "She who dies with the most fabric wins." My husband has long since stopped complaining, as it does him no good. I must have enough fabric now to open my own retail store, but still, it's not enough. The personality of the fabric reaches out to me and I see a clear picture in my minds eye of the perfect style. The fabric "speaks" to me, telling me what it longs to be... and I tell myself that it's my duty to make it come to pass.
I don't know about you, but I assume that estimating yardage is a regular event for those of us addicted to fabric. I found this chart made available by an online fabric shop, which I'm sure is very helpful to many folks, but myself, I found it a little overwhelming.
Personally, I think in simple terms, such as the area the fabric needs to cover, rather than in terms of standard or average yardage. In most cases, for a slim style, the fabric will be wide enough to accommodate one side of the body, so measuring for the desired length for all sides is really all that is required. It might also be helpful to remember that the grain of the fabric usually goes down our center front and back, thus the reason for measuring in "lengths" = whatever your term of measurement is.
Example: Let's say we want to make a fitted dress that has a pencil skirt, short sleeves and contrast collar. We want the skirt length to be 30", our backwaist is 16.5, and the sleeves will be about 10". We'll also want to add in a few extra inches to each of these numbers to give ourselves room for hems and some style and layout flexibility.
1. First add the body length measurements twice (for front and back) .
32"+20"=52"x 2 = 104"
2. Now we'll add in one length for sleeves.
104" + 12" = 116"
3. Now divide by 36" (number of inches in a yard).
116"/36" = 3.22 yards
I would round that up to 3.5 yards. Always round up.
Now we have to think of the contrast collar. Is it wide, like a sailor collar? Measure the length it will cover from front to back: how far down will it come in the front? How long will it hang down the back? Will 1/2 yard be enough? Maybe 3/4? You get the idea.
When it comes to full skirts, think in terms of doubling or tripling the length for each side, but just for the skirt section. Will two lengths per side be full enough? For a 45" wide fabric, the skirt with double lengths would be up to 150"- 160" in circumference.
There now! If you have not yet become a fabric collector in the race against time, you now have the most important knowledge necessary to become one. Because as they say, "she who dies with the most fabric wins!"