What I Do: Metric v Imperial Measurements

I realised the other day that I do something very odd. I use both inches and centimeters when sewing. I don’t used them interchangeably, they are each used for measuring different things, and only those things. I’m quite clear in my mind about when to use metric measurements and when to use the imperial system.

Background of tangled and entwined tapemeasures


For example when I’m looking at the back of a pattern envelope for body or finished garment measurements I’ll only read the inches and I actually have no idea what my metric measurements are. However, if I’m adjusting a garment, mid- or post-construction I will always note this in centimeters. Also, I think of my height in feet and inches, but of the width of a bolt of fabric in meters and centimeters.

I’m not entirely sure why I do what I do. Perhaps, for me, it’s the most logical way. I guess it could have something to do with working with vintage patterns when I first started sewing, or perhaps because my mum talks in imperial measures so it’s easier to fall in line.

Do you work in metric, imperial measures or both?

18 thoughts on “What I Do: Metric v Imperial Measurements”

  1. We’ve been officially metric for everything in Australia for 45 years. Yet people sometimes still give their height in feet and inches. Especially young men if they are tall, 6′ or over. Also occaisionally baby length and weight is quoted in the old measurements by proud young parents. I prefer metric for sewing, I find decimals easier to calculate.


  2. I use both… pretty much the same way you do. Coming from the US I grew up with imperial measurements. When I came to the UK the fashion workroom I worked in all used metric so I had to learn. Give me body measures in inches and I can picture it perfectly but like you, don’t even know my own metric measurements. Fabric width, zip lengths and pattern drafting now I work in metric. I’d be lost without one of those tape measures with both marked on them! πŸ™‚


  3. I think more of us do this than we realise. I to refer to body measurements in inches but when I refer to fabric it is in metres. When I’m making pattern adjustments I work in inches and maybe that is because I take body measurements in inches and my sewing rulers are all inches as well. Interesting isn’t it!


  4. I use both interchangeably too – I sew a lot of vintage patterns and Burda patterns even though I’ve only ever used the metric system for everything else. Luckily though my tape measure is imperial on one side and metric on the other so I can easily convert between the two by merely flipping over the tape measure


    1. Haha that is so weird. Though i’ve been in a couple of situations where I’ve been buying fabric for a vintage patterns that only had the yardage and had to use the conversion app on my phone to work out how many meters that was!


  5. I work in both. My sewing machine is a lovely old (38 years give or take) semi industrial Elna SU and so it’s imperial. When I check my sizing too I also go for inches but buying fabric is always in cm and hemming, adjusting etc is also cm. I often check both as the cm I find can be more accurate (don’t ask me about 8ths of inches).


  6. I’m with colormusing. I’m an “imperial” (which locally is referred to as “standard*”) user, but I’m trying to become more comfortable with the metric system because even though it’s not as familiar to me, it does make more sense from a logical standpoint….

    *Standard may only refer to wrenches, but it’s the only time where I’ve encountered a need for differentiation. Such as a mix of standard and metric nuts/bolts on a vehicle we were working on.


  7. I use both, only because I am forced to Imperial because of Americans (Im Australian). Where ever possible I convert everything to Metric as cm’s are the only way to ensure the best possible measurement, I find the Imperial system very outdated and thank patterns that supply both wonderful!


    1. I agree – metric is some much simpler!! The thought of working out all those fractions makes me feel woozy! And mm are smaller and therefore more accurate – right?!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s