After a quilter has been quilting for some time they have a fairly large "stash" of fabric and really don't have a fear of running out. Many times if one fabric is short, a creative alternative is worked out and actually enhances the quilt design. In other words the quilt turned out better because the quilter ran out of a specific fabric and had to substitute another fabric and make another design decision. So running out of fabric is not always bad, it can be a new opportunity.
Estimating yardage to make a quilt can be a little confusing at times. All you need to know is the number and size of each piece you'll need. Then a little simple math and you will know how much fabric to buy.
When you choose a purchased pattern or take one from a book and don't make any significant changes you can usually use the fabric requirements listed in the pattern with confidence that you'll have enough fabric. I usually prefer to buy at least one-fourth to one-half yard extra of each fabric - just for insurance, shrinkage, or for small cutting errors. Even experienced quilters cut a strip wrong once in awhile! If the strip is cut too large it can be trimmed down but if it is cut too small another strip would need to be cut and the small one retired to the scrap bag.
If you are designing your own quilt and have a sketch on graph paper and you know the cutting size of each portion of your quilt, all you will need a piece of scrap paper and a simple inexpensive calculator. You will have to work in decimals when working with calculator. The only decimals you will need to know are .25 = 1/4, .5 = 1/2, and .75 = 3/4. If some of your pieces measure in eighths, simply round up to the next quarter.
Divide your sheet of scrap paper into columns, listing each fabric color you will need for your quilt. As you calculate the needs for each portion of the quilt, write the total number of inches of yardage in the appropriate column.
For example, you need to cut 24 squares 4 1/2". Allow approximately 40" of usable fabric in a strip. Punch 40 into your calculator (width of fabric) and divide by 4.5" (size of square needed) = 8. You can get eight 4 1/2" squares from each 4 1/2" strip (40" wide). Clear your calculator. Then punch in 24 (total number of squares needed) and divide by 8 (number of squares from each strip) = 3. You need three strips 4 1/2" wide. Clear your calculator. Punch in 4.5 (width of strip) times 3 (number of strips needed) = 13.5. You need 13.5" of yardage to cut these squares. Write this number in the appropriate column on your scrap paper.
Triangles would be estimated the same way. If you need 4" finished half square triangles you would need to cut 4 7/8" squares and slice them diagonally. Remember that one square will make two triangles. Calculating as shown above, you would be able to cut 16 triangles from a 4 7/8" strip. When calculating with eighths, round 4 7/8" up to 5". If you need 64 triangles, punch 64 into your calculator (number of triangles needed) divided by 16 (number of triangles in each strip) = 4 strips. Punch 5 into your calculator (4 7/8" width of strip rounded up to 5) times 4 strips = 20". You will need 20 inches of yardage to cut these triangles. Write this number in the appropriate column on your scrap paper.
Continue for all the pieces needed in the quilt using cutting sizes as needed and writing the totals in the appropriate column according to the color of fabric needed.
When estimating borders, all you need is the cut width of the borders and the number of strips you need to cut -- piecing as needed. A large quilt would need two strips (width of fabric) for each side of the quilt = 8 strips. A medium size or lap quilt might only need six strips. Multiply the number of strips needed by the width of the strips. The total is the amount of yardage you'll need for borders. Write this number in the appropriate column on your scrap paper.
When you have figured every portion of your entire quilt in each color of fabric, all you need to do is total up the running yardage of each fabric and divide by 36 (number of inches in a yard). This will give you the yardage you'll need to buy for that particular color. Remember to add at least one-fourth to one-half yard for insurance, shrinkage, and cutting errors.
Please tell the novices, such as me, how to keep the stitches from showing, when attaching the appliqué to the material. Thank you!!
When doing hand appliqué, be sure to use thread that matches the appliqué patch, not the background. If the thread cannot match exactly use a shade slightly darker. It will blend in better than a shade lighter. Some appliqué teachers recommend using silk thread in a neutral color. You might want to try silk thread but I find that using regular sewing thread in the same color as my appliqué patch gives very satisfactory results.