It can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how much fabric you need for your sewing project, especially if you have a large project in mind or need to make multiple garments. Plus, you may want a little extra fabric, just in case. Sometimes it’s better to buy fabric in bulk, which usually involves purchasing a whole bolt. But how many yards of fabric do you get when you buy a bolt?
A bolt is usually between 30 and 100 yards of fabric. Exactly how many yards are in a bolt of fabric depends mostly on the type of fabric. Fabrics that are thicker or more expensive may have less fabric per bolt than fabrics more commonly used.
If you want to buy a bolt of fabric, there may be more things that you want to consider besides how many yards of fabric there are. You may also want to know how wide the fabric is, how to tell exactly how much fabric is on a bolt, and how much the bolt costs. I’ll answer all of these questions and more in this article.
What is a Bolt of Fabric?
If you’re new to sewing, you may be wondering what a bolt of fabric is anyway. A bolt is essentially a standard unit of measurement. A bolt is used for selling fabrics but is also used to display a variety of fabrics in the store.
The bolt itself is the center core made of wood or cardboard, which the fabric is wrapped around. When buying certain yardages of fabric, an employee would take the whole bolt down from the display, measure, and cut the exact yardage for the customer.
In many cases, the whole bolt isn’t purchased, especially if you just need a little bit of fabric or know exactly how much fabric you’re going to need. But you certainly can purchase the whole bolt. Buying a whole bolt of fabric is helpful if you know that you’re going to need a lot of fabric, don’t know how much fabric you need, or just want to make sure that you have extra.
How Many Yards in a Bolt of Fabric?
Now that you know what a bolt of fabric is, exactly how many yards of fabric are there in a bolt? The best answer is that it just depends on the fabric. A bolt usually contains between 30 and 100 yards of fabric, but the exact yardage depends on thickness and the type or rarity of the fabric.
Thicker fabrics will have less yardage per bolt than thinner ones because there is only so much fabric that can be wrapped around a bolt without it being bulky. More expensive fabrics may also have less yardage per bolt, especially if they are fabrics that aren’t used that often. For example, canvas is a thicker fabric and is usually sold in bolts of 39 yards. But cotton is a bit thinner and more commonly used and the bolt usually contains 100 yards.
It’s also worth noting that the amount of yardage in a bolt of the fabric refers to its total length, not its width. For bolts of fabric, the fabric is folded in half before wrapped around the bolt. With that being said, the width of the fabric does not determine how many yards of fabric are in a bolt, only the length of the fabric.
How Wide is Fabric on a Bolt?
The width of the fabric refers to the measurement between the warp threads on the left and right edges of the fabric, minus the selvage. Note that the width only refers to the usable part of the fabric, which is why the selvage isn’t included in that measurement.
The width of the fabric on a bolt can vary and also depends on the type of fabric that you’re looking at purchasing. Most fabric on a bolt is usually between 45 and 60 inches wide for fabric that will be used for apparel.
45, 54, and 60 are the most common fabric widths, with anywhere from 42-45 being common for cotton while 60 is common for wool. Fabric that is 54 inches in width is usually fabrics that are used for upholstery, but not always. And all cotton fabrics are generally the same width, whereas all wool fabrics are generally the same width, etc., but you may have variances in widths between cotton, wool, silk, and other fabrics.
Keeping the widths consistent across fabric types helps from a manufacturing standpoint, but it also can be determined by what the fabric is commonly used for. For example, even though 45 to 60-inch fabric widths are pretty standard, you can also find bolts with fabric widths of 36 inches to as much as 108 inches.
Whether or not the fabric is patterned can also determine the width. For example, fabrics with intricate designs may be wider to reduce the need to match the pattern exactly on large items. Plus, fabrics intended for upholstery may be wider just to cover more space. Fabrics with a narrower width are commonly used for accessories such as scarves, footwear, handbags, underwear, etc.
How is Fabric Folded on a Bolt?
Before buying a bolt of fabric, it’s also important to understand how fabric is folded on a bolt. That way, you can ensure that you’re getting exactly the fabric you need. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the length of the fabric that is wrapped around the bolt, not the width.
Because of this, how wide the fabric is on a bolt can be confusing. To make the fabric easier to wrap around the bolt and hide selvages and imperfections on the fabric, the fabric is folded in half widthwise before being wrapped around the bolt.
If you were to measure the width of the fabric while it’s wrapped around the bolt, you’ll notice that it isn’t going to be as wide as what is typical for that fabric type. The width of the fabric, while it’s wrapped around the bolt, is not going to be the same as the actual fabric width.
Since the fabric is folded in half by width before being wrapped around the bolt, the fabric’s actual width will be twice the width of what you see or measure while the fabric is still on the bolt. Folding the fabric in this way is another reason why thicker fabrics have less yardage per bolt because being folded in half before being wrapped around the bolt could make the bolt bulkier.
How to Measure a Bolt of Fabric?
Knowing exactly how much fabric is on a bolt can help you when purchasing, especially if you’re buying fabric in bulk and want to buy the whole bolt. You want to make sure that you’ll still have enough fabric, even by buying the bolt. There are several ways to measure how much fabric is on a bolt.
Read the Label
One of the easiest ways to measure fabric on a bolt is to look at the label on the end of the bolt. The label should provide you with all the information you need about the type of fabric that the bolt contains. If you are confused about how wide the fabric is, the label will tell you that. Remember that the label tells you the whole width of the fabric from edge to edge minus the selvage, not the width of the fabric while it is folded in half.
The label also provides information about how many yards of fabric are on the bolt, assuming that the bolt is whole. Other information that can be found on the label is the type of fabric and fiber content (100% cotton, 100% rayon, etc.,) as well as the name, color, and pattern on the fabric. That way, you can make sure to buy more of the same fabric if you do run out. The label also provides you with basic instructions on how to care for the fabric.
Ask an Employee
The label on the bolt is by far the most helpful information for telling you the width and length of fabric on a bolt. But, it does have a flaw where length is concerned. For example, let’s say that you want to buy a whole bolt of fabric, but someone before you wanted that same fabric and didn’t need the whole bolt. The yardage on the label may not be the same as the yardage that is currently on the bolt.
In most cases, fabric stores will have multiple bolts of a particular fabric that you can buy. But if you want a specific fabric and that is the only bolt they have of that particular fabric and the bolt isn’t whole, you may need to ask an employee to measure how many yards of fabric are actually on the bolt. That way, you’ll know exactly how much you are getting.
The employee would need to pull the bolt and unwrap it completely to measure the yardage. This can be time-consuming, but it’s the most accurate way to know exactly how much fabric you’re getting if the bolt isn’t whole.
Look at the Layers
Another way to measure how much fabric is on a bolt is to look at the layers of fabric that are folded around the bolt. This method may be something you want to use if the bolt isn’t whole and you don’t have time to wait for an employee to measure it.
Bolts are folded in such a way that you can tell how many yards of fabric are on the bolt just by counting the layers. With that being said, it’s not the most accurate as far as providing exact yardage, but it can give you a good idea of how many yards are on the bolt and tell you whether or not the bolt is whole in the first place.
To tell how many yards of fabric are on the bolt just by counting the layers, you first need to look at the thickness of the fabric. For fabrics with a medium thickness (cotton) or very thick (canvas), two layers of fabric usually equal one yard. For thinner fabrics (silk, lace, etc.), three layers of fabric usually equal one yard.
Let’s say that the label on a bolt says that the bolt contains 100 yards of fabric. Assuming that the bolt is full, there would be about 200 thick to medium-thick layers of fabric on that bolt. If the bolt isn’t full and you count that there are 8 layers, that means that you would have around 4 yards of fabric.
For thinner fabrics, if you count 9 layers of fabric, you would have about 3 yards of fabric. If you counted 24 layers, you would have about 8 yards of fabric. Essentially, for thicker fabrics, you would divide the number of layers by 2 and for thinner fabrics, you would divide the number of layers by 3.
How Much is a Bolt of Fabric?
The price of a bolt of fabric is another thing that varies, and several factors influence the cost. But first, you’ll notice that besides the label on many bolts of fabric, there’s usually a price listed also. That price is for the cost of fabric per yard, not per bolt.
Sometimes by buying things in bulk, you’ll come out cheaper than buying individuals of the product. This is not the case with fabric. You’ll still pay the same price per yard, while the exact cost will depend on how many yards are on the bolt. In some cases, a store may run a promotion in which buying the bolt is cheaper than buying per yard, but in most cases, you’ll pay the same price per yard regardless of how many yards you buy.
As far as how much a bolt of fabric is, the price depends on the type of fabric, the amount of fabric per bolt, and who made the fabric. I’ve already mentioned how the amount of fabric per bolt can affect the cost, but the type of fabric is the main reason for differences in the price per yard in the first place.
For example, fabrics such as cotton and polyester that are more abundant and cheaper to produce will cost less than fabrics such as silk and wool. Fabrics that are more rare or considered luxury fabrics, such as cashmere, certain types of wool or silk, etc., will cost more because they are more difficult to produce and aren’t as available.
Where and by whom the fabric was made can also determine the price. Higher quality fabrics will cost more money, as will fabrics that are more high-end or made by designers. The designers and manufacturers of fabric want to make money off of it, which can account for differences in the price.
A bolt usually contains between 30 and 100 yards of fabric. But the yardage, as well as the fabric width and cost, are all determined by the exact type of fabric that is on the bolt. Reading the label on the bolt or having the fabric measured are the best ways to know exactly how much fabric you’re getting when you buy the bolt.