Fat Quarterly Issue 7 is out now! All about colour palettes and where to find help in choosing colours for your projects.

Metric vs Imperial

I belong to a mixed up generation who grew up using cm for measuring lengths, miles to measure distance, feet and inches to measure height and lbs and ounces to measure weight. What a mess is all I can say. I cannot possibly tell you how tall I am in cm and even now I have to check how many ounces are in 100g when I'm cooking. I am just about getting the hang of km but 100 km an hour sounds outrageously fast when in reality it is only 60 mph. On the other hand it is easier to stick to a 50 kph speed limit than a 30 mph limit as it just sounds faster and that I'll get there quicker!

What to use when quilting? Since I started quilting when I lived in North Carolina, I automatically started using inches. All my rulers were in inches, my cutting mat etc. So now in Germany I continue using inches. Most of the groups I am in are heavily dominated by US quilters and so inches is the norm. But now I am a member of some European bees I am beginning to have to use cm.

So why when I am so used to cm from school (in fact I think I can better guesstimate a cm than an inch) does it throw my brain into a meltdown when I try and think of a quilt block in cm?

I actually christened my cm measuring ruler by making these blocks for Monika for The Euro Bee. I have had it for about 5 years but never used it to measure with.

Monika asked for strips and squares in blocks measuring 19cm. And you know what sewing the blocks was easy! At last my European machine came into its own. It has 0.5cm marked for the seam allowance. No effort needed to make sure I get 1/4" seam. It pretty much sewed itself!

Next time I will try a more complicated block to try and get to grips with all the maths involved with seam allowances etc! Still one step at a time! Before you know it I will be a bi-measuring-quilter!

Comments (6)


January 8, 2010 at 7:28 PM

Hi Tacha,
I know your problem very well - just the other way round:)
I´m just glad I have a measuring tape with cm AND inches... but next week I have to buy one ruler with inches (for the roller cutter, this will make evrything much easier...) I´m in some block swaps (and all measures are in inch!)
I like your blocks soo much - you did a wonderful job, Tacha!!!


January 8, 2010 at 8:23 PM

I have only learnt to work with cm etc. at school. Now for quilting I am trying to use inches. But I have the hardest time to get rulers in inches over here in the Netherlands. And it seems impossible to order them online. They never want to send them overseas. Now I have asked my parents who are traveling to the US to get me some rulers.


January 8, 2010 at 8:58 PM

I grew up in Canada using mostly metric but still doing my height and weight in imperial. I'd pretty much switched over completely to metric after moving here to NZ and then started using American patterns and investigating quilting and am having to deal with inches which is daunting! But I'm slowing coming to terms with it and my maths with fractions is improving markedly. I still can never remember how many inches in a foot but that's what the internets are for! Thank goodness for measuring tapes in both metric and imperial and my 1/4" quilting foot! I'd love to do a quilt with metric seam allowances because as you say, the metric machines have the proper markings on the plate!


January 9, 2010 at 6:25 PM

All the rulers I have are in inches, so I never knew cm's were used until I came across a question in the threads on Bee Europa!

I've only used inches for quilting and even though I use cm's for most things, I think I'd find it weird to use it for quilting. How strange!


January 10, 2010 at 8:56 AM

We have all metric here in NZ, so it's been a huge learning curve to use inches for quilting. I'm okay with 6 or 12iches (standard sizes) but when I pick a pattern and make a quilt, I'm always surprised at how big the quilt is because I just can't visualise how big 74 x 88 inches is in my head.

That's why I hardly ever use proper quilting patterns anymore.


January 10, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Thanks fpr your Comment at my Blog - I would love to be with you in a Bee- I use only cm. Inches kind of scare me. I never know how big,long they are.