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Strategies For When There’s Not Enough Fabric

I am notorious for not having enough fabric. I am not talking about the mountains of fabric I have been stashing away my whole life. No, I am talking about “not enough” yardage for the particular project I have in mind. If the pattern calls for two and a half yards, I will have two. I will be close, and I will spend hours rearranging pattern pieces and folding the fabric every which way to try and eke out the pieces I need. Sometimes I figure it out, and other times, it just is not enough fabric.

Deliberately not enough

The other thing I am notorious for is buying a single yard of fabric. Why on earth would someone who sews mainly garments ever buy a single yard of fabric? But I fall in love with a piece and not knowing what I might do with it, I buy one yard.

So, you may ask, what do you do with bits and bobs and one-yard cuts of fabric? As it turns out, plenty. Over the years of “not enough,” I have developed strategies for dealing with less-than-optimal yardages. These are great for getting closer to zero waste in sewing, as well.¬† Here are some of my tricks that turn small amounts into big successes.

Choose small garments

Even though it is obvious, there are patterns and garments that use fabric amounts more efficiently than others. I am partial to square shapes, so T-shirt shapes and cropped tops usually call for shorter lengths. My favorite hip-length, short-sleeve tee fits easily on a yard of 60-inch jersey knit. (For reference, I usually make a commercial pattern size 12 or 14.)

Top pattern pieces lying on blue jersey knit on gridded cutting mat

Work your pattern

There are several ways to work a pattern to conserve precious yardage.¬†Next time you’re faced with “not enough” try some of…

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  1. User avater
    barakasews | | #1

    I'm loving the clever shirt piecing trick and I am also one of those that hasn't yet learned that I really need to buy at least 3 yards of something. I'm due for a stash reorganization and now I think part of that project will be to separate smaller cuts so I can see options like this at a glance!

  2. user-6352412 | | #2

    I have a different problem. I often buy four yards of something great and then decide I want to make something that takes three yards and then I don't make anything because I don't want a lonely yard left over. You've given me food for thought with these examples!

  3. LindaG7 | | #3

    I've tried most of these techniques in one form or another. They can lead to some very creative and interesting results and allow the use of some precious, but limited yardage. One caution about using selvages anywhere (inside or outside of a garment): selvages often have a different drape or hand and shrinkage response than the rest of the fabric. I have found many selvages will shrink and curl more than the body of the fabric and are often much stiffer. You can use this to your advantage in some cases, but it is important to consider if you plan to incorporate the selvage into your design.

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