Walking into a fabric store can be intimidating. Let me help make it less scary. By the end of this post, you should feel comfortable handling a bolt of fabric!
Most fabric comes wrapped like this. The fabric is one long piece, usually 8-10 yards long, folded in half, then wrapped around a cardboard core. The bolt stands approx. 22" tall.
It's important to remember that this fabric is folded before being wrapped around the core. It remains folded when measured and cut by the sales associate. If you cut one yard (36"), the actual piece of fabric you go home with is 36" x 44". The same applies if you are ordering fabric online. Ordering 1 yard will give you 36" x 44" when it arrives at your door. Some online retailers are generous and will give you an extra inch (37" wide, kind of like a baker's dozen).
This holds true for all standard bolts of fabric. Sometimes bolts are larger and the fabric will actually be 60" wide. The bolt looks exactly the same, but it will be about 8" taller in the store. The fabric is still folded in half before wrapping around the cardboard center, so the bolt itself will stand approx. 30" tall.
If you order 1/4 yard of fabric, you will get a long skinny piece of fabric that is 9" wide by 44" long. If you've heard the term "fat quarter," it refers to a special cut (usually only available as a pre-cut length, not something you can choose to have cut from a bolt.) A fat quarter is when a full yard of fabric is cut, then divided into 4 equal rectangles. Those rectangles are 18" x 22", as opposed to a skinny quarter which is 9" x 44". Both are considered a "quarter yard of fabric." Big difference!
The end of the cardboard tube holds a lot of important information. This information is not printed on the fabric itself, and it also will not be printed on your receipt or cutting table paperwork. If you need specific info, it is very important to jot it down or snap a photo with your phone before leaving the store.
Price per yard. Look for sale or clearance stickers in this area as well.
Laundering instructions and fiber content. This is very important so that you know how to care for the item you plan to make when it's finished.
"Valentine Candy" is the name of the fabric. You may also see the designer's information here. Under that, it lists the colorway. Sometimes the same design will appear in different colors (this one does not, so it just says "Multi.") Under that, where the fabric was milled. This one came from China.
To the right of this info you can see "Size 44IN" which refers to the overall width of the fabric if you unfold it. Most fabric comes as 44", but you can see 54" in home decor types of fabric, and 60" as well. Sometimes there might even be a 90" width, common in cotton muslin and fabrics made to be a single piece for a quilt backing. Those are not as common in the fabric store. They also are not insanely tall bolts--most of the time that fabric will be folded two or three times before wrapping around the cardboard to make the bolt more manageable.
Lastly, you see "Yards 10" which refers to the total length of fabric on the bolt when it first arrives in the store.
If you found this information helpful or have questions, please let me know in the comments. Happy fabric shopping!
Knitters are the best! I knit badly, but I love to sew lovely bags to keep their projects, needles and hooks in order. I also teach sewing, and you can find many sewing resources here. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.