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My personal (but public) notes about my homebrewing, knitting and other random stuff

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A cubit and a half

I've no idea how long my scarf currently is in cubits.

In fact, I'm not particularly sure what it is in centimetres either. But it's about 36" (so I suppose it must be 90cm, as a 12" ruler is the same as a 30cm one - isn't arithmetic wonderful!). BTW it's the garter ridge scarf I'm talking about - the ribbed one is about half the length, at 18" - not bad considering I started it considerably later. I suppose I prefer patterns where you don't have to count rows, as you can just get on with knitting and watch the stitches to see whether to knit or purl next.

I've been thinking lately about units, particularly for length measurements. I recently came across a website (whose URL I sadly can't remember) devoted to a campaign to scrap all non-metric units in the UK. In principle, I think that's a very logical, sensible idea as it makes a lot of sense to stick with one system and, as measurement systems go, the metric system has a lot going for it. For example, it's much easier to remember that there's 1000g in 1kg and 1000mm in 1m (or 1000m in 1km) than that there's 16oz in 1lb, 14lb in 1 stone, 12" in 1' and I can't remember how many feet in a mile (which goes to prove my point, I suppose). Feel free to disagree with me on that score, but I will think you strange.

However, when it comes to actually visualising measurements I find I can often think better in imperial. For instance, I've already mentioned that I remember the length of my scarves in inches (if at all) and convert to centimetres if necessary. Interestingly, though, I'm quite happy with using the metric measurements for knitting needle diameters (which are relatively small and more easily expressed in millimetres than fractions of an inch), although I tend to think of the needle lengths in inches (e.g. 8" rather than 20cm for my dpns).

Part of the trouble is that people who grew up with the imperial system tend to find it more convenient for use and they in turn teach the next generation, who also get familiar with it. I suppose we'd probably need to make a conscious decision to stop using imperial measurements if we were to be successful in converting completely to metric (the obvious alternative of ditching metric and sticking with imperial only wouldn't bear contemplating, IMHO). I'm sure I could discipline myself to measure my knitting in centimetres, and even to think of distances (and speeds) in the car in kilometres (per hour) rather than miles (I managed that feat ok when driving across Europe a couple of years ago, but quickly reverted to miles on returning to British roads), but I'd certainly miss having a pint of beer (although if the alternative were to quaff it by the litre, I might be pursuaded.)
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