The Hand as Measuring Device

…or your stretched out arm, or your foot, or some other body part.  Some of us know the old outstretched-arm-from-fingertip-to-nose=one-yard trick. Right? But this is about smaller measurements. Read on…

Hand mapping should be a thing.  I grew up watching my adults use their hands to measure things; clothing, fabric or anything they wanted to gauge the size of, when a measuring device was not handy.  And — they determined the end result of their hand spanning in – this many “hand-spans” or a “3-finger” (these terms lose some bite in translation).  Might I say, I’ve now discovered this to be a quick and handy way to take a measurement when one’s too lazy to pull out a measuring tape – like me.  I have equated parts of my hands with actual inches, so it works for me.  You might want to remember: do not try this for taking complete body measurements on another person or your own person to make a garment (snicker).  This works on those annoying little areas of a garment or a small piece of fabric where pulling out your tape measure is too much trouble, or when it’s just not available. This might be a boon for snoop shoppers.

You may want to make a template, like I did here, to remember which hand part measures what — after a while it’ll be written in cerebral stone; that’s when you won’t even need the template to consult.

To make the template:

You’ll need paper which can be gridded, or not. If you like it gridded and don’t have any, you can draw a one inch grid on the sheet of paper.  You’ll also need a sharp pencil and a sharpie.

The ravages of time and Covid-19 constant hand-washing have taken a toll on the hands.  This is not accurate hand-placement on my part. I should have snapped the photo without removing the hand from the paper.  So picky…. 

Spread out your hand on paper (try not to stretch it out unnaturally).  Trace the outline; go over the pencil outline with a Sharpie just so the tracing is pronounced. Don’t worry about the small curves that will form due to the natural muscles and flesh on your hand — straighten them out. True them, in pattern making language (lol).  Cut out the shape.



Now take a look at the image below; measure all the colored lines indicated there and mark on your own template with the measurement written down.

Hand mapped outExample: my hand span from tip-of-thumb to tip-of-pinkie is exactly 8 inches. I marked it in pencil on my template but am showing you in this snapshot with digitally added color lines.  Note the other measurements.

Okay now, make another hand tracing with your fingers closed, using the same process as above. Why? Because you need some more measures in your repertoire.


Hand mapped out 2

What I did not add to the illustration here is the width of my forefinger at the top which is 3/4″.

Hope you enjoyed this post. If you always have a measuring tape hanging down your neck, you don’t need to read this post. In that case, please go read my other writings.  Thank you!

Stay healthy, my friends!



8 thoughts on “The Hand as Measuring Device

  1. Hi Samina-
    I love this! I know my thumb, from tip to first knuckle is 1-1/8″, which I use a lot when pressing up a hem. I’m excited to add these other measurements to my arsenal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Talking of woodwork, the Ark was measured in cubits – the length from elbow to fingertip.

    Fingertip to fingertip with your arms outspread is supposed to be the same as your height, which is true for me. It’s quite handy to use these physical measures if you unexpectedly find yourself checking furniture dimensions, or buying fabric from a source you’re not 100% sure of.

    With hand measurements I’d come at it from the opposite direction, looking for something that was 5/8″ but now I shall see what other handy measures I have ‘at hand.’ Thank you for that! Su


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s