What Is The Difference Between Metric And Imperial?

I have often found this such a confusing topic, why do some countries use one and others use the other? I always wanted to know what fit with what. Do centimetres fit into yards or into metres and so on. I roughly know which measurements go together or translate but I still get confused. I have devised this helpful chart to help clear things up.

Most commonly used years ago was the imperial system, this was created by created by a British king and was commonly used all over the world. Many countries then moved over to using the metric system but America still used the imperial system to this day. The metric system is said to be easier to use as to get from millimetre to centimetres you multiply the number by 100 and again to get to metres and so on.

When shopping for fabric in the UK you can ask for 1/4 metre, 1/2 metre or 1 metre + measurements. Not all places will allow you to have the 1/4 metre of fabric but can always ask. In the USA you will buy your fabric by the yard and half yards.

What measuring terms are Metric?

First to understand the conversion you need to fully understand what measurement terms are on what team. So think of 2 teams like you would a sport, one team is metric and the other imperial. Each team has different players but you are unsure of who is on which team. Here is a table below to show who is on the metric team.


How to understand the prefixes in the metric system.

Within the metric system, there are prefixes, these are the beginning of the words and what each translates to. Here is a useful table to help you understand which each prefix means and what it converts to.

Kilo mean 1000 times larger than the base unit. Hecto means 100 times larger than the base unit.Deka means 10 times larger than the base unit.Base UnitsDeci means 10 times smaller than the base unit.Centi means 100 times smaller than the base unit.Milli means 1000 times smaller than the base unit.

What measuring terms are Imperial?

Within the imperial system, there are different ways to measure than the metric system. There are more measurements but I have only included the essential ones that will be used for sewing terms. Here is a quick table to see the measurements.

InchesPoundsFluid Ounces

Quick Cheat Sheet For Metric To Imperial

2.5cm1 Inch
1m 3.2 Feet
91cm1 yard
1 Kilometre0.62 Miles


If you have any other cheat ways to measure and remember your metric from imperial let me know in the comments below. I am always looking for easy and simple to remember ways to measurements.


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