September 30, 2013

A case study in paying for fabric waste

I recently had a customer bring me some fabric for some flannel blankets. She mentioned off hand that some of the fabric had not been cut very straight by the fabric store sales clerk. This is not terribly unusual - I see it all the time with my custom hemstitching customers. I've seen it with fabric that I have purchased. I don't blame the sales clerks entirely. The sales clerks have to handle (wrestle) the fabric on the bolts, try to straighten it out, and then use dull scissors to cut it. The entire set-up wastes time and gives a poor outcome nearly every time. Is it any wonder that the industry prefers fabric on rolls? This is one reason I always buy a bit more yardage.

This particular case was fairly egregious. My customer wanted to have 3 flannel blankets that measured about 36" x 45", so she bought 6 pieces of flannel in one yard lengths. Every piece was cut like the picture below, some were cut as much as 4 inches off.

If I were to take the conservative approach and say the fabrics were cut only 2 inches off, that would still leave the blankets 2 inches shorter than expected once I cut the fabric straight.
Doing a little math, 6 fabrics times 2 inches means that 12 inches of fabric is wasted. In other words, my customer paid for 1/3 of a yard of fabric that ended up in the trash. I was a bit annoyed considering the current retail prices for fabric. Flannel runs about $6.99 a yard at Joann's which calculates out to about $2.31 in the garbage. And this is the conservative estimate.

Perhaps its not a huge loss. But it's still money in the trash.

I'm not sure if there is a way to avoid this problem. Just buy extra if you need to be sure and have a certain length. Do you have any similar examples?


  1. I got really frustrated when I made a jacket and the pattern called for 2 1/2 yd of fabric, but really only needed about 1 1/2 yards. That was a whole yard of $20/yd fabric that I bought that I didn't need, and don't really have a use for now. Plus the cost of the lining too. Grrr.

  2. This is really annoying. I prefer lengths to be torn but it often isn't possible because some goods don't lend themselves to being torn or the clerk won't do it. So, I solve it -wastefully. I buy a bit extra to include an allowance for shrinkage.