A bolt of fabric is a large roll of cloth that has been processed and prepared for use in various industries. The dimensions of a bolt can vary greatly depending on the type of fabric, manufacturing process, and intended application. However, there are some general guidelines for the width, length, and amount of fabric contained in a standard bolt.
The width of fabric bolts typically ranges from 35 to 108 inches, with the most common widths being 42 inches for cotton, 60 inches for wool, and 54 to 60 inches for other fabrics like upholstery and drapery. Bolts meant for apparel are generally narrower, while bolts for furniture and drapes are wider. The length of a bolt is most often either 40 or 100 yards, though other lengths like 30 or 200 yards can be found. Traditionally, canvas bolts are 39 yards while other types average 100 yards.
With so much variation, it’s important to carefully measure bolts yourself to determine the precise amount of fabric purchased. Online calculators can help estimate yardage required for projects if dimensions are known. Guidebooks also provide typical bolt sizes for certain fabrics. Understanding the average width, length, and yardage in a bolt makes planning and purchasing fabrics for all types of sewing, quilting, and design work easier. Now that the standard dimensions are clear, we can delve deeper into measuring, calculating, and planning projects with bolts of fabric.
Key Dimensions – Width, Length, and Yardage
The width and length of a bolt determines how much usable fabric is contained. Here are the standard dimensions to be aware of:
The width of a fabric bolt can range from 35 inches on the narrow end up to 108 inches on the wider end. Some of the most common widths are:
- Apparel fabrics: 35-60 inches
- Drapery fabrics: 54-110 inches
- Upholstery fabrics: 54-110 inches
- Quilting fabrics: 42-44 inches
- Home decor fabrics: 54-60 inches
Narrower widths around 36-45 inches are best for cutting patterns and sewing clothes or quilts. Wider widths from 54-110 inches are geared for upholstery, curtains, blankets, and other large projects.
The length of fabric bolts is commonly either 40 or 100 yards. Some exceptions include:
- Canvas bolts which are often 39 yards
- Bolts ranging from 30-200 yards
A longer bolt equals more usable fabric so yardage is an important calculation.
The total yardage in a bolt is determined by multiplying the width by the length. A wider, longer bolt will contain substantially more fabric by weight than a narrower, shorter one.
- A 45″ x 40 yard cotton bolt contains about 135 yards of fabric.
- A 60″ x 100 yard wool bolt contains about 500 yards of fabric.
Factors Affecting Bolt Dimensions
Several variables influence the standardized bolt widths and lengths seen for different fabric types and applications:
Fiber Content and Fabric Properties
- Natural fibers like silk, cotton, and linen can only be woven to certain widths determined by equipment.
- Synthetics like polyester have more flexibility in width.
- Heavyweight upholstery fabrics are wider to accommodate large items.
- Sheer, delicate fabrics may come in narrower bolts for easier handling.
- Loomed fabrics are restricted in width by machinery.
- Knitted fabrics are more variable in width.
- Some finishing processes require set bolt dimensions to work properly.
- Apparel needs narrower widths for pattern layouts.
- Home decor projects use wider bolts for cutting larger panels.
- Certain wholesale industry standards dictate sizes.
- Narrower bolts are easier to transport, stack, and store.
- Larger bolts maximize efficiency and yardage but can be bulky.
- Some bolts are sized specifically to fit certain retail shelves.
Choosing the Right Bolt Size
Consider the following when purchasing fabric bolts:
Research if there is an industry standard width for the specific fabric you need. Natural fibers have more limits than synthetics.
Think about how you will cut and use the fabric. Projects like clothing and quilts do better with narrower bolts around 40-45″. Home decor projects can utilize wider bolts.
Make sure you have room to store larger bolts if purchasing in bulk. Narrower bolts take up less space.
Larger bolts provide more yardage per roll which can lead to cost savings. But too much extra yardage leads to waste.
Measuring Bolt Dimensions
It’s important to not rely on average sizes and instead always measure the specific bolt you are purchasing. Here are some tips:
Use a Measuring Tape
Wrap a fabric measuring tape around the full width of the bolt and pull it straight to get an accurate width. Measure along the full length of the cut edge for the length.
Check the Ends
Fabric can shift inside the bolt and be narrower or wider in some sections. Check both ends and the middle width.
Multiply the average width and length to get the total yardage amount. Or use an online fabric calculator for help.
Weigh the Bolt
Heavier bolts contain more fabric. The density and type of the fabric impacts the weight.
Read the product label to check if the bolt dimensions and yardage are indicated. But still measure to verify.
Average Bolt Sizes by Fabric Type
Despite variance, these are typical bolt dimensions for common fabric types:
- Width: 42-45 inches
- Length: 40-100 yards
- Use: clothing, quilting, crafts
Cotton is one of the most ubiquitous fabrics, used for all types of projects. The fibers lend themselves to a narrower weave of around 45″ that is suitable for garment construction and quilting. Expect cotton bolts to be 40-45″ wide and 40-100 yards long.
- Width: 54-62 inches
- Length: 40-100 yards
- Use: suits, coats, upholstery
Due to the nature of wool fibers, bolts are woven to a wider width of 60″ traditionally. Modern wool apparel fabric may be 54″ wide. Yardage varies from 40-100 yards for most purposes. Wool provides warmth and structure for garments and upholstery.
- Width: 35-60 inches
- Length: Variable yardage
- Use: formalwear, home decor
The delicate nature of silk fibers results in more variable bolt sizes. Widths range from a very narrow 35″ for fine silk up to 60″ for silks with more mechanical strength. The length is produced to customer specifications. Silk is prized for its beautiful drape in apparel and decor.
- Width: 54-63 inches
- Length: 45-55 yards
- Use: apparel, upholstery, towels
Linen fibers produce bolts in the mid-range of width, averaging 52″-63″. Shorter 45-55 yard lengths are common. The breathable fibers make linen ideal for warm weather apparel and durable towels or upholstery.
- Width: 60-108 inches
- Length: 20+ yards
- Use: upholstery, home decor
Polyester is a versatile synthetic fabric available in bolts ranging from 60″ on the narrow side to over 108″ wide. It can be produced in very long 20+ yard lengths. The easy care nature makes polyester suitable for upholstery and drapery projects.
- Width: 54-60 inches
- Length: 40-55 yards
- Use: upholstery, formalwear
The plush dense pile of velvet fabrics requires special wider looms to produce. Look for velvet bolts around 58″-60″ wide and 40-55 yards in length. Velvet is valued for its luxurious appearance in furnishings and elegant apparel.
- Width: 42-44 inches
- Length: 25-30 yards
- Use: quilts, crafts
Quilting cotton is made from shorter staple fibers that limit the weaving width to around 43″. Bolts tend to be 25-30 yards suitable for cutting quilt blocks and patches. The high thread count creates durability.
- Width: 52-63 inches
- Length: 39 yards
- Use: crafts, bags, outdoor gear
Canvas has a tradition of being woven to 39 yard lengths. Width can range from 52″- 63″ depending on the fiber blend and coatings applied. The heavyweight feel makes canvas great for totes, gear, and crafts.
- Width: 60 inches
- Length: 30-55 yards
- Use: shirts, sleepwear, baby blankets
Soft flannel is produced in widths around 60″ that work well for pajamas and shirts. Bolt yardage varies from 30-55 yards. The brushed napping creates insulating warmth ideal for cozy flannel bedding and apparel.
Comparison Table of Average Bolt Sizes by Common Fabric Types
|Fabric Type||Width Range||Typical Length||Common Uses|
|Cotton||42-45 inches||40-100 yards||Clothing, quilting, crafts|
|Wool||54-62 inches||40-100 yards||Suits, coats, upholstery|
|Silk||35-60 inches||Variable yardage||Formalwear, home decor|
|Linen||54-63 inches||45-55 yards||Apparel, upholstery, towels|
|Polyester||60-108 inches||20+ yards||Upholstery, home decor|
|Velvet||54-60 inches||40-55 yards||Upholstery, formalwear|
|Quilting Cotton||42-44 inches||25-30 yards||Quilts, crafts|
|Canvas||52-63 inches||39 yards||Crafts, bags, outdoor gear|
|Flannel||60 inches||30-55 yards||Shirts, sleepwear, baby blankets|
Estimating Yardage for Projects
To estimate fabric needs for a sewing, quilting, or design project, consider these steps:
Sketch the Project Dimensions
Diagram the length, width, and shape of the individual pattern pieces or project dimensions.
Determine Pattern Requirements
Check the suggested yardage requirements on the pattern envelope or instructions. Account for directional prints.
Use a Fabric Calculator
Plug project measurements into an online fabric yardage calculator which accounts for layout efficiency.
Divide pattern width or project width by bolt width. Multiply by number of pieces needed. Add 10-20% for shrinkage or errors.
Compare Bolt Yardage
Cross-check your estimated yardage against the total you would get from different bolt sizes under consideration.
Purchase Extra Yardage
It’s smart to buy 10-15% more than the estimated yardage needed as a buffer for mistakes or changes.
With some measuring, planning, and calculation, you can determine the perfect bolt size and yardage amount to purchase for any sewing, quilting, upholstery, or home decor project. Use this guide as a reference to demystify working with bolts of fabric.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered a “standard” bolt of fabric?
There are few true standards as dimensions vary so widely. But common sizes include cotton bolts at 45″ wide x 40 yards long or wool at 60″ wide x 100 yards long.
How do I calculate fabric yardage in a bolt?
Multiply the width of the bolt x the length of the bolt and divide by 36. Example: 45″ x 40 yards = 135 yards of fabric.
What’s the difference between bolt size vs. roll size?
Bolts are folded from a continuous roll then wrapped around a cardboard core. Rolls are simply the raw fabric wound onto a tube before cutting and folding into bolts.
Why do upholstery fabrics come in larger bolts than apparel?
Upholstery fabrics require wider widths of 54″ or more to accommodate cutting large panels for sofas, chairs, etc. Apparel uses narrower bolts around 40-45″ suitable for laying patterns.
What size bolt should I get for making clothes?
Aim for bolts in the standard apparel width of 40-45″. Cottons and wools around 42″-45″ wide work well for cutting garment patterns efficiently.
How wide are quilting fabric bolts?
Quilting cotton bolts range from 40″-45″ wide which provides flexibility for cutting various block sizes. Flannel can be wider around 60″.
What’s the minimum bolt length I should purchase?
It’s smart to buy at least 10-15 yards of fabric minimum to allow for shrinkage, mistakes, and pattern matching. Overall, get more than you estimate needing.
Does bolt size affect the fabric price per yard?
Not directly. Width and length don’t change the base pricing. You actually get a cost savings by buying more yardage in larger bolts compared to purchasing by the yard.
From apparel to upholstery and quilting, bolt size dimensions impact every fabric project. While widths, lengths, and yardage vary by fiber, manufacturing, and use, following some general size guides can help when purchasing standard fabrics. Always remember to actually measure bolts rather than relying on averages alone. Calculating yardage, considering project needs, adding a buffer, and comparing bolt sizes will result in buying just the right amount of fabric. With the handy tips in this guide, you can take the guesswork out of working with bolts of fabric.