How to Measure Fabric for Upholstery

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure

  • Pen

  • Paper

  • Calculator

An eye for detail is helpful when measuring fabric for upholstery.

Estimating the amount of fabric you need for upholstery can be challenging. Take your measurements before removing the old fabric. If you rely on the frame dimensions, you will come up short. This article uses a chair as a sample re-upholstery project.


Step 1

Sketch a rough drawing of your chair for noting all your measurements.

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Step 2

Use a tape measure to calculate the length and width of the chair's arms. Use the widest point of the arm as your width measurement.

Step 3

Measure around the back of the chair frame to get its outside width. Measure the back frame top to bottom for the outside length.

Step 4

For inside back dimensions, spread your tape measure from one side of the chair back to the other to obtain width. For length, measure from the top of the chair to where the back meets the seat.


Step 5

Calculate your chair's seat measurements by taking note of the width and length of cushion that is resting on the seat.

Step 6

If your chair has a gussett (see picture below) measure the length and width of this area as well. In Queen Anne type chairs which are popular for reupholstery, the gussett can replace a chair skirt.


Step 7

Multiply the height measurements of each section of the chair by it's length counterpart.

Step 8

Divide this figure by 36 to convert your measurement from inches to yards.

Step 9

Round up all measurements to the nearest half-yard when purchasing fabric. This means that if you require 4 yards and 11 inches of fabric, you will need to purchase 4 1/2 yards. Rounding up gives you extra fabric to accommodate a mistake in sewing or in measurement.


Piping or any sort of trim will require at least one yard if you are upholstering a chair, and an additional half-yard for each extra seat cushion.


If you are upholstering with fabric that has a pattern, you will need to purchase extra material to make sure designs match up. Purchase an extra yard of fabric for chairs and an extra two to three yards for a sofa.


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