Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The "How Much Fabric?" Series: Pants

A beautiful color catches your eye... You reach out and touch - the texture is to die for! You MUST have that fabric! But, how much should you buy?
Obviously, the ideal situation is if you have the perfect pattern in your hand - it will tell you exactly how much you need.
But sometimes life isn't perfect and gorgeous fabric comes into our lives before we have a pattern picked out. ;)

So, I collected pants patterns and entered the fabric amounts into a spreadsheet, broken down by fabric width and pants size, and calculated the following table of minimun, maximum and average fabric requirements. Approximately 70 patterns went into the values for 45 inch width fabric, and about 95 patterns went into the 60 inch width numbers. I included patterns from Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue, Burda, some BWOF magazines (3 issues from 2009), Brown Paper Bag Patterns & Hot Patterns. (If it was labeled "Shorts" I did NOT include it.)
And here is my table:

I whited out the minimum and maximum values for sizes 6, 18 & 20, because the extreme patterns that I found didn't come in those sizes, and so I felt that those values weren't accurate.
To help make these columns more concrete, here are some images representing the patterns requesting the minimum, maximum and average amounts of fabric:
The pattern in my table requiring the minimum amount of fabric is this Butterick pattern, view A - the knee-length pants.

The pattern requiring the maximum amount of fabric is this Simplicity pattern, also view A, the wide legged, full length pants with cuffs:

Here is the line drawing of those pants - note that views C, D & E require about the average amount of fabric:

And here are a few more examples of patterns that called for the average amount of fabric:

A Harem pant from Burda:

A classic dress trouser from Hot Patterns:

A soft work-out pant from Simplicity:

Of course, even with a table like this, you still need to have a rough idea of the type of pants you might make, and you still need to estimate the amount of fabric to buy. I like the table because I feel like using it helps me start my estimating from a solid foundation.
Remember that an "average" is a number that approximates the middle value - that means that there are a lot of patterns just above it, as well as a lot of patterns just under it. So if you think you are going to make average pants, you should buy a little bit more than the average number listed in the table above.

Do you think these tables are useful? I have updated all of my tables with even more patterns and had them printed onto small, plastic cards - perfect for slipping into your purse and accompanying you on all of your fabric shopping trips! You can order a set of 5 sturdy cards (covering dresses, tops, jackets, pants and skirts) here for just $14.95 - both US and metric versions are available - or get the eBook version on your smart phone or tablet for just $7.00!  

You can learn more about them here:


Nancy K said...

those are the exact amounts I buy unless I, one, have to buy by the yard or half yard, and if I expect that it will shrink a lot. I guess many years of experience gets the same results as your spreadsheet.

gwensews said...

These are very scientific tables! It would be handy to print them out,laminate them and drop them in a handbag, always there when you find the perfect fabric.

Anonymous said...

I love this series! Thank you again for doing this for all of us.

goodworks1 said...

Gwen, these charts are fascinating! I'm finding that I buy quite a bit more than the mean, due to length issues and fear of shrinkage! But I do have one question: why would the yardage be more for the 60" fabric than the 45" for some sizes?

goodworks1 said...

Hah! I see the answer already! Those were the MAX figures for sizes 12 and 14, not the averages... (Hiding head in embarrassment....)

Christine said...

I think these tables are fantastic!

Faye Lewis said...

This is a great idea, I'd certainly like to have a copy when you are finished!

Claire S. said...

This is great info ! I never know how much to buy and without fail I pick a pattern that calls for more than what I bought :-(

Anonymous said...

What if you want to make a pair of leather pants, how much material will you need given the nature of the material?

elaine masur said...

These tables will be fantastically helpful. I live in China now, having moved here from Canada. It is relatively inexpensive, but it is almost impossible to communicate without specs. As you probably know, the most common method of transportation is by bicycle, and culottes are a terrific alternative to pants, dressier but less revealing than a dress or skirt. Could you possibly post a table for a simple single pleat above the knee, below the knee and calf length culotte similar to Butterick #4389 and to the fuller dressier Burda pattern 4962.