How to Measure Fabric for Slipcovers - dummies

By Mark Montano, Carly Sommerstein

There are several tricks to determining how much fabric you need to buy before you begin making slipcovers for your sofa or chairs. Fabric is woven in several conventional widths: 36 inches; 42 to 45 inches; 54, 58, and 60 inches; 75, 90, and in some cases, 105 to 110 inches. The narrow widths are usually reserved for clothing; however, some wonderful ethnic fabrics are 36 or 45 inches wide.

The fabric bolt, or hangtag on a cylinder bolt, is where the manufacturer lists all the information you need to know about the fabric, including fiber content, fabric width, and whether the fabric has been prewashed. Pattern-repeat length is indicated on the bolt or cylinder tag as well.

If you’re making a sofa slipcover, you definitely want to go with the 54-to-60-inch width, or if you can find it, 105 or 110-inch-wide fabrics that can save you a lot of sewing. (Who wants to sew a bunch of small panels of fabric together?) Always check the info on the fabric bolt or on a cylinder bolt’s hangtag to determine the fabric’s dimensions, or ask the salesperson to double-check the width before cutting the cloth. Always remember: As soon as the salesperson cuts the fabric, consider it sold.

If the fabric you like is made from natural fibers or a blend with natural fibers, and hasn’t been prewashed, you must allow for some initial shrinkage when calculating how much fabric you need. To be on the safe side, if you’re making a project that needs a lot of fabric — a sofa slipcover or even a very long or wide pair of drapes — adding an extra 3 yards to accommodate shrinkage is a good idea.

This list includes an approximate breakdown of how much solid or small, nondirectional print (that is, no-repeat print) fabric you need for slipcover projects:

  • A large sofa: 10 to 14 yards of 60-inch-wide fabric or 16 to 20 yards of 45-inch-wide fabric

  • A small sofa: 6 to 8 yards of 60-inch-wide fabric or 10 to 12 yards of 45-inch-wide fabric

  • A small table: 5 to 6 yards of 60-inch-wide fabric or 6 to 8 yards of 45-inch-wide fabric

  • A standard-size armchair: 4 to 6 yards of 60-inch-wide fabric or 8 to 10 yards of 45-inch-wide fabric

  • A dining room chair: 3 yards of either 45-inch-wide or 60-inch-wide fabric.

  • An ottoman: 2 yards of either 45- or 60-inch-wide fabric

If you’ve initially planned to use a 60-inch-wide fabric, but can find only a 45-inch-wide fabric that really pleases you, just add between 4 and 6 extra yards of fabric. For a smaller sofa, use 4 yards, and for a larger sofa, use 6 yards. If you’re lucky enough to find a fabric you like that is 110 inches wide, you’ll need a little more than half the estimated yardage for the 60-inch-wide fabric estimates in the previous list.