Measuring Tricks

Martha Stewart Living, September 2009

You've spotted a great coffee table, but you're not sure if its size is right. These tips can help. Use them to approximate dimensions (and fill out our cheat sheet to keep in your wallet) so you'll never come up short.

Hands and Arms
A "hand" -- the measuring unit for horses -- is 4 inches, the approximate width of many a palm. Another trick: Measure the span from the tip of the pinky to the tip of the thumb; then you can "walk" your hand across a surface. Additionally, the span of your arms is roughly equal to your height, so you can measure with outstretched arms.

Credit Card
A typical card is about 2 by 3 1/2 inches. On the back, the distance between the magnetic strip and the opposite edge is 1 1/2 inches.

Quarter
It's about an inch in diameter, and its edge, rolled in a straight line, measures 3 inches (start and end with Washington's profile facing the same direction).

Feet
A man's size 10 1/2 shoe is about a foot long. A woman's size 8 is about 10 inches. Using the length of your shoe, you can measure a rug by traversing it heel to toe. For longer distances, count strides (to determine the length of your stride, walk through a puddle so you'll make footprints, and measure the distance between them).

Dollar Bill
U.S. currency is 2 1/2 by 6 inches. Paper money can wrap around objects, so it comes in handy for measuring small curved items (to mark the size, crimp the bill).

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