How to Track Your Fabric and Yarn Yardage

Monday, January 9, 2017


Happy Monday! I've been getting a lot of questions about how I track and estimate my yardage, so I wanted to put that information in a post for those that are interested. It's not for everyone, and it is a time commitment, but I really enjoy doing it. There are a lot of different ways you could track yardage you use, but I'm going to focus on how I personally do it in this post.


Keep in mind, I'm a fruit loop who loves math. The methods I use are probably more in depth than most people would need or want to do. So I'm sharing easy methods and then my more complicated methods too. There is no right or wrong way to track yardage. In my opinion the most beneficial thing about tracking is simply the act of tracking and the awareness that it gives you, not the actual numbers.

Before we get into the methods, I'm linking to the spreadsheet I'm using for my 2017 tracking. Download it here. It's slightly different from my 2016 version, which you can find here. For 2017, I split the yardage column into separate in/out columns so I can easily total those separately for each month and then net them.

Tracking Fabric Coming In

This is the easiest part to track. When you purchase fabric, you usually know how much you've bought. I also track fabric that I'm given, both promotional fabrics or gifts from friends.

If you're purchasing scraps or a destash with partial yardage sometimes it's not quite as clear how much yardage there is. Sometimes I'll lay out the fabric on my cutting mat and just make an educated guess.

Another way to measure yardage is by weight. This isn't completely foolproof because different types of fabric and even quilting cotton made by different manufacturers weighs differently per yard. However, it gives you a good place to start, and we're not aiming for 100% accuracy.


You'll need a small food or postal scale (one like this works great), and a yard of quilting cotton to start. Weigh the yard and make a note either in ounces or grams of how much it weighs. I weighed yard cuts from multiple manufacturers and most were between 5-6 oz per yard. I split the difference and use 5.5 oz.

Now when you have scraps or partial yardage of quilting cotton coming in, you can weigh it. To figure out how many yards you have, use this simple math equation:

Weight of scrap fabric ÷ Weight of 1 yard = Yardage of scrap fabric

Example: 2 oz scrap fabric ÷  5.5 oz =  .36 yards

Tracking Fabric Going Out

Personally, I track any and all fabric going out. This includes using it in a project, giving it away, or destashing it. You may choose to count those in separate categories or simply count what you've used, it's up to you. I don't count the fabric as used until I've completely finished the project. This really encourages me to finish things up.

For some projects, it's really easy to figure out how much yardage you've used. Generally speaking, if a project uses up most of a fat quarter, or other even yardage, I'll round up. If you're working from a pattern or tutorial, the materials list is a good place to start to estimate yardage.

When a project uses lots of pieces, or scraps, you could weigh the pieces before sewing. Or you could follow one of the math methods I share below.

If you don't like math or don't want to make things too complicated, go ahead and skip down to the "Other Tips" section of this post! If you'd like to be more exact with your tracking, continue reading.

Calculating Fabric Used

A lot of times what I do (because I love math), is use one of the two methods below for determining how much yardage a project has used. This may be beyond what you are willing to do and that's perfectly fine. An educated guess will get you pretty close. I'll show you the two ways that I estimate yardage based on the size of the pieces used.

Strip Method

The first way I estimate yardage used in a project is to add up the lengths of pieces that are the same (or similar) width and figure out how many 42" (WOF) strips I'd need to cut out all those pieces. So let's take my Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial as an example:
 
Pieces needed: (2) 9"x10.5", (2) 4"x10.5", (2) 12.5"x10.5"
Width of all these pieces is 10.5".

Length of each piece + Length of each piece + Length of each piece = Length of pieces

9" + 4" + 12.5" = 25.5"

We need to multiply that number by 2, because you need two of each piece:

Length of pieces x 2 = Total Length

25.5" x 2 = 51"

So, we need a 51" strip that's 10.5" wide. Let's figure out now how many 42" (width of fabric) strips we need:

Total length needed ÷ Width of fabric = Number of strips needed

51" ÷ 42" = 1.2 strips

We can't have .2 of a strip, so we need to round up our 1.2 to a whole number, in this case to 2 strips.

Now we need to figure out how many inches of fabric that is:

Number of strips needed x Width of strip = Inches of yardage

2 strips x 10.5" = 21" inches of yardage

Inches of yardage ÷ Inches in a yard = Yardage used

21" ÷ 36" inches in a yard = .58 yards used

This method is more accurate than simply using the materials list in the tutorial (which calls for .75 yards), but does include some extra fabric from when we rounded up our strip to 2. For a more exact number, try the Square Inches Method found below.

Square Inches Method

Another way to determine how much yardage you've used is to calculate how many square inches of fabric the pieces make up. This is done by multiplying the length by the width of each piece. You'll also need to determine how many square inches are in a single yard. Let's do those calculations with the Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial again:

Pieces needed: (2) 9"x10.5", (2) 4"x10.5", (2) 12.5"x10.5"

(Length x width of each piece) + (Length x width of each piece) + (Length x width of each piece) = Total square inches of pieces

(9" x 10.5") + (4" x 10.5") + (12.5" x 10.5") = 94.5 + 42 + 131.25 = 267.75 square inches

We need to multiply that number by 2, because you need two of each piece:

267.72 x 2 = 535.5 square inches

Let's figure out how many square inches are in a single yard of 42" wide fabric:

Length of 1 yard of fabric x Width of fabric = Square inches in 1 yard

36" x 42" = 1,512 square inches

Now, we can determine how many yards we've used:

Total square inches of pieces ÷ Square inches in 1 yard of fabric = Yardage used

535.5 ÷ 1,512 = .35 yards used

As you can see, this method is more exact than the Strip Method shown above. This method accounts for only the actual fabric used, and not the scraps. It is best for projects without tons of different sized pieces.

Accounting for Extra Wide Fabrics

For all my fabric coming in and out, I base my tracking off of 42" quilting cotton since that's what I use the most. (I personally use 42" instead of 44" because usually only 42" worth is usable after the selvedges) When I purchase or use fabric that is wider than 42", I convert the yardage to 42" wide yardage. I do this by using the square inches method outlined above. Let's look at an example using 58" yardage:

First we need to calculate how many square inches are in 1 yard of 42" wide fabric.

Length of 1 yard of fabric x Width of fabric = Square inches in 1 yard

36" x 42" = 1,512 square inches in 1 yard of 42" wide fabric

Now we need to calculate how many square inches are in 1 yard of 58" wide fabric.

Length of 1 yard of fabric x Width of fabric = Square inches in 1 yard

36" x 58" = 2,088 square inches in 1 yard of 58" wide fabric

To convert my 1 yard of 58" wide fabric to 42" wide yardage, I need to do the following:

Square inches of 1 yard 58" wide fabric ÷ Square inches of 1 yard 42" wide fabric = Amount of 42" wide yardage

2,088 ÷ 1,512 = 1.38 yards

So, 1 yard of 58" wide fabric is equal to 1.38 yards of 42" wide fabric. So each time I bring in or use 58" wide fabric, I will multiply the amount by 1.38 to determine my yardage to enter.

Other Tips

- Be consistent. Figure out a method that works for you and stick with it.

- Track as you go. Don't wait until the end of the month to figure out how much yardage you brought in or used. When you buy or bring in fabric, make a note. When you finish a project or destash, make a note. It's so easy to forget things if you wait! Make a habit of tracking it when it happens.

- Another advantage of tracking as you go is you're constantly checking in with your running yardage total. If I've brought in too much fabric for the month, I can adjust my sewing to try and finish a few things and make up for it. It all depends on what your goals are.

- Find a system that works for you. I find my simple Excel document works really well for me, but that might not be your style. I keep mine in my Dropbox so I can access it on my phone and add to it from anywhere. (Nerd alert!) There's nothing wrong with a pen and a notepad to keep tracking notes. Make it simple and easy for yourself to track. If it's over complicated, you're less likely to stick with it. I use complicated methods because I enjoy doing the calculations, and they don't discourage me from tracking. Know your habits and tailor your tracking to your personality.

- One of the things I do when I track my fabric yardage is round up or down to the nearest 1/8 yard. I don't use 1/3s in any of my tracking because it gives weird rounding. Keeping it to 1/8ths makes it nice and neat. Of course you may choose to round up or down however you please!

- It's okay to make exceptions. Last year, I made an exception for muslin. I didn't track the yardage of muslin I bought, and I didn't track any muslin I used. You could make exceptions for anything, solids, muslin, backings, whatever. I also didn't track any yardage of interfacing, batting, twill or ribbon. Perhaps you're trying to spend less on fabric. In that case you might only track yardage you buy, but not yardage you are given. Set an intention for your tracking and make decisions based on that.

Tracking Yarn Yardage

If you knit, crochet, or do another kind of fiber craft, tracking yarn is much more straightforward than tracking fabric. I exclusively calculate yarn yardage by weight. Most manufacturers give a weight per skein and also a yardage per skein. If the weight isn't listed on the label, a quick google (or Ravelry) search will usually pull it up. Before I start a project I weigh my yarn skein (they're often a little heavier than the stated weight). I can then use the weight to yardage ratio given by the manufacturer to calculate how much yardage I actually have.

Let's use a typical skein of worsted weight yarn as an example:

Stated weight: 100 grams
Stated yardage: 200 yards

Stated yardage ÷ Stated weight = Yardage ratio

200 yards ÷ 100 grams = 2 yards per gram

Actual weight: 105 grams

Actual weight x Yardage ratio = Actual yardage

105 grams x 2 yards per gram = 210 yards

Actual yardage: 210 yards

I don't always calculate the stated vs. actual yardage. Just depends on how exact I feel like being at any given time. Sometimes it's just easier to go by the stated yardage. Best to choose a method and stick with it.


When I finish a project, I simply weigh the leftover yarn and use the yardage ratio to calculate how many yards are leftover:

Leftover weight: 50 grams

Leftover weight x Yardage ratio = Leftover yardage

50 grams x 2 yards per gram = 100 yards

Leftover yardage: 100 yards

Then I subtract the leftover weight from the actual skein weight to figure out how much I used in the project:

Actual skein weight - Leftover weight = Weight used

105 grams - 50 grams = 55 grams

Weight used x Yardage ratio = Yardage used 

55 grams x 2 yards per gram = 110 yards used

**If you use Ravelry, you can update your stash listing with the actual weight and actual yardage of your skein. When you finish a project, enter your used weight in the "enter totals" on your project and it will calculate the yardage used for you!


Hopefully this wasn't a complete overload of information, but I wanted to be as throughout as possible. Like I mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to track yardage. You certainly don't need to make it as complicated as I do.

If you're not ready to commit to tracking for an entire year, consider trying it out for a month. It was an eye opening experience for me last year, realizing just how much fabric was coming in. It pushed me to finish projects and sew more in general. I loved doing it, and am looking forward to continuing to track my yardage this year. Overall, tracking made me more thoughtful about how I use my stash, and how I add to it.

Happy Sewing!

25 comments :

  1. Thank you for this post. I will probably refer to it often. I think I was mot impressed with weighing the fabric. I might have to work on that!

    Pam
    pearbour@gmail.com

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  2. I love this math-geeky post! Tracking fabric in/out requires time and effort I'm not will to devote to it. This year, I just want to buy fabric only when j need it for a project instead of b/c it's pretty. : )

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  3. Thanks! Math isn't hard if you have the formulas. Yours are great!

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  4. I am a math nerd, always happy to rescale a quilt or block. But, since time is limited, I will likely not keep track of my yardage this way since I'd rather be using up my time the fabric sewing. Still, it's an interesting concept and I appreciate you sharing your insight.

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  5. Thanks for this post. Several of the methods you present here will be helpful as I hopefully do some stash busting this year. Good to know the weight of a yard, not sure why I never thought of that one before your post!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your methods! I keep track of my fabric yardage also, but a little differently: I list my purchases by date, and I list my uses by project. I sum both lists and then subtract the 'used' from the 'purchases'. And I'm not as particular about getting exactly the amount of yardage used. If a pattern calls for 2 yards, that's what I record that I used. For using scraps I just estimate (generously!). And 1 yard of wide fabric is still just 1 yard to me. It gets me close enough for my needs.
    Have you ever measured how much fabric is currently in your stash? I've thought about doing that by weight by type of fabric (knit, canvas, quilting cotton, etc) but I'm too afraid of the result...
    Happy sewing!

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    Replies
    1. I have thought about it, but it would be such an undertaking. Plus I'm not sure I want to know!! :)

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  7. This post is really helpful! I've debated getting a yarn yardage meter, but your method makes much more sense! I'll definitely try it. Thanks for sharing, Jeni!

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  8. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I might start tracking mine by weight since that seems the simplest way to start after the fact. One question, I downloaded your worksheet and there were not formulas in the tacking columns. Did I lose them in the download or is that the way you designed it? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't embed any formulas directly into it!

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  9. Thank you for the helpful post. Tracking fabric in/out is new for me in 2017.

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  10. After being inspired by your example last year, I used a google spreadsheet for my tracking. It was enlightening to see how much fabric I brought in and used last year! I did attain my goal of no net increase, and shared it with my guild. I think we have a few more converts now!

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  11. Brilliant! I had been wondering how you did it so consistently! I like the square inches method, that seems doable for me.

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  12. This was a great article! I have so much fabric but not always sure of the how much of any one fabric which makes it hard to choose for a project without spending a lot of time searching for more than one piece, etc. I'm sure I'll be referencing this often. Thank you so much!

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  13. Half of me doesn't want to keep a lot of fabric sitting on a shelf because it's $ sitting on a shelf. But the other half realizes I prefer quilts that use a variety of fabrics than those who only use 10 or so. So I've curbed my buying tendencies and gotten smarter about what I'll actually use vs. what's just gorgeous for pretty fabric's sake. I am a finisher though so I'll keep using my unscientific method for now!

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  14. Would you also calculate your stash you've had already

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    Replies
    1. You certainly could! Since that would be quite the undertaking, I personally just track what I bring in or out, rather than adding/subtracting from a total.

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  15. Have you seen the Cora app? It would be a perfect fit for this! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cora-sew-your-fabric-stash/id1114445108?mt=8

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the heads up, I'll have to look into that!

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  16. Thanks for sharing your methods, Jeni! I started tracking my fabric usage last September, right after camp (inspired by you!), and as my kids went back to school. I loved seeing the numbers each month. it IS eye opening. I don't love math nearly as much as you do ;) but I do love the challenge of using what I have rather than buying more and more. I am continuing to track this year. I hope to see a real dent in my stash in the next few months. My last trip to SR Harris, however, set me back a bit. Hahahaha!

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  17. HI Jeni! Like all the other comments above mine,thank you for sharing your methods. I had never thought of calculating how much fabric I have at all. Mostly I look at my bins of fabric and think "I have got to get control of myself and make use of all of this wonderful fabric!" Your thoughts have inspired me to figure out how much I have and to use up what I have before buying more. I have made a rule not to buy if I don't have a project in mind. Thank you for your inspiration!

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  18. Jeni, I love your methods. I'm going to try to consistently do this in 2017. It will be an interesting challenge.

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  19. I have at least 65 large and small tubs of fabric. No way could I even begin to guess how much fabric I have..

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  20. Hope you don't mind, I'm a detail orientated person with an interest in math, but I seem to always notice little errors.

    I found a typo error in your math calculations. In the section where you calculate how many square inches are in a yard of 42" fabric, you write-

    Length of 1 yard of fabric ÷ Width of fabric = Square inches in 1 yard

    36" x 42" = 1,512 square inches. You wrote a division mark in the sentence & a times (x) mark in the equation. Thought you might like to know. Appreciate all the calculations you did but doubt I really have the time to do them.

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