Fabric is the first element you need whether you are sewing as a hobby or as a job. Though you can still get a yard of fabrics for as low as US$1, you have to spend quite an amount for average-quality ones. This sometimes makes you wonder, why is fabric so expensive these days.
As time goes by, the price of everything including fabrics keeps rising. This is mostly due to the increasing cost of production. The long manufacturing process is the main reason for the high market price of fabrics.
What Makes Fabric So Expensive?
The retail price of fabric depends on its overall quality. Better quality fabrics involve more cost in manufacturing. Besides, the price varies greatly according to the type of fabric.
(A) Different Types of Fabrics
Based on the fiber used for manufacturing, production process, patterns, and texture there are hundreds of types out there. Here is a short list of the most common fabrics seen these days:
- Chiffon fabric: This lightweight, plain-woven fabric is made of twisted yarns from silk, cotton, nylon, polyester, or rayon.
- Cotton Fabric: Cotton fabric is the most popular type due to its softness, lightweight, and comfort. It is completely extracted from the seeds of cotton plants.
- Crepe Fabric: It is made from wool, silk, or synthetic materials and has a distinctively crisp and crimped appearance.
- Denim Fabric: This sturdy cotton warp-faced fabric is made using a twill weave and is famous for jackets and jeans.
- Lace Fabric: It is a delicate, open-knit fabric made from silk, linen, wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers by looping, twisting, and knitting yarns in a pattern.
- Leather Fabric: Leather fabric is made from animal skins, usually from cows, pigs, crocodiles, and lambs.
- Linen Fabric: Linen is made from a natural fiber obtained from the flax plant.
- Satin Fabric: Satin is an elegant, glossy-looking fabric made with a combination of natural and synthetic fibers like silk, cotton, polyester, and wool.
- Silk Fabric: Silk is a soft, smooth, and luxurious fabric made from a natural protein fiber produced from silkworms.
- Synthetic Fabrics: Synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester, and spandex are made from man-made synthetic fibers.
- Velvet Fabric: It is a smooth, shiny fabric that can be made using cotton, linen, cool, silk, nylon, or polyester.
- Wool Fabric: This natural, elastic, warm fabric is made from the floccus of a sheep or the hair of a cashmere goat.
(B) Different Factors to Consider
Fabric is the final result of a long and complex production process. A lot of steps and procedures are involved, whether it is made from natural fiber or synthetic. As a result, a lot of factors impact the price per yard.
1. Raw Materials
The largest portion of the production cost of fabric is required in raw materials, which is usually about two-thirds of the total cost. The raw material cost relies on fiber type and yarn count.
2. Fiber type
Cotton fiber is relatively cheaper due to its availability and low production costs. On the other hand, fibers like silk, wool, and leather are on the expensive side.
Silk fibers are high-priced as it is extracted from the cocoon of silkworms. Fiber like wool is harvested from the fur of animals, which involves costs associated with the livestock. The raw material for leather fabric is rare, which makes it expensive.
3. Yarn Count
The yarn count of the fabric impacts the quality. Higher yarn counts add strength to the fabric. But this increases the weight and chemical cost. So, fabrics that are heavier in yarn counts are more expensive.
4. Use of Dye
The use of dye increases the cost of production of fabrics. Dyeing cost depends on three factors: weight, shade, and size of the fabric.
5. Fabric Weight
The capacity of dyeing machines is determined by fabric weight. So, when the fabric is heavier, less amount fits in the machine at a time, which increases the time and cost.
Darker shade requires more color and more time to process. Besides, some shades such as red and turquoise are more expensive compared to the other ones of the same dye class. The quality of the dyeing chemicals affects the cost too. Finer quality chemical requires more cost, which increases the price of the final product.
7. Fabric Size
The cost of dying is proportional to the length of the fabric. So, if the fabric is longer, the dyeing cost increases. As a result, sometimes, the width of the fabric is adjusted to minimize the cost. For example, dyeing a wider fabric of the same length will cover more fabric at a time without increasing the cost.
8. Production Cost
The production cost includes the cost of equipment, operation and maintenance cost of the machines, fuel cost, humidification cost, etc.
There are two ways to manufacture fabrics: spinning and weaving. The costs associated with these processes are determined by the category and quality of the fabric. Higher-quality fabrics require higher production costs, which reflects in the price of the final product.
9. Personnel cost
Fabric manufacturing requires a lot of skilled personnel. Usually, fabric factories train unskilled-unemployed people as per demand which requires heaps of resources. Then they enroll those trained people into different phases of the production process. About 8 percent of the total cost is spent on training and wages of the workers.
How These Factors Affect Market Price
From raw fiber to fabric, the manufacturing process involves a lot of steps. In each step, the buyers have to pay the suppliers for the product. For example, the retailers procure the fabrics from the factories, the factories procure the raw fibers from the suppliers, and so on.
Due to this lengthy chain, a lot of trades are involved which makes the final market price high. The retail price goes even higher for better quality fabrics and designer fabrics.
How Much Does Fabric Cost
Chiffon, cotton, and synthetic fabrics are on the cheaper side. The average price of cotton is US$3 – US$12 per yard and can be as low as US$1 per yard depending on quality. Chiffon fabric is about US$2.90 per yard. You can get polyester and nylon fabrics at an average price of US$2.25.
Silk, Satin, leather, etc. are typically the more expensive ones. The price range of silk fabric is US$5 – US$65 per yard with an average price of US$5 – US$15 per yard. The price of satin usually ranges from US$3 to US$40. Due to less availability of raw materials, leather is more exquisite and has an average price of US$25 – US$45.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
1. What is the most expensive fabric?
Answer: The most expensive fabric in the world is Vicuna wool. While the average price of standard wool is about 20$, vicuna wool costs between US$1800 to US$ 3000.
2. What is a good price for a yard of fabric?
Answer: Fabric prices can be as low as US$1 and up to US$3000 per yard. The average price for fabric is US$15 – US$50.
The price of fabric can be high sometimes and can make you wonder if it is worth the price. You can simply feel the fabric and compare it with other ones to acknowledge the difference in such a case. If you keep an eye out, sometimes you can get lucky and find great deals in your local retail shops as well as online.