Sunday, June 7, 2009

The "How Much Fabric?" Series: Skirts

No person will deny that the highest degree of attainable accuracy is an object to be desired, and it is generally found that the last advances towards precision require a greater devotion of time, labour, and expense, than those which precede them.
-- Charles Babbage

It is really just as bad technique to make a measurement more accurately than is necessary as it is to make it not accurately enough.
-- Arthur David Ritchie

Let me tell you what I've been up to, and then you can decide for yourself if my endeavor is covered best by Charles Babbage or Arthur David Ritchie... ;)
I was intrigued by the various heuristics that people use to estimate the amount of fabric they need to make various pieces of clothes. I was wondering what numbers I should use, when it occurred to me that I own a ton of patterns and I could use those to get a pretty good estimate of exactly how much fabric patterns really do require.
So, I set up a spreadsheet and started with my skirt patterns. I entered all of the fabric yardage requirements, broken down by fabric width and pattern size, for approximately 120 different views (most patterns have more than 1 view). Most of the patterns I used were from the big American pattern companies, but I also put in the skirt patterns from the 3 (2009) BWOF magazines that I own.
For each width & size, I found the smallest and largest yardage requirements, and calculated the average. Then I set up 2 tables - one with this information using the American measurement system and the other using the metric system.
And so, without further adieu - here they are:

I left off the min and max values for the smallest and largest sizes because the extreme patterns didn't come in those sizes. The averages are very stable and hadn't changed for the last 1/3rd of the data entry.
To help bring some meaning to these numbers, I thought I'd show you some patterns that represent the minimum, maximum and average yardage requirements on my chart:
First, the minimum. You may have guessed that it is some type of mini-skirt, and if so, you are correct! The skirt in view A2 of this pattern requires less fabric than any other skirt pattern that I found:

Next the maximum. Certainly it is a long skirt, but, more importantly, it is the long circle skirt shown here in view A.

In fact, the following long skirt, formed by cutting a rectangle and adding elastic around the waist, uses less than 3 yards of fabric (width 60 inches) - which is more than the average skirt, but quite a bit less than the circle skirt.

Finally, some "average" skirts. In all of the below comparisons, I will be referring to yardage requirements of 45 inch width fabric for a size 10, unless otherwise noted.
Interestingly enough, I did not find many patterns that required exactly the average of 2 yards. The knee-length skirt in View C of this pattern is close, requiring 1 7/8 yard of fabric:

(View A requires more because the sash is in the same fabric and View B requires less because of the contrasting band along the bottom).
Similarly, the knee-length skirt in View C of this pattern requires 2 1/8 yards, just over the average amount of fabric.

Switching companies, View C from this skirt pattern, with the pleats, is just shy of the average, requiring 1 7/8 yards of fabric, while View E (longer, but no pleats) is just a touch over the average, requiring 2 1/8 yards.

Finally, the skirt in View C below requires 2 1/8 yards of fabric (just over the average). The skirts in Views D & E are quite close to the minimum, requiring only 7/8 yard.

So, that's it. I'm thinking to make other tables the same way, and have them printed onto small cards. I also thought I'd include line drawings of one pattern representing the min, one representing the max and two representing the average (on the back of each card?). My idea is to put together something small and easy to carry in my purse, so that I'll be able to make more accurate estimates of how much fabric to buy the next time I fall in love with some new material.

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 for your smart phone or tablet for just $7.00!

Learn more about the cards here:  


Shannon said...

You crazy, obsessive-compulsive gem, you! Thanks for the detailed catalouging of the fabric requirements - I think this is a wonderful endeavour. I'd love to see this info for long sleeved jackets.

CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

Wow! I keep a database of my patterns but there's no way. NO WAY! I'd enter all the yardages for my patterns. Nope. So not happening.

It's interesting watching your process. So keep it up.

CarlaF-in Atlanta

Anonymous said...

This is amazing, not just for the OCD-ness of it, but for the fact that you have enough time on your hands to do it! That's awesome. I would love to see your pants info and any others (ahem, dresses perhaps?) that you care to take the time to do.

Becky said...

Wow. That is way more organized than I will ever be!!!

meredithp said...

Yes, your OCD-ness, I'm impressed! I have a shortcut to this for my own use only: I have a list of basic garments: long blazer, short blazer, short skirt, long straight skirt, short sleeved shirt, knit shirt, etc. Then I put in an average yardage needed for a plain jane version both 45" and 60". It's small enough to carry around (if I think of it, of course). As an accountant by trade, your method apeals, but time-wise...not so much :-)

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Anne said...

This is so cool!! I posted a link to your chart on Craft Gossip Sewing:

perrine said...

Hi, Your chart is very interesting. I will link to it, and translate your explanations in French, in Petit Citron ( if you allow me !

Gwen said...

Anne & Perrine,

I am happy to hear that you think these tables will be of interest to your readers and I'm delighted to have you link to it!

I have 2 tables up now (skirts & pants) and plan 3 more over the next few weeks (jackets, tops & dresses).

Take care,