Estimating Fabric for a Pattern Match


How do you estimate yardage on a large patterned fabric?

First, You need to find out if the fabric is railroaded or not. If the fabric is not railroaded, then you will have to cut the pieces with the top of each piece going up the roll. For this article, it is assumed that you will be cutting the fabric up the roll. If the furniture is a sofa, and if it only has one cushion, you will probably have to put seams on both sides of the cushion, on the cushion boxing, on the Inside Back and on the Outside Back. You need to talk over with the client whether they want the sofa a.) seamed in the middle, or b.) centered the fabric on the sofa and seam it along the outside edges of the fabric. Lately my last customers have preferred to have option b. However, this is a personal choice best left to your client.

Measuring by the ruler

In figuring out how much fabric to or, my basic guideline is to add 1/2 repeat to 1 full repeat at the beginning of the roll for possible shipping damage and for an allowance to align the center the one piece on the fabric where needed.Then measure and write down the sizes of all the pieces, allowing your normal "non-matching" stapling allowance all the way around. (I generally allow at least 2"-3" on a stapled edge (except allow 1" on the top edge attached with a tack strip). 

If you will be ordering a contrasting fabric, then you might also measure every piece of cording and allow at least 6 or 8 inches to the length so that you can figure how much yardage needed for the welts. Don't bother about matching the welts. I generally cut the welts out of scraps, try to cut them out an are that has a muted part of the pattern. Another option is to have client order a fabric that resembles the background for the cording.

When you have your finished list of measurements, you can just do a rough calculation. First determine whether you will be able to cut each piece out of 1 width or 2 widths of fabric. Except for very small furniture, most of your cut pieces will be over 27" wide. The means that every cut piece will need at least a full pattern repeat. If any piece is cut piece is taller than the pattern repeat, then that piece will take at least 2 repeats in height. In addition, those pieces that are over 54" wide (and less than one verticle pattern repeat) need 2 widths of fabric and will require 2 verticle pattern repeats each. If they are taller than the pattern repeat then they would need 4 verticle pattern repeats each. When figuring the height for pattern repeat, don't include your stretcher cloth allowance as part of your verticle height on the Inside Back or Inside Arms. (Sometimes that would cause you to figure additional verticle pattern repeats.)

For example, if your cushion is 23" deep by 72" wide, your fabric is 54" wide and your pattern repeat is 35" high by 24" wide. Your 23"cushions are shorter than your 35" verticle repeat, then your cushions would need one verticle repeat high, but would need 2 cut-widths per side, which is 4 cut-widths. Remember you need one pattern repeat high (35") for each cut width. Now, if you want to pattern match the front boxing of the cushion, you will have to also treat it like you did the side. Even though it might only be 4 to 6 inches tall, you will still need a 2 cut widths for it. So, we have 2 cut widths per side times 2 sides + 2 cut widths on the front boxing = 6 pattern repeats. (6 repeats X 35" repeat =  210 inches = almost 6 yards for the cushion itself. (A note should be said here that sometimes the boxing can be cut out of the extra part of the repeat (35" - 23" = 12"), but that is not always possible, so we won't include that option here.) the side boxing and the zipper pieces can usually be cut out of these or other scraps.

When you have added up all the needed verticle pattern repeats, multiply them out, including the fabric allowances, and divide by 36 to get the approximate number of yards estimated.

Eyeball Measuring

Once you have mastered the above Measuring by the Ruler, you can do it mostly with your eyeballs. Examine each piece with your eyes (Eyeballing) and mentally assess how many verticle repeats it will take. If it is close, go ahead and measure that piece.  With a little practice, you can often do some rough yardage figuring in your head, while writing down your figures on your notepad. 

Final Allowance

Then I would allow another 10% to 20% of extra fabric for "Whatever". You never know how many times I used that "extra fabric" because I forgot to incude something, or made a mistake. The basic guideline here is to order more than you think you need. The larger the verticle repeat of the fabric, the larger the allowance that you should have. If there is one or two flaws in the fabric, and/or if you mess up a repeat or two, you could run short of fabric.

Some Final Thoughts

If I want to just do a quick estimate, using this method I will just I can just quickly count up all the vertical pattern repeats, multiply how many yards (while adding the allowances mentioned at the beginning and the bottom of this article. this will give you a rough idea of how many yards that you will need. Then, don't forget to charge extra for the extra time on your labor.

Then you might be thinking, "This is going to take a lot of fabric! This is going to cost a lot!, etc." When I give an estimate that is going to be very expensive, I also give at least one or two lower cost estimates (fabric with no matching, etc.) that I include with my expensive estimate. (My Excel Estimate form has up to 4 columns where I give the comparative estimates side by side. When I present it to them I point to the column that give the price for the service requested. If I sense any sign of the price being too high, then I also point out their other options.