An In-Between Post

Lovely large, red tomatoes just begging to be made into a sandwich; I thought it’s be nicer to look at than a piece of paper…

It’s another sewing hiatus for me; my home is well into a kitchen renovation, which also happens to include my new sewing studio. Why? The home we bought had a party room, which had a kitchenette – or summer kitchen as the contractor calls it – and it’s this room that we’re converting into my sewing studio. So, out with the kitchenette, and on with the sewing… in another few weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve been cooking on a hot plate and raking through piles of sewing notes, which I never seem to manage to file in my binders. And in that pile of notes I found this sheet: can you guess what it is?

They’re “My Numbers,” the general amounts of yardage I need for a variety of garment patterns. These are of course specific to me; everyone will have their own yardage amounts, which will also depend on what pattern you’re using.

I came across the idea rather early on in my sewing career. I won’t say I made it up myself, but I decided to make a list for myself after reading a few online posts. I kept coming across the same questions over and over again in sewing forums: “how much fabric do I need to make X” and of course, the answer is always “it depends” which of course the original poster never wanted to hear, but it’s the truth.

For instance, I was at Quilt Show once, buying some yardage for shirts for my husband (yes, there are many, many vendors at Houston International Quilt Show selling garment fabrics, trims, beautiful laces, jewelry, leathers, etc. it’s not just quilts! Though those are lovely to look at…) I know that I need 3.5 yards of 42 to 52 inch fabric to make him a short- or long-sleeve shirt. If I’m lucky enough to come across fabric that’s at least 58 inches, then I can by 4 yards and get one short- and one long-sleeve shirt for him.

A lady approached me while my fabric was being cut and asked what I was buying the fabric for, so I told her, shirts for my husband. She then asked me how much was needed to make a shirt; so, I explained “my husband needs X-amount of Y-wide fabric for Z-type of shirt.” And depending on which shirt she was making and whom for, that would determine what she needed. She got frustrated with my answer – I think she wanted to say, why can’t you just give me a single number – but the vendor overheard us and explained “you see, her husband is very tall, and needs this much fabric (I had mentioned my husband’s height previously to him) and since I’m a much shorter man, I need this much fabric.” I think she finally accepted that she really needed more information, but she still was a bit miffed about our “no answer” answer.

A variation on that question is “how much of a fabric should I buy for my stash” and the answer again is, it depends. What do you want the fabric for? Do you think you’ll make a blouse, a pillow? Frame a panel for a wall hanging?

Most of us have some idea of what we’d like to do with a fabric, even if it’s only a vague idea: garment, or quilting, or home décor, etc. And knowing approximately how much we need to buy is great help if we’re trying to build a stash. Even when you have a specific project in mind, it will be good to know how much you may need. It’s always best to consult your pattern of course, but we may not have the pattern to hand, and we’re not likely to remember how much the pattern specified. So when we come across a really great fabric, we can guesstimate how much we’ll need if we know our individual yardage numbers.

So how do you figure out what your numbers are, especially if you haven’t done much sewing? Gather some patterns and check the charts on the back. You don’t even need to own the patterns, most pattern companies list the yardage on their websites. Then based on your size, write down the yardage. I would take the average of a good dozen patterns that are pretty similar and you have a good number to start with.

If you’re more experienced, you can adjust the numbers as you know you’ll need to; for instance, I know that I can reduce the amount for pants by about a half yard because I’ve always had at least that much fabric left over. Thus, I arrived at my yardage for pants. Creating your own chart is a very useful exercise, and won’t take you more than an hour or so; I encourage you to make one for yourself.

A teaser for the next post: the other side of the page!

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