Saturday, September 12, 2009

The "How Much Fabric?" Series: Tops

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.

--Vance Hayner

Ever since I created the first “How Much Fabric?” table, I thought how nice it would be to have it printed on a small, sturdy plastic card that I could carry around in my purse. The more tables I made, the more I refined my ideas (like adding the Safety Margin table) and the more positive feedback I got here on my blog, the more I was convinced that I had something really useful here.

So, here is my surprise and the secret that has been keeping me busy all summer: I finally stopped staring up the steps! I teamed up with 3 friends and together we embarked on the “venture”.
  • Christine and I beefed up all of the tables with even more patterns (over 2,000 in total now!) and used statistical tests to make sure that the averages were stable.
  • Beth (aka MissBlackPepper of Etsy) designed beautiful cards that contained the tables and are illustrated with sketches representing examples of minimum, maximum and average clothes in each category.
  • While a printer was manufacturing the cards, Susan designed and built a web site,
gwyn hug, where YOU can buy YOUR own set. :)
What do the cards look like? Well, here is a photograph of a complete set of cards:

And here is an example of the Tops card (front and back):

The details: The cards are the same size (including thickness) as credit cards. A card set has 6 cards – a title card and then one card each for (a) dresses, (b) skirts, (c) tops, (d) jackets and (e) pants. There are 2 different versions available – one with American measurements (sizes 6 – 22; inches and yards) and one with metric measurements (sizes 32 – 48; centimeters and meters). A set costs $14.95 (USD) plus postage (USPS). Florida residents also need to add 6% sales tax.  Or, you can get the eBook version for your smart phone or tablet, for just $7.00!  

Here's more about how to use them:

I am going to leave the earlier versions of the tables up on my blog. Of course, the cards are better. ;) The tables on the cards are based on many more patterns, so they are more accurate and reliable. Also, each card has a safety margin table (unlike the first two tables on my blog). The cards are sturdy and compact, convenient to carry in a purse, and they have Beth’s beautiful sketches to help you visualize what the numbers represent in terms of outfits. But, I figured you might want to refer to the blog while you are waiting for your card set to arrive in the mail! ;)


And now, without further ado, the “How Much Fabric?” Series: Tops Table!

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. ;)

Well, if you think the fabric will make the perfect top, maybe this table will help. Just like with my previous skirts, pants, jacket and dress tables, I collected top patterns and entered the required fabric amounts into a spreadsheet, broken down by fabric width and top size, and calculated the following table of minimun, maximum and average fabric requirements.

Approximately 250 patterns went into this table (note that the table on the Tops card includes numbers from over 500 patterns). Which companies? Oh, the usual suspects: Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue, Burda, Neue Mode, New Look, Hot Patterns, Kwik Sew and some BWOF magazines.

Of course, even with a table like this, you still need to have a rough idea of the type of top 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 an “average” top, you should buy a little bit more than the average number listed in the table above. But how much should you add? This “Safety Margin” table should help you decide, based on how large of a safety margin YOU personally prefer! :)

To help make the values in the table more concrete, here are some images representing the patterns requesting the minimum, maximum and average amounts of fabric.

Not surprisingly, the pattern requiring the minimum amount of fabric is a tank top:
Here are 2 examples of patterns that called for the average amount of fabric (in most sizes): The first is more tailored and the second more casual, but note that the sleeves on the first are not full-length.

Finally, here are 2 patterns illustrating tops that you can make with the maximum values of 45 inch wide fabric (first picture - view D) and of 60 inch wide fabric (second picture - both views).

This ends the "How Much Fabric?" series that I will be publishing on my blog. If you like these tables, I hope you'll pick up a card set from our web store, gwyn hug - and maybe a couple as Christmas stocking stuffers for your sewing friends! (It's never too early...) In any event, I could never have completed this series without your encouragement and support! Thank you! :)


Zep said...

What a great idea! I know a few of my students who are going to love it too! I'm going to link and make a little print out to hand out at my sewing center. You are so smart :) Much luck with this venture.

SunnyQ said...

Happy GwynHug.Com Birth Day!! :)

meredithp said...

Wow!!! on the cards. I've ordered my set.

Sew-Ann said...

Thanks for the hard work.

Faye Lewis said...

I really need those. I'll be ordering as soon as I finish paying my monthly bills. How entrepreneurial!

Wendi said...

Exciting! Good luck processing all your orders. And Happy Birthday!

Summerset said...

Very cool! Congrats!

hilary b. said...

these are great! Will you be doing infants/toddlers/kids sizes? I think those would sell like hotcakes!

hilary b. said...

these are great! you should definately try marketing to some online fabric shops too! any chance you'll try for infants/toddlers/kids sizes? i think those would be HOT! Great job!

scormeny said...

Great idea! I bet you could turn this into a profitable iphone app too -- for myself, I keep all my sewing reference materials on my Palm Pilot, and I'd love a Palm version because that would be most convenient for how I deal with my sewing stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for putting up the fabric tables. This blog is a really great resource. Annie, Sydney, Australia

Ms B said...

I live in the UK can you deliver there. I'm doing a project on making women's blouse. All I need is how much fabric I would need if I'm to make a size 6(UK size) to a size 52 per say. These cards will help me in my assignment BIG TIME!!!

Gwen said...

Ms B - Yes, we deliver to the UK! :) Send me an email to:

and tell me a little bit more about your project, so that we can figure out the best thing to do. :)

All the best,