top of page

30 Minutes with Workroom Tech / Episode 41: Calculating Yardage

On Episode 41 of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30 Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock answer questions about calculating yardage submitted by the Workroom and Accountability Mentoring Group. Listen and learn as Ceil and Susan answer questions about part of any workroom business.

How to calculate yardage with a large repeats for draperies?

Figure your cut length first.

The cut length is the finished length plus allowances for hems and headings depending on the style you are making. Susan shared that her usual allowance for draperies is 18 inches.

Finished length + 18 inches = ____ divided by the pattern repeat = ____ round up!


Pattern repeat is 25 inches

Finished length of 90 inches + 18 = 108 divided by 25 inch pattern repeat = 4.35 round up to 5 pattern repeats.

5 repeats x 25 inch pattern repeat = 125 inches which is the ADJUSTED CUT LENGTH

Multiply the ADJUSTED CUT LENGTH by the number of cuts needed.

If the job is for one window with three cuts (1.5 widths each side) then you will multiply 125 x 3 = 375 inches of fabric, divided by 36 inches which will be 10.4 yards. Round up!!!!

It's good practice to add one extra yard or one repeat, which ever is greater. For this example a yard (36") is greater so you will add one extra yard and order 11.5 yards.

What is a drop repeat and how do you figure yardage with a drop repeat?

Most pattern repeats match across the fabric from one edge of the selvage to the other.

Some fabrics don’t match straight across but “drop” down to match on the other side.

When figuring yardage on a drop match, you need to know how many cuts need to be matched and plan your cuts as “A” or “B”. You will cut all the A pieces first, then drop down a half repeat and cut the B pieces. When you seam the cuts together you are sewing A-B-A-B...

How do you calculate yardage on cushions?

It helps to draw out a cut plan on graph paper. If using a patterned fabric, you will need to add extra to match the boxing strips on the front of the cushion. Don’t be skimpy with extra for welt cord! Using a worksheet is helpful because it will remind you to add for extras like welt cord. There is a boxed/welted cushion planning worksheet available from The Funky Little Chair.

When do you calculate with railroading the fabric vs. straight of grain?

Railroading is a workroom term used to describe a way of working with fabric so that it turned and run down the bolt instead of side to side. This is common in upholstery, or when making valances and top treatments to eliminate seams. Some fabrics are printed with this orientation specifically for upholstery.

If you are using a solid fabric, or a fabric with a non-directional print (like polka dots) then you can cut the fabric railroaded for no seams on bed skirts, valances and short draperies like café curtains and even some shades. You can railroad cushions and pillows.

Some fabrics are printed or woven with a railroaded orientation specifically for upholstery (54 inch wide goods) and for draperies (108 inch wide goods).

When figuring sheer draperies with a 108 inch railroaded fabric you will determine the number of widths or cuts needed, and then divide that by 36 for the number or yards.

For example:

For a 100 inch wide window at 3 times fullness for sheers, you will need 300 inches of material divided by 36 = 8.3 Round up!!! Susan would order 9.5 yards of fabric for this window.

Be sure the railroaded fabric works for the finished length!

To learn more about railroaded fabrics, check out this video from Stevenson Vestal

How much extra do you add for a fudge factor or table allowance? When do you add it and how much?

For cut length, Susan adds two inches for the “tabling allowance” or “workroom allowance” for draperies, valances and bed skirts.

For pillows, cushions and pieces for valances be sure to add for the seam allowances.

How do you order enough fabric to ensure a visually appealing placement of the motif?

This is an example of why it’s important to add at least one extra pattern repeat, or one extra yard (which ever is greater) to your yardage calculations… or more in some cases. You don’t know where the pattern repeat will start on the bolt of fabric. You want to be certain that you receive enough full pattern repeats. See 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech Episode 19: Pattern Matching

How can you figure yardage if the windows are different sizes and/or different heights?

Pre-planning is really important. Most often you will want the pattern to match horizontally across the room from one window to the other. On floor length draperies, if the floor is the same but the tops of the windows are at different heights then you will plan to match from the bottom up. If it’s the opposite, where the top of the rods/windows are all at the same level but there is a step down to another area of the room then you will match from the top down.

There are exceptions! On roman shades it might look better if all the tops match, no matter what height the shade is in the room especially for stationary shades. But, if the windows are close together then you will want all the shades to match across that wall of windows. Pre-plan! Check with the client to see what they prefer.

When figuring yardage for odd shaped items, do you measure from the outer most points and use that rectangle for figuring yardage?

Yes, always go bigger. For something like a shaped chair cushion, or an arched window you will calculate yardage based on the greater size. Sometimes you will be estimating based on measurements during the construction phase…. that’s another time where you will want to be generous with the yardage calculation and plan for the larger measurement.

How do you calculate yardage for details like welt cord, banding and ruffles?

For bias cuts for welt cord, 1 1/2 yards will give you 72 inch strips and then you will add on to that for the number of pieces needed. For just a pillow or two, add less based on this formula:

For banding you need to know the banding width, based on the style of banding and how it is applied. Sometimes you can railroad banding cuts for no seams. For shaped banding it's helpful to draw it out on graph paper. See 30-Mintues with Workroom Tech Episode 16: Fabric Banding and Episode 17: Shaped Banding

For ruffles you need to know your cut size (finished size x 2 plus 1-inch for seams) by how many cuts are needed based on the fullness.

For example: A 20 inch pillow with a 3 inch gathered ruffle.

20 inches x 4 sides = 80 x 2.5 fullness* for the ruffle = 200 divided by the fabric width (54”) = 3.7 Round up! That pillow needs 4 cuts of ruffle.

4 cuts x 7 inch cuts = 28 inches = 7 and round up! You will order 1 yard for the ruffles.

*pleated ruffles require 3 times fullness

If a client plans to add items in the future and wants to use the same fabric, should you order it all at the same time?

Yes, absolutely. The fabric could be discontinued, or the dye lot may vary. If they want a perfect match it’s better to purchase all the fabric at the same time.

How do you figure yardage for anything tufted like headboards, cornice boards or ottomans?

For flat buttoned styles and not traditional deep tufting there isn’t too much take up so you only need to allow extra for wrapping, stapling and centering seams and pattern motifs.

For deep, traditional button tufting you will need to pre-plan the tufting pattern on graph paper. Figure the amount needed for the width and length, plus extra to staple over edges and under. In addition, you will need an allowance for the take up of button tufting. You need to know how many buttons (based on the tufting pattern) and how deep the pull. This comes with experience so it’s a good idea to practice and learn first.

Recommended tufting project resources:

Drapery & Design Digital Digest, June 2018, How to Make A Tufted Bench by Caternia Meadows

SewWhat? Magazine, 2005 Vol 3, Tufted Coffee Table Ottoman, Leslie Fehling available to view at The Curtains and Soft Furnishings Resource Library

Final thoughts….

1) Quoting is part of your job as a workroom professional. You should not expect the designer (or customer) to do this for you. Another benefit of the workroom figuring the yardage is that when the fabric arrives for the job, you already know the cut lengths or have a cut plan drawn out. If someone else figures the yardage you don't know what their allowances were, or how they planned the pattern motif to be placed. Calculating yardage is like building a foundation for the project.

2) If you are ballpark quoting be generous. Customers would rather hear that they need less when the actual dimensions and quotes are delivered than more.

3) In some cases, you might need to draft a pattern before you can give an accurate quote.

4) There is often a lot of waste with fabricating window treatments and other furnishings. It can be shocking, especially when the fabric is expensive. It is what it is… don’t feel like you did anything wrong.

5) Practice, practice, practice!

1,383 views0 comments


bottom of page