Whatever project you’re working on, there’s one question you should ask first. How much fabric do you need to complete it? Sold in units called yards, the fabric you buy has to match the size of the project. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds. How big is a yard of fabric?
A yard is a unit of measurement equal to 3 feet or 36 inches. With fabric, a yard refers to the length only. The width can vary from 36 inches for quilting cotton, to 108 inches for sheeting. One yard of fabric can be bigger or smaller than another depending on the type of fabric you need.
With so many variables, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Reading this article will help you take the confusion out of fabric shopping.
How Big Is a Yard of Fabric?
Asking how big is a yard of fabric, is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string.There are several things you need to know to be able to tell how big a yard will be. The type of fabric and whether it comes on a roll or a bolt will make a difference to the width. Different widths will change the overall size of your yard of fabric.
If determining how big a yard of fabric is nowadays is confusing you, spare a thought for our head-scratching ancestors. The farther back in history you go, the less chance you have of standard measurements.
Originally, things were measured using whatever was to hand at the time. Which in most cases was an actual hand. Or a thumb. Maybe even a foot. To this day we still measure distance in feet. Even horses are still measured in hands.
A large problem with the body part measuring system was the lack of any uniform sizes. Take an inch for instance. The distance from the knuckle to the tip of an adult’s thumb is an inch. Or near enough.
The length of a foot is based on the size of an average man’s foot. A yard was a man’s girth or belt. Until Henry 1st of England decreed a yard needed to have a set distance. So he decided it would be the length from the tip of his nose to the tip of his thumb on an outstretched arm.
All of which is great, if you happen to have an average man’s foot, or even Henry 1st’s arm with you when you’re measuring fabric. Most of us don’t. So you’ll be glad to know modern-day measurements are more streamlined; up to a point.
What Are the Different Dimensions of a Yard of Fabric?
Although fabric is sold by the yard, you don’t always have to buy a full yard. Some stores allow you to buy smaller lengths. This is particularly useful if you are a quilter or make a lot of small projects. The less fabric yardage you buy, the less waste fabric you are left with.
Depending on where you live, you may find different words used to describe the different cuts available. Not all cuts or sizes are available everywhere. Here are some of the more common terms:
The term linear means a straight line. When it comes to fabric, a linear yard is measured along the length of the material. This length is also known as the straight grain and runs parallel to the selvage or edge of the fabric. So a linear yard will follow the straight grain. The term is used on any length from one yard and upwards. Multiple yards are usually cut as a continuous run. Linear yards can also be cut into separate yards, depending on the buyer’s needs.
A running yard is measured in the same way as a linear yard. The difference here is a running yard refers to a long length of fabric cut as a continuous run. For instance, if you need 3 yards, the retailer will measure out the yardage and cut it as a whole length and not as individual yards. It’s a term normally used when buyers need more than one yard in a long, uncut length.
Three-Quarters of a yard (¾)
As the name suggests this cut of fabric is a quarter short of a full yard. Ideal for smaller projects, like hats, scarves, or dolls clothes. Quilters, in particular, love this size due to its flexibility. It is big enough for making quilt blocks, yet small enough to reduce waste, it’s a great option for stash building. Measuring 27 x 44 inches, three-quarters of a yard gets you a usable length with the same width as a full yard.
Two-Thirds of a Yard (⅔)
Another useful size for smaller projects, two-thirds of a yard is about 24 x 44 inches. Although smaller than three-quarters, it’s still a useful amount for sewing projects. It’s also a flexible option for when you’ve run out of fabric for your project but only need a small amount to complete it.
Half Yard (½)
The next size down measuring in at 18 x 44 inches is the half yard. Another great size for quilters and makers of doll clothes. As well as being sold as individual lengths, the three-quarter yard, two-thirds, and half a yard can also be sold as a run of fabric when combined with a full yard.
The fat quarter is a bit like a baker’s dozen. It’s cut a little bit on the generous size to give the buyer an extra amount of fabric. Usually measuring either 18 x 21 inches, or in some areas, 18 x 22 inches, the fat quarter is a rectangle-shaped cut of fabric designed for quilting. The piece measures the same length as half a yard but only measures half of the width. Fat quarters can be sold individually or in packs of individual pieces of different colors and patterns.
One-Eighth of a Yard (⅛)
This size is 4.5 inches long by 44 inches wide. An ideal length and width for making borders or sashing on small quilted projects.
How Many Inches Are In A Yard Of Fabric
As we saw earlier in the article, measurements used to be a bit hit and miss. With less of the emphasis on accuracy than we have today. Measuring in the past was more of an “it’s close enough” arrangement.
All that changed when the body measuring system became the Imperial system also known as the US Customary System. Units became standardized so instead of a foot being the size of a human foot, it became fixed at a uniform 12 inches.
The length of a yard was also set in stone. A yard was defined as being equal to 3 feet. Now that we know one foot is 12 inches, we can rest assured that 3 feet will always be 36 inches. With that in mind, let’s, here’s how many inches are in the following lengths of fabric.
One-Quarter Yard Of Fabric (¼)
We know that there are 3 feet in a yard. We also know 3 feet is equal to 36 inches. With a little bit of math, we can work out a quarter of 36 inches. As there are 4 quarters in a whole, all we need to do is divide 36 by 4. A quarter yard of fabric measures 9 inches.
Half A Yard Of Fabric (½)
Half a yard in inches can be calculated in the same way. Only this time, we divide 36 by 2. This gives us 18 inches. You could also add two quarters together. As each quarter is 9 inches, you get the same answer of 18.
2 Yards Of Fabric
If a yard of fabric is 36 inches, then 2 yards would be twice as much. Multiplying 36 by 2 gives 72 inches.
Yard And A Half
We know a yard is 36 inches. We also know half a yard is 18 inches. Adding the two together gives you 54. So a yard and a half would be the same as 54 inches.
How Many Square Inches In A Yard Of Fabric
So far, we’ve only looked at fabric by length. To find out the square inch of a yard of fabric, we need to consider the width.
Fabric comes in different widths depending on the type and what the material is used for. One of the most popular fabrics available is quilter’s cotton. The usual width for that type of fabric is 44 inches.
Finding the square inch is another way of saying the total surface area of the fabric. If we multiply the length of fabric by width, we get the square inch of the material.
As we’re looking at a yard, we know a length is going to be 36 inches. If we use quilters’ cotton for this example, the width is going to be 44 inches. We need to multiply 36 by 44, which is 1,584. Because we’re looking at the square inch, this is written as 1584 in². This square inch figure will change depending on the width of your fabric. If the fabric is 60-inch wide, we need to multiply 36 by 60. Our answer would be 2,160 square inches or 2160 in².
How Many Feet In A Yard Of Fabric
Yards have a set measurement of 36 inches. To find out how many feet there are in a yard, we need to convert 36 inches to feet. To do that, simply divide 36 by 12. This gives an answer of 3. There are 3 feet in a yard of fabric.
How Many Square Feet In A Yard Of Fabric
For this one, we need to look at the width of the fabric as well as the length. Fabric width is measured in inches. Before we can work out square feet, we need to convert the inches to feet.
A point to note here, the width of fabric varies depending on the type. That means, the answer to this question will change depending on the width of your fabric.
Let’s assume our fabric is 60 inches wide for this example. We know there are 12 inches to one foot, so all we need to do is divide 60 by 12. We get 5. So the fabric is 5 feet wide.
The next step is to calculate the square feet of the fabric. Square feet is another way of describing the surface area of a material. The math for this is simple. Multiply the length by width.
In this case, the length is a yard. One yard is 3 feet. So, it’s 3 feet multiplied by the width, which was 5 feet. That gives us 15 square feet. This can also be written as 15 ft².
How Much Is a Yard of Fabric in Meters?
There are only 3 countries in the world officially still using the Imperial system of yards, feet, and inches. They are the US, Liberia, and Myanmar. Everywhere else uses the metric system or the International System of Units. Well, the exception to that is the UK and Canada. Although officially metric, they both still use some Imperial measurements.
The metric system is a more structured measuring system revolving around the multiples of ten.Starting with the smallest unit, ten millimeters equals one centimeter. There are 100 centimeters in a meter. You need 1000 meters to reach a kilometer and so on.
It’s simple to use and easy to remember. As it’s decimal-based rather than relying on fractions like the Imperial system, it’s easier to calculate measurements for better precision.
Back in 1959, the official conversion for yards to meters was agreed by the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. The figure they settled on was one yard equals 0.9144 meters, making the yard a little bit smaller than a meter.
Here’s a useful comparison chart to help you convert different amounts of yards to meters.
How Long Is A Yard Of Fabric in Centimeters
Now that we know a yard is equal to 0.9144 of a meter, we can work out the length in centimeters.
The metric system is decimal so is based around multiples of ten. There are 100 centimeters to a meter. A yard isn’t quite the same length as a meter. It’s just under at 0.9. If we multiply this by 100, it moves the decimal place twice to the left. Which gives us 90. Therefore, a yard of fabric is 90 centimeters long.
How Wide Is a Yard of Fabric
Fabric comes in different widths depending on what it is used for. Sheeting or curtain fabric, for instance, can come in widths up to 110 inches. As both sheets and curtains cover large areas, it makes sense to have the widest fabric available. It reduces the need to stitch sections together to match the width you need.
Similarly, quilting cotton tends to be a lot smaller. Many are only 44 inches wide. This is because quilters don’t always need wide fabrics. The availability of smaller width fabric has two advantages. It cuts down on waste and uses up less space at the fabric store.
There are popular sizes for fabric widths that can be found across the globe. Materials used for apparel such as gingham, poplin, and even denim can be found in widths from 48 to 72 inches. Other fabrics like Indian silks are available in widths of 42 inches.
The various widths available will affect the total amount of fabric you can buy per yard. For instance, a piece measuring a yard long by 72 inches wide, will give you more surface area of fabric than a piece only 42 inches wide.
When it comes to width, you can only tell how wide a yard will be when you know what type of fabric you are buying.
Can You Buy Fabric by Width?
All retail outlets sell fabric by length. You can ask for a particular width if you have a project that needs a specific width. But, the retailer is going to ask you how many lengths or yards you need. Yards, as previously mentioned, refer to the length of the fabric.
It’s not always possible to buy the fabric in the exact width you need. Some fabrics are only available in narrower widths. This means you may have to join two or more lengths together to get the width you want.
For instance, if you have a fabric only available in a width of 36 inches, and your project needs to be 60 inches wide. It will be necessary to buy two lengths of fabric to reach the desired width.
Length isn’t restricted in the same way as width. You can keep buying a continual run of yardage until the bolt or roll is empty. Buying by the length gives you the capability of ensuring you can buy enough fabric for your project.
Yardage can be purchased in whole yards or parts of a yard. The price is altered accordingly. For instance, if you only want half a yard, the yard price is simply halved.
What Does 1 Yard of Fabric Look Like
A yard of fabric will look different depending on how wide it is. Here is a diagram of a yard of fabric that is 42 inches wide. A slightly wider fabric will look a bit more like a rectangle.
How Much Does a Yard of Fabric Cost
The cost of a yard of fabric depends on the type you are purchasing. Generic fabrics that can be used for various day-to-day items like clothing can vary from as low as $2 to about $15 or higher per yard. The actual price will be determined by the quality of the fabric, type of fabric, and where you buy it from.
Some retailers offer cheap, low-quality fabric at discount prices. Others offer top-quality material and charge a high-end price. Specialty fabrics or designer fabrics will also cost more. Some fabrics can retail for $50 plus per yard.
As well as fabric type, your location can affect the cost of a yard of fabric. Prices per yard are likely to be lower in some smaller urban and rural areas when compared to costs in large cities like New York or Dallas.
The same is true with online sources for fabric. More well-known outlets are likely to charge more per yard and offer better quality.
Bargains can be found both on and offline. Check for sales or end-of-line fabrics to cut the cost of your yardage.
How To Measure a Yard of Fabric
To measure a yard of fabric, you will need either a tape measure or a yardstick. Both should have markings that denote inches and if possible feet. They should measure at least 36 inches.
Lay the fabric on a flat surface like a table. You may need to unroll the fabric from the bolt or roll for some distance to be able to get it flat enough. Ignore the width; you only need to concentrate on length to measure a yard.
Put your tape measure or yardstick at one end of the length of fabric. Unroll the fabric until its length is parallel to the 36-inch mark on your measuring device. This could also be shown as the 3 feet mark.
Fabric Yardage Conversion Chart
Fabric width is measured in inches whereas the length is measured in yards or parts of yards. Sometimes, it’s tricky to tell how many yards to buy based on how wide your fabric is.
A fabric yardage conversion chart like the one below will help you gauge how many yards you need.
There are many different options of fabric widths and cuts available. It can be a bit of a challenge to buy the right amount for your project. This article should help you find the answer to how big is a yard of fabric.
Let me know in the comments if you liked this article. Have you found the tips useful when fabric shopping? Has it helped you buy fabric yards with confidence?