Converting Length and Currency

I see a lot of American sewers struggle with buying and using European and Australian patterns and fabrics/supplies, which are typically drafted and measured in centimeters rather than inches. There’s no need to buy a metric/Imperial ruler or retake your measurements in centimeters though; you can just do the conversion in Google’s search box. I use this tool all the time.

If I am buying a bra kit from Dutch Merckwaerdigh and want to know what the width of a 14 centimeter wide lace is in inches, I go to and type 14cm to in. Turns out 14 centimeters is about 5 1/2″. Google automatically converts it for me, and even provides a calculator for further conversions.


The right and left side of the calculator are independent of each other, so if you wanted to convert 10 inches to centimeters you could just fill in the Inch textbox on the right, and it will do the conversion.


Even though I am American I like taking my measurements in centimeters, especially for very closely fitted things like bras, because the leap from centimeter to centimeter is smaller than from inch to inch. It feels more accurate. I also convert the metric charts provided by the pattern designer to inches myself because some companies round up/down more than others.

You can also use Google to convert currency to the current exchange rate too.

If I am buying a $14 paper pattern from Australian Style Arc and want to know how much that is in US dollars, I go to Google and type 14 aud to usd.

audtousdLikewise if I am purchasing two meters of stretch bengaline from Nortex Mill and want to know how much it will cost in British pounds I type 14.1 gbp to usd.

gbptousdAnd if I am buying a €15 pattern from Italian Marfy I type 15 euros to usd.



For a $9.98 Canadian Sewaholic pattern I type 9.98 cad to usd.



The one catch is that if you are paying with Paypal they add on a fee, so the total amount will be a little more than what the currency converter shows. Think of it as a ballpark estimate rather than exact amount.

You can also convert temperature. I bought some wool crepe from a British seller and the care instructions mentioned hand washing in 30°C water. I typed 30 celsius to f in Google and found out that’s 86°F.


You can also convert things like mass (kilos to pounds) or measurements (ounces to teaspoons).

20 thoughts on “Converting Length and Currency

  1. I find this feature very helpful for me in Australia to convert fahrenheit to celsius for oven temperatures as well as checking the cost of sewing patterns 🙂

    For some reason I think fabric in terms of both – 20cm of lace and 5.5″ of lace seem comparable in my mind. I pretty sure I’ve read other sewers who come from a metric measurement system also mention that they think in both inches and cm’s for fabric etc

    Thank you for sharing with those of us who haven’t discovered how handy a google search can be 🙂


    1. Yes, definitely. I can sew in both inches and centimetres, although I find in cooking I have to convert it all to Australian measures – one cup in the US is different to one cup in Australia. I love recipes that use grams instead of cups and tea/table spoon measures.

      Even in Australia, quilting patterns are usually done in inches, rather than centimetres. I think because most quilting rulers only have inches on them.

      You get used to the conversion and it becomes automatic to think “that’s roughly X cm”


      1. I had no idea that a US cup was different from an Australian cup! My mom bought an ice cream maker almost 20 years ago and one of the recipe booklets that came with it was originally published for the European market, so it had all of the measurements in grams and milliliters instead of cups/teaspoons/ounces. We didn’t have internet access in our house yet and I remember what a pain it was manually converting all of those measurements.

        Lately I’ve been watching a lot of the UK TV show Top Gear with Tom (he LOVES anything to do with cars), and one of the things that surprised me was they would often talk about speed in terms of miles per hour rather than kilometers per hour. I guess some former British Empire countries – like Canada and Australia – still use some imperial measurements.


  2. Google’s automatic answers, calculators, and converters are my saving grace! I’m definitely watching the dollar-euro exchange rate, with an eye on loading up on Marfy patterns when they get cheap!


    1. I can’t believe how many people don’t know about it either. Not just older people like my mom (who just started going online a couple of years ago), but people in their 20s and 30s.


  3. Nice tips. I use these features at work everyday. Here are two more things Google will do for you.
    1. Translate: Type the word “translate” into the search box (I use Chrome) and a space for your mystery phrase appears. Type in the word and it detects the original language as it gives you the translation. This is really helpful when reading product descriptions in PDF catalogs in a foreign language.
    2. Time zones: I double check the time in foreign cities – especially in Europe, before I call. Phrase the question any way you want and Google will tell you the time. I usually type – “the time in…”


  4. Anne,
    I really enjoy your blog. Previously I think you discussed the most economical way to ship style arc patterns. However, I can’t seem to find that post. If you did this post, could you please post the date?
    Thank you.


    1. The general rule is shipping goes up in increments of three patterns. 2-3 patterns is one price, then it goes up for the 4th pattern, then up again for the 7th pattern, etc. A single pattern is about $6 for shipping.


  5. Australia is metric for everything, distance, weights, height, temperatures, volumes – all decimal. Yay! The UK is imperial for some things, like distances, but not everything. I grew up partly in the UK & partly in Aus, so am familiar with both.

    But I do love metric! So clear and easy to use. I really wish all pattern makers used the seam allowance as each other. If not that, then at least be consistent within a garment.


    1. I agree, the accuracy alone makes metric worthwhile. We do have a little bit of a mix here though. One car can require both metric and imperial size tools, and vehicle engines are measured in both imperial (power is in horsepower) and metric (displacement is in liters). But the average person – myself included – will always default to imperial. When I visited Canada someone said “it is going to be so warm tomorrow. 30 degrees!” I had to think for a moment because that is winter coat weather (-1C) in the US!

      I can deal with seam allowances. I get far more annoyed going from my American Ford car to my Japanese Nissan SUV because of things like the windshield wipers being on the left for my Ford and on the right in the Nissan.


  6. Glad Tom enjoys Top Gear! We are a real mix of metric and imperial in the UK. Road mileage and signs an speed are still in miles, cartons of milk and beer in the pub are still in pints (and they are different from yours, 20 fl oz). Even after 40 years of change I still relate to some measurements in inches but others in cms. Sheet sizes I never knew in inches but fabric until recently I always worked in inches!


Leave a Reply

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

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.