When I was a beginner, I really struggled with converting yards to inches.
Yards just aren’t something most of us use in our day to day lives. It can be confusing.
It seems like we measure everything else in feet, here in the US. Why is fabric measured in yards?Many sewers need a little extra time to convert yards to inches in their heads. The answer, it seems, stems from our history as a British colony.
Hundreds of years ago, fabric was sold by the yard and we’ve kept that tradition into our modern age. And we have stubbornly kept this form of measurement, even after Britain changed to the metric system and started measuring their fabric by the meter.
Measuring by the yard can be a little confusing at first, but it’s better than how they used it to it. Measurements used to be based off of body parts. In fact, for a long time, the length of the yard was set by the length of King Henry I’s arm. As a quick way to measure, people would just use their arm’s length to measure fabric for sale.
While easy, this method left a huge amount of wiggle room. I couldn’t help it, I decided to see how my ‘personal yard’ compares to the modern yard. Wow, 4 inches short. I’m certainly glad we use a standardized yard or my fat quarters would by skinny quarters.
Where did the word yard even come from?
Yard comes from the Old English word “Gyrd–A staff, rod, twig, as a measure of distance, a yard.” So back to ol King Henry I’s arm being decided upon as the official length of a yard. Special rods were made, marked with the same length and sent to different regions of Britain’s empire so everyone could work from the same yard measurement. “ The expression ‘by the King’s iron rod,’ referring to the yard, appears frequently in the records.” This is the most amusing tid bit from my yardage research.
Okay, back to the present
We’re trying to use a measurement we’re not familiar with.
Adding to the potential confusion at the store, fabric is folded in half before being rolled onto a bolt. That can make it even trickier to visualize what you’re actually getting. I remember how confused I was the first time I got home and unfolded this long skinny strip of fabric from the store. My 1/8 of a yard was just a scrawny 4.5″ strip of long cloth. Quite the ‘yard to inches’ fail.
I’ve finally gotten the hang of visualizing my yards into inches. I was really grateful to find yard to inches cheat sheets. I just wished they were were more visually based. I work better with pictures, so I decided to make some.
I hope this infograph will be helpful.
I start off with a full yard and then show the size difference for the most common cuts. The numbers are all the same between the different sheets, but I used different colors because it’s nice having a reference sheet you like. Numbers 1-4 are the same size as the one above. Number 5 on the white sheet will print out on a regular sheet of paper. Numbers 5 and 6 that just have numbers are atually the smallest. You can click on any them to see a larger view.
If you want to download a Yardage to Inches sheet, you can use this link to my Google Photos and get the full size file for it.
If you’d like to see more of my infographics, click here.