How to Calculate Fabric Requirements for Quilts

In a Yahoo Group for Quilt Teachers, there is an interesting discussion going on about fabric requirements on quilt patterns.

Some designers add 10%, or add enough for one mis-cut strip, or round up to the next quarter yard. Some designers don’t add anything for mistakes or shrinkage. There is no industry standard.

I would like to know what you think—as a quilter, a designer, or a teacher.

AS A SEAMSTRESS  

My mother let us sew on the sewing machine before we were old enough to go to kindergarten. In public school, I made some of my own clothes, and in high school I made almost everything. Mum taught me that the fabric requirements on patterns were too generous because they had to allow for tall people—and I am the runt of the litter.  

It became a routine to shorten hems and sleeves on the tissue paper, lay the pieces out on the dining room table, and measure to determine how much I really needed. Mum was right of course. If it said I needed 1.875 yards, I might only need 1.5 yards. 

There was no joy in having scraps left over, the way there can be for quilters. If I bought 1.875 and only used 1.5, I was wasting my hard-earned baby sitting money.

I also learned that if there was fabric in the closet which Mum would let me use, even though the pattern said I needed more, I could sometimes make it work.

AS A QUILTER

I often work from my stash. If a pattern indicates a half yard of a fabric, it is difficult (if not impossible) to tell if the smaller piece in my stash will do. If I substitute something else, I am disappointed if I discover later that I could have used my first choice. 

We all know that fabric manufacturers are in a wicked, wicked conspiracy to ship new fabric lines so often, and in such small runs, that we will never find more later. They are training us. LOL  “If you like it, you must buy all of it now because you may never have another chance. It’s now or never.”

My preference as a quilter is to see a layout, even a simplified one, so I can be a smart consumer. Of course, I also want to see the fabric requirements listed, but for me, a diagram improves the pattern and empowers me. 

If a pattern designer is going to routinely add enough for cutting errors, as a quilter, I hope she would make a note of it on the outside of the package with the other fabric requirements. For example:

  • “Fabric requirements are generous in order to allow for cutting errors. You may need less.”
  • “There are cutting diagrams to help you determine how much fabric you should buy if you prefer to allow for errors.” 
  • “A yard of fabric usually measures less than 36 inches after washing. These fabric requirements assume average shrinkage of x%.”

AS A DESIGNER

Since I learned to work from the layouts in clothing patterns, I feel comfortable with diagrams, so when I designed the Inklingo Snack Quilt Pattern, I included images like the ones above. They clearly indicate the shape, the fabric key, the width of the fabric, efficient custom page sizes for printing, etc. At a glance, a quilter can see what she needs, and make better decisions.

Designers should know that some quilters assume that the pattern lists the minimum requirements, so they automatically buy extra. If there is already extra in the fabric requirements, that can add up to a Lot of Extra!

ARE YOU A PATTERN DESIGNER?

If I have convinced you that a diagram for the cutting layout will add value to your pattern, that is another reason to love designing with Inklingo.

In every Inklingo Shape Collection, there are Suggested Custom Page sizes for efficient use of the fabric, diagrams, and tips for calculating fabric requirements. You can see them in the free shape collection for Diamonds, Triangles, and Squares.

Inklingo quilters want more and more Inklingoable patterns and classes. We want all quilt designers to include Inklingo info in their patterns, so I am doing everything I can to make it easy and profitable. In fact, thanks to the Inklingo Affiliate Program, pattern designers can make more when they recommend an Inklingo Shape Collection than when they recommend traditional tools!  

Designers can also unleash their creativity by designing and selling patterns which are easy with Inklingo, but would be too difficult or expensive with traditional tools. Inklingo makes Double Wedding Ring, Alabama Beauty, Pickle Dish, Winding Ways, Clamshell Pickle, Fancy Dresden Plates and other designs possible for more quilters.

You can design patterns for Inklingo. 

You don’t need my permission, but if you contact me, I can help with graphics and other support. If you need logos, images, info about efficient custom page sizes, fabric requirements, Monkey’s Cheat Sheet—whatever—I can probably give you anything you need. There is no fee. I am even willing to design custom shape collections, if appropriate. Appliqué designs are ideal for custom collections.

Inklingo provides unique resources to designers, like Monkey’s Cheat Sheet. It is a great way to stay organized, whether you are a designer or a quilter.

If you haven’t tried Inklingo yet, please order and download the free shape collection now, and see what you’re missing!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I think you can see that as a quilter, I have strong opinions about how designers can improve the way they describe fabric requirements, either by clearly explaining their own approach, or by adding diagrams. Inklingo allows everyone to put it into practice. 

  • As a quilter, do you expect designers to include extra fabric in case you make a mistake? How much more?
  • As a quilter, do you buy more than the amount listed in the pattern, in case you make a booboo?
  • As a quilter, do you buy exactly what the pattern recommends, or do you work from your stash? 
  • As a teacher, what do you tell your students?
  • As a designer, what do you do? Why? Is it explained in the pattern?   
  • As a designer, do you add extra for shrinkage? 

Please let me know your experiences (good and bad) with fabric requirements. If you prefer to write privately, that is fine too. I am interested in what you think.

By the way, I got nostalgic looking at my old patterns. Fond memories below.

Thank you for visiting. Please leave a comment. 

Linda & Monkey

This is  the “Good Old Days” bonus material:

1. I have only saved a few of my early patterns. The ones I saved cost 50 to 65 cents. As a baby sitter, I earned 50 cents an hour.

2.  I was 15 when I bought my first Vogue pattern. It was a memorable splurge at $3.30 CDN, but it included the fabulous cloth label. I loved that dress and wore it for years. When I threw it away, I saved the label. 

3. Visiting Aunt Lucy in sundresses made by Mum. (I’m the short one on the left wearing hand-me-downs.) I am glad I don’t have photos of me in my first creations. I’m sure they are better in my memory than they were in reality. Our family has a dominant photo gene. Everyone loved taking photos and making photo albums (called scrapbooking today). My Dad even had his own darkroom. We have lots and lots of photos, but none of me in the beloved sailor dress or the Vogue creation. I’m glad I got the photo gene, and therefore can be behind the camera most of the time now.

4.  I made the pleated dress in the pattern above for a dance. Navy with white straps and white pleats. I saved up to buy navy spectator pumps to wear with it. Happy times.

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