What is a bolt of fabric?

Simply put, it’s a roll of fabric.

A bolt is a unit of measurement used as an industry standard for a variety of materials from wood to canvas, typically materials stored in a roll. The length is usually either 40 or 100 yards, but varies depending on the fabric being referred to, for example, a bolt of canvas is traditionally 39 yards.  You really would need to consult with the fabric mill regarding the yardage on the bolt before you make your purchase. 

A bolt is a commercial unit of length or area used to measure finished cloth.  One bolt typically (but NOT always) represents a strip of cloth 100 yards (91.44 meters) long.  The width varies according to the fabric.  Cotton bolts are traditionally 42 inches (1.067 meters) wide and wool bolts are usually 60 inches (1.524 meters) wide (again this is NOT “always" the case). The bolt of cotton fabric is generally 116.667 square yards (97.566 m2) and a bolt of wool is generally 166.667 square yards (139.355 m2).

You should always check on the length and width of the fabric bolt.  Some fabric is made more narrow than other fabrics.  The width of the fabric will affect your fabric utilization if you are planning to produce clothes based on a specific pattern.

The width of a bolt is usually 45 or 60 inches, but widths may include 35–36", 39", 41", 44–45", 50", 52–54", 58–60" and 66", 72", 96", and 108".  Keep in mind that some fabric has selvedge on the edges of the fabric.  This should be considering when planning how much fabric is needed for garment production.  A selvage (US English) or selvedge (British English) is a self-finished edge of fabric. The selvages keep the fabric from unraveling or fraying.  The selvages are a result of how the fabric is created. In woven fabric, selvages are the edges that run parallel to the warp (the longitudinal threads that run the entire length of the fabric), and are created by the weft thread looping back at the end of each row. In knitted fabrics, selvages are the unfinished yet structurally sound edges that were neither cast on nor bound off.  Learn more about the fabric selvedge in the fabric definitions section.  Note: raw denim selvage is a bit different.  You can learn about denim selvage if you wish in our industry terms area.

You may also want to read the fabric definitions in our glossary section.

Learn more about the textile industry here on Apparel Search.

You may want to read our fashion blog post about buying fabric by the yard, just in case you can't buy the entire bolt.