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How Much Fabric Do I Need?

So you had this great idea; you’ve made this amazing design and uploaded it to the MyFabricDesigns website. Now, you’re at the order screen and you’re stuck. How much fabric do you need to order??!?!

We know that trying to figure out how much fabric to order can be frustrating or even just confusing. Sometimes you need to make just one item, sometimes 100! What do you do? How do you figure out how much to order? Who do you talk to?

Don’t worry, we’re here today to help guide you through what to do or who to talk to.

One Time Projects & Small Production

When figuring out how much fabric you need to purchase you will need:
• your pattern(s)
• the fabric width you’ll be using and
• the number of items you will be making

Whether you’re making one item or just a few, all aspects of creating these pieces will likely be done by you. Figuring out how much fabric you need is fairly simple if you’re using a commercial pattern like the one above. All the information is usually printed on the back of the envelope (image below).

If you made the pattern yourself, it will take a few extra steps to figure out how much fabric you need. A good way to do this is to find a work surface that can mimic the dimensions of your fabric. If your work surface is big enough, take some masking tape and mark off the area that would represent your fabric. See our image below, we have placed a piece of masking tape along one side to signify the “edge of the fabric”, reducing the 60″X 36″ workspace to 45″X 36″. Using the tape as a barrier, we placed the patterns as closely as we could together within the specified space while still maintaining the appropriate grainline of each pattern piece. In the second image, you can see the patterns laid out very poorly and using up almost an entire yard of fabric! Be mindful of wasted fabric and try to place pieces as close together as possible.

Grainline- the marking on a pattern piece to indicate how the pattern piece should lie on the fabric.

Through this method, we figured out we could cut one garment in about 45″X 25″ worth of fabric. Now, if we needed to cut out three garments then we could safely assume that about 75″ or roughly 2 yards of fabric would be all we needed, versus the 3+yds required using the rough estimation of the second photo above.

Mass Production

  • Markers- the layout in which your patterns are placed onto fabric to achieve the least amount of fabric waste (image below).
  • Ply-Layers of fabric cut to the same length and stacked on top of one another in preparation of mass production cutting.

In mass production, you will have to recruit the assistance of a pattern maker, marker maker, fabric cutter, and a production facility. If you are working closely with a production facility they could help you with their on-hand staff, just ask what their capabilities are. Your hand drafted patterns work fine for a small production or in-home sewing but once you are in the mass production world you will need to have your sewing patterns digitized. One reason being your fabric cutter will need a marker to use as a guide to cut out your fabric, which they will most likely only do by using your digitized patterns.

Using your new digitized patterns the marker maker starts placing them out in CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software in a rectangular workspace set up to the dimensions of your fabric. The marker maker will then puzzle your patterns together, trying out different variations until the highest use of your fabric is achieved. (Example below)

Note: The patternmaker and marker-maker can often be the same people, it often depends on whether your pattern maker offers that service. If not, then you’ll need to hire a marker-maker.

Once all your patterns are digitized the marker maker will need to know how many products you intend on producing. The more sizes and style variations you have usually aides them in their ability to maximize the use of your fabric. Once completed, the marker maker will be able to tell you how much fabric is needed for your current order.

From there the fabric cutters will lay the printed paper marker over the plys of fabric to cut out your patterns. Once done they will be sent to the production facility for assembly.

The production facility will usually take care of most if not all your assembly needs: fusing, sewing, decoration, and pressing. You will have to discuss the scope of work that needs to be done to complete each item, to make sure that your facility has the capability of handling your type of project. The equipment used in these facilities are highly specialized and geared towards a certain type of production. So one facility may be set up towards stretch garment sewing and another may be set up towards boat upholstery.

Just be sure to communicate your needs to all your contractors, they are there to help you and will tell you if something is in their capability or if you’ll have to outsource it to another company.

Hope this has helped guide you where you need to go so you can now order your custom printed fabric with confidence from!

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