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Inches or centimetres?

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Katy21/02/2008 08:08:00
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Do you think in Inches, but buy fabric in metres? Why can't we fully embrace the metric system? What would metrification mean for our seam allowances? Let us know which system you prefer and why....
Hilary Gooding29/02/2008 17:29:00
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I grew up in South Africa and wrote the equivalent of GCE in imperial and A-levels in metric.  As an architectural draughtswoman I worked solely in metric.  Then I came to Europe and became involved in converting patchwork patterns and books from imperial to metric for a large patchwork shop in Germany.  We were one of the first, if not the first.  Seam allowances in Germany are 0.75cm - 0.5 cm is too narrow.  In Europe every rotary cutting ruler you can get in imperial is available in a metric version.  I find working in metric is as easy as working in inches - but I started young. 

Using 0.75cm seam allowances it is possible to work with all the well known shortcut methods: add 2.5cm to the finished size for half-square-triangle-units and 3.5cm for quarter-squares.

A 12 inch block becomes a 30cm block (not a 30.5cm block) which is very easy to divide by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 - much more flexible than 12 inches.  When converting to metric it is necessary to re-draught the block - you cannot just multiply by 2.54 and cross your fingers.  And I don't know of a single ruler that is marked with 6mm.

 I personally hope the EU allows us to carry on working and providing patterns in imperial - or are they going to stop the import of anything with imperial in?


Katy29/02/2008 18:11:00
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That sounds like a very reasonable way to me.  7.5mm seems like a fairly generous seam allowance, and the maths for dividing 30cm vs 12in is obviously more flexible. How long has Germany been using metric patchwork measurements? Is it exclusively metric or muddled between both? Thank you so much for such a knowledgeable comment!

I use both systems without too much trouble in most areas of my life, apart from that I can only comprehend long distances and the mass of human beings in imperial. I've never attempted to convert a patchwork pattern to metric, but  I think I might experiment with my next project and train myself to sew a .75cm seam. I enjoy the mathematics of working patterns out anyway, so it'll probably add to my satisfaction! 

Hilary Gooding02/03/2008 17:06:00
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2 articles

Well, if you think that 1/4" is actually 0.64cm, then there is a bigger jump scaling down to 0.5cm than there is up to 0.75cm.  It hardly shows and the #1 Bernina foot is a perfect 0.75cm width! (Not the feet for the models that stitch 1cm wide satin stitch)

Germany is a mixture of imperial and metric - the older generation got used to working with inches because that's all they could lay their hands on book and ruler-wise.  But the newer and younger quilters have plenty of metric books and patterns available to them nowadays. France has produced an impressive number of their own books as well.

In 1991 Donna Lynn Thomas published a book 'Shortcuts - A concise Guide to Metric Rotary Cutting' with That Patchwork Place.  Her husband was in the US Army and based in Frankfurt.  She had the support and backing of Yolande Machemer, and TPP even brought out a metric Bias Square to go with it.  The Shortcuts book came out in Imperial and Metric and was translated into many languages.  And that was the beginning.  After that Omnigrid was persuaded to bring out metric rulers and mats.  Many other classic patchwork primers were translated and converted - 'Quilts, Quilts, Quilts' by Diana McClun and Laura Knownes was among the first.

I still relate weights to half a pound of butter when I'm baking - that's 250-ish grams - and because we have lived around the the world, I have had to get used to gas mark, centigrade, fahrenheid, cups, ozs and grams, lbs and stones, kgs and kms!  Who says life is boring? 

Anyway, have fun if you do try and have a go at metric sewing - after all, who ever found cutting and sewing in eighths of an inch easy?!  Hilary

Steph12/04/2008 01:00:00
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I use imperial, for cooking, weighing myself, patchwork and well, almost everything (I'm struggling to think of anything I don't use imperial for - distance I swim I think). I do get horribly confused when people give me numbers in m or kg - I asked my Doctor last time I was weighed to give me my weight in real numbers when he told me my weight in kg!

None of this would be a problem if I wasn't a Maths teacher! I teach the students how to calculate in and use metric units. I think I'm helped in that area because most school rulers are only in cm and mm now. I think for calculations metric is easier - whilst I use imperial all the time, there have been occasions where I have called my Dad to ask him how many lbs are in a stone or oz in a lb (I have inches in a foot and feet in a yard sorted).

 I really don't see the point of forcing a switch to one method or another, however, the younger generation don't meet imperial units outside of conversion charts which is a really quite short topic area.


Ruth Carter-Hale21/06/2008 09:34:00
43 forum posts
23 photos
Its madness I am 28 so at school was taught metric, now I am a quilter I use imperial which I find easier, my only argument is that 12" can be divided by 1,2,3,4 and 6 but 10cm can only be divide by 1,2 and 5 so I hope that people keep publishing books in both systems
Hilary Gooding21/06/2008 09:52:00
4 forum posts
2 articles
I agree it's confusing.  But 10cm is only 4" and how many times would you want to divide 4"?  The equivalent of 12" is 30cm and you can divide that by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12!  I don't find cutting measurements of eighths any more easy/difficult than finding 0.25cm (1/8") on a ruler.  It's all a matter of what you start with and find comfortable.  My comment about publishing in both systems is:  as long as they don't convert literally and expect quilters to find 0.36cm on a ruler for example.  There is definitely room for both systems.  Happy quilting,  Hilary
Denise Hair30/07/2008 23:05:00
5 forum posts
I'm from the generation who had both systems taught to them at school.  Imperial at Infant & Junior school, metric at Comprehensive.   But I find I 'think' in feet & inches.  I can visualize the imperial measurements quite easily, where as the metric measurements, while I 'know' what they are I have a much harder time with.
Hilary Gooding31/07/2008 07:37:00
4 forum posts
2 articles

I know exactly what you mean.  I 'vizualize' weights:  250 grams is half a pound of butter or 8 oz!   It's all a matter of how often you have to use each system - I guess if I was a chef I might be able to 'chop' and change without thinking (sorry about the pun).

But there again - the advice against mixing measurements in a single recipe holds true for patchwork as well - I wouldn't mix imperial and metric in one pattern - I would stick to one or the other throughout!   Hilary

Trish01/10/2008 15:29:00
2 forum posts

I live in France and recently ordered some patchwork equipment on line from the uk expecting it to be in metric measurements, I was astonished it when it arrived  to find it was in imperial as I thought everything was in metric these days or at least in both measurements , rulers,etc.

This made it a bit tricky when I went along to my patchwork group as they were all using metric, I ended up buying another one here in France after a lot of searching for a patchwork shop. I have since found several places in France supplying stuff I guess I should have researched it a bit more carefully at the start.

 I can also think in both measurements having been taught both at school and working as a nurse for many years, but I will stick to metric for the moment, although I can see there are advantages to using imperial as well, but not at the same time! Trish

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