Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Extraordinary Measures

In the process of renovating and decorating our apartment this past year, I have always tried to remember to carry a measuring tape with me whenever I go out on apartment-related errands. But sometimes, my memory not being what it used to be, I simply forget to bring one along, or, while out for entirely unrelated purposes, I unexpectedly stumble upon a rug store that requires browsing. Luckily, I've learned that there are makeshift measuring tools all around us (and on us), if you only know where to look. So next time you just happen to see a gorgeous armoire in a thrift store window that you aren't sure will fit through your front door, or an antique silver picture frame at a flea market, but can't tell what size photo it will hold, use one of these handy tricks for sizing them up.

The length of your arms: Unless you are crazily disproportionate (I'm talking about you, Michael Phelps), fingertip to fingertip, the length of your arms across your chest is almost exactly the same as your height. For instance, I am 5'9" tall and my arms are, too (we really are well-designed creatures -- I think that is what Da Vinci was trying to get across in this little doodle). This comes in handy when trying to figure out the height of a curtain rod, the length of a vintage tablecloth, and a million other things.
The length of your foot: Measure the bottom of your shoe and remember the length. I wear a women's size 8.5 shoe, which is almost exactly 11" long. Walking, heel-to-toe with about one inch between them, I can fairly accurately measure out the length of something, in feet (literally!). I have used this trick to measure the square-footage of a room or the size of a carpet. Incidentally, if you are measuring something you can't walk on, this measurement should be the same as the distance from your elbow to your wrist.
The length of your stride: My natural stride is about 2'. To measure yours, take a few natural steps, then freeze. Use chalk to mark the tip of the toe of your back foot and the tip of the toe of your front foot and measure the distance between them.
Pocket change: The diameter of a quarter is exactly one inch. The circumference is exactly 3" (starting with Washington's nose pointed straight down, roll the edge along a surface until he faces down again). A penny is exactly 1/16" thick. That means that a stack of pennies can be used for precise measurements of less than an inch.
A dollar bill: A US dollar bill is 2.5" x 6". It can also be wrapped around things that are round or curved to measure them.
A credit card: A credit card is almost exactly 2" x 3.5". The distance from the top edge to the bottom of the magnetic strip is .5".
For the truly committed: I've never gotten this intense, and I don't wear a belt everyday, but for those who do, you can also mark off inches on the inside of your everyday belt. Although, that might be depressing for those with expanding waistlines.

Try to remember these simple tips, and you'll always know how you (and that lovely garage sale lamp) measure up.

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