Metric vs. Stupid

Can I just complain for a little?

It's about the metric system.  Well, not exactly, it about the lack of use of the metric system, particularly in knitting.

I am continually (CONTINUALLY) frustrated by patterns that list needle size by US size (or UK size, Canadian size, etc).  These numbers are ENTIRELY ARBITRARY!  Worse, they are incomplete (there's no US size for a 3.mm, 7mm or 7.5mm) and inconsistent (for some reason, at larger numbers, they start being labelled 15, 17, 19, 35, 50).  What is this nonsense?  These large sizes are not proportional to the metric sizes - maybe there was a system at one time, but I don't really care because if there was a system it was clearly a terrible one.  To be accurate about what needle you are using, you should always just use mm.  ALWAYS. 

It's not just needles, either!  When you're given a gauge, it's assumed that 10cm = 4".  This is accurate enough for thicker yarns (bulky, worsted, DK), but when you're working at gauges like 28st = 10cm/4", that quality is actually off by over a mm, meaning your gauge can be off by half a stitch or more.  I'm aware that most people just don't care that much, but damnit, if I'm making a gauge swatch, it needs to be accurate, otherwise what's the point?  Obviously, I'd rather if patterns used cm, but if that is too difficult then it would be nice if they at least specified which measurement they were using.  (Some people do this, it's true - yaay for them!)

The point is that everyone should just switch to the metric system already.  Hasn't it been long enough?  There are a million demonstrations of why the imperial system is broken and unwieldy, and I'm not going to go over that here - I think I can assume that anyone who's actually thought about it prefers metric for pretty much everything.

The only exception I had, personally, was for measuring household-size objects.  Cm are clearly too small, and m are clearly too big.  Luckily, because the metric system is great, there's something in between: the rarely used decimeter.  I don't know why this isn't an everyday unit of measurement, because it's great!  A decimeter (dm) is 10 cm.  I'm still adjusting to using it - I have a ruler that's a dm that I'm carrying around, so my eyes can get used to approximating it more easily.  When I guess at measurements, in the past I'd guess things like "a bit less than a foot" or "maybe a few inches" - I'm not talking about accurate estimations (that's what cm are for!) so this works out really well.  My waterbottle is "2 and a bit" dm, my mouse is "between 1 and 2" dm.

Clearly this is a good idea.  If you like to measure smallish things inaccurately with your eyes, you should Try This At Home.


Gettin' it done

In other news, I've been super good about my yarn diet so far this year!  I haven't bought ANY yarn since x-mas (except stuff for a commission, but that doesn't count because it's a commission and I don't have to pay for it).  I am slowly but determinedly working through my stash.  I know it's only been a month an a half, but damnit, that's enough time to be proud about!  But not enough time that I get to buy myself yarn as a reward.  (That's just my yarn-brain talking.)


  1. Couldn't agree more about the need to use metric for knitting needles, and can never remember the US sizes - probably because I don't care enough to really try, even though I work in a yarn shop.

    I was a teen when Canada converted to metric, and still think in inches and feet when estimating, and even when measuring. I'm going to steal your idea to acquaint myself with the decimeter - maybe I'll become fully metric. (Not likely; I love to cook and bake, and almost all of my recipes are in imperial!)

  2. Maybe if you almost (but not quite) let your disdain show, they would stop asking for US sizes? (That might be a terrible idea.)

    I got a set of tiny measuring spoons that all say things like "dash," "nip," and "pinch" - I wonder if they count as metric, imperial, or something else entirely?

  3. I have the same measuring spoon set, but keep them out of the kitchen, as I use for measuring dyes. I think historically, they were inaccurate measurements, but each meant a very small amount. I used to have one of my hub's granny's cookbooks, and many recipes specified "butter the size of a walnut" as well as the "smidgen" of this or a "dash" of that.

    As for the customers, they are usually just asking for what the pattern specifies, and they are equally baffled by the American sizing. Most seem to agree that metric makes more sense.