How Much Fabric Should You Buy?

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How Much Fabric Should You Buy?

Furniture is typically built to last many years, but during that time the fabric on upholstered pieces may become worn or outdated, or the tastes of the owner may change. Reupholstering an older piece of furniture can completely alter the look and feel of the furniture and the room. Consumers who want to reupholster a piece of furniture have the opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind item by selecting a fabric with the exact look, texture, and style they desire.

Whether there is a vintage sofa that needs to brought into modern times or a modern chair that could use a fresh new look, purchasing the right amount of fabric for a reupholstering job requires some planning and thought. There are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account, such as the width of the fabric and any pattern on it. When deciding how much fabric to purchase, the most important factor is the size and design of the piece of furniture. Knowing ahead of time how much fabric is required for an upholstery job can save consumers the hassle of not buying enough fabric or the expense of buying more than they need.

Buying Fabric for Furniture

Reupholstering furniture is a labour-intensive endeavour that requires a fair amount of knowledge. For this reason, many consumers prefer to pay a professional to handle the job. But, with the price of labour and fabric included, having a piece of furniture reupholstered can easily cost more than replacing the piece with something new. One way consumers can save on reupholstering is to purchase the fabric themselves.

Buying discount upholstery fabric from a large warehouse or internet clearance site can save hundreds of pounds. However, consumers seldom know how much fabric is needed for a specific piece of furniture. For anyone unfamiliar with upholstery and fabric, using measurements to estimate the amount of fabric needed leaves a lot of room for error. Instead, consumers can use an upholsterer's guide to get an idea of how much fabric to purchase.


Chairs come in all manner of styles and sizes. Depending on the type of chair being reupholstered, consumers need to purchase anywhere from 0.75 metre to 7 metres. The chart below lists some basic styles of chairs and offers estimated amounts of fabric needed to reupholster each style.

Type of Chair


Metres of Fabric

Dining Room, seat only

Duncan Phyfe, Hepplewhite, Ladderback

0.75 (recovers 2 chairs)

Dining Room, seat and back

Queen Anne, Louis XV, Parsons

2 to 3

Armless Chair

Slipper Chair


Wing Chair


5 to 7

Traditional Chair

Sheridan Tub, Chippendale, Regency

4 to 4.5

Club Chair

Pillowback, Buttonback

5 to 6

Consumers should note that 0.75 metres of 140-centimetre wide fabric is enough to recover the seats of two standard dining room chairs. Unless there is pattern that has to be centred or a repeat in the fabric, 3 metres of fabric is enough to recover a set of eight chairs. Large, stuffed armchairs require up to 7 metres of fabric.


Sofas are available in a number of different sizes and styles. Some sofas have three cushions, while others only have two. The chart below gives general guidelines for the amount of fabric needed to recover several styles of sofas.

Size of Sofa

Metres of Fabric

Small Sofa


Medium Sofa


Large Sofa


L-shaped Sectional


These guidelines are estimates based on the most typical sofa styles. Sofas with ruffled skirts or tall backs require an extra 2 to 3 metres of fabric. If there are pillows on the sofa, allow an additional half to full metre for each one, depending on size.

Other Types of Furniture

Not all furniture fits easily into a general category. Specialty items, such as chaise loungers, loveseats, and ottomans require different amounts of fabric than other similarly sized pieces of furniture. The chart below gives fabric amounts for less common furniture items.

Type of Furniture

Metres of Fabric


6 to 7


7 to 8


2 to 3

When in doubt as to the category in which a particular piece belongs, the best way to determine the amount of fabric to buy is to find a few different similarly designed pieces and go with the higher estimate.

Buying Fabric for Home Decorating

A freshly upholstered sofa or chair inspires many consumers to incorporate the new fabric into other items in the room. Using matching or coordinating fabric for window treatments and bedding can completely transform a room.


Making new bedding is a cost effective way to update a tired bedroom. Items like duvet covers, pillow shams, and dust ruffles are simple to make, even for beginner sewers. The chart below outlines the amount of fabric needed for different types and sizes of bedding.

Size of Bed

Metres of Fabric for Duvet Cover

Metres of Fabric for Dust Ruffle

Metres of Fabric for Bedspread

Metres of Fabric for Pillow Sham



5 to 6


4 to 6



6 to 7


4 to 6



7 to 8

10 to 11

4 to 6



9 to 10


5 to 7

Add one to two metres of fabric for larger size beds, such as the California king or the twin extra-long. Consumers on a tight budget can save money by choosing bedding styles that require less fabric, for example, making a duvet cover instead of a bedspread.

Curtains and Draperies

With the endless array of window sizes and styles, fabric requirements for curtains and draperies must be calculated on an individual basis. To figure out how much fabric is needed for window treatments, the width and length must first be measured.

Width of Window Treatments

To calculate curtain width, measure the width of the window for inside mount window treatments. For outside mount window treatments, either measure the length of the pole or track, or measure the width of window and add any amount the window treatment must extend past the window. Double or triple this number to get the desired amount of fullness in the curtains or drapes. Add 15 centimetres for an overlapping centre. Then, divide that number by either 122 or 137 centimetres, depending on the width of the fabric being used, to get the number of widths required.

Length of Window Treatments

To determine the length of each panel, measure from the top of the track or pole to the point where the curtain panel should end. Add about 75 centimetres for the rod pocket, heading, and hem. This is the total length required per width, as determined above. Multiply total length by the number of widths to get a final number of centimetres needed, and simply convert that to metres.

Other Considerations When Buying Fabric

Consumers need to take into account the width of the fabric, as well as any pattern or texture, when purchasing fabric. Also, if piping or trim is desired, extra fabric is needed. Be sure to keep these things in mind when determining the amount of fabric to buy.

Width of Fabric

Most upholstery weight fabrics sold are 137 centimetres wide. The charts used here are based on this standard. However, some decorator fabrics are only 122 centimetres wide. Consumers need to pay attention to fabric width when purchasing fabric, and should add roughly 30 per cent more fabric for 122 centimetre widths.

Pattern or Nap

Fabrics with repeating patterns or noticeable textures, called naps, require special consideration. Consumers should figure an additional 20 per cent of fabric into the total when using a fabric with a repeating pattern. Fabric with a nap, such as velvet, requires an additional 10 per cent more fabric.


Piping and trim on upholstered pieces mean extra fabric requirements. Add one to two metres for each large cushion and one metre for a piping on a pillow. Add two metres for a skirt on a medium-sized sofa.

How to Buy Fabric on eBay

eBay may not be the first option that comes to mind when deciding where to buy fabric, but it is definitely a good one. eBay offers shoppers a huge catalogue of products sold by vendors located all over the world. This gives consumers access to a broader selection of fabrics than can be found at brick and mortar shops in any single location. As an added bonus, eBay makes easy work of searching for and finding the right fabric. A simple search for "coloured fabric" returns a lengthy page of listings shoppers can browse in search of items that match their requirements.

The key to buying fabric on eBay and being satisfied with the purchase is doing some research beforehand. Read listings thoroughly, paying special attention to the accompanying photos, information regarding condition, and other important details. Contact the seller directly for clarification on any uncertainties or to ask for more details. eBay makes all this incredibly easy for your convenience. Buyers can research individual products or particular sellers by reading product reviews and taking note of a seller's rating and feedback scores.


Reupholstering a piece of furniture can bring new life to something that otherwise may be cast aside, but few consumers know how much fabric is needed to complete a job. Figuring out how much fabric to buy to reupholster a sofa or chair by taking measurements and adding seam allowances is a complicated endeavour. Fortunately, most fabric stores and online retailers, like eBay, offer upholstery charts with estimates of how much fabric is required for each specific type of furniture. These charts are valuable tools for anyone considering reupholstering a piece of furniture.

Whether a reupholstery project involves something big or small, it is possible to find the amount needed at an economical price by shopping on eBay. Keep in mind that even the best deal on fabric may not be so great if too much or too little fabric is purchased. Knowing how to buy the right amount of fabric is an important skill for home-based sewers and professional seamstresses alike. It saves the frustration of realising there is not enough fabric to complete a project, as well as the aggravation of purchasing more than was needed.

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