When I was a child, I was surrounded by old ladies who knit up a storm for everyone around them. There were no kids without mittens, no one without socks, and everyone owned a scarf that could be worn the Canadian way, proof against the wildest Prairie wind. The thing that amazed me was that no matter which old lady was knitting for which person, the item they knit fit, and fit well.
I finally realized they all took the same measurement for hands and feet. They’d grab hold of the mitten-less or sock-less person, and bark out “make a fist” and they’d measure around that. Or they’d measure the length of their forearm, then shoo them away. The next day, there would be a pair of socks or a pair of mittens that fit just right.
When I was old enough that I was expected to be churning out some of the endless socks and mitts required, they shared their measuring tips, and I am passing them on to you. Because that’s what knitters do.
Just remember, these are averages! And really, there are no “average” people! But knitting stretches, and if in doubt, add a wee bit.
Need to knit some socks? Length of the forearm or circumference of the fist = the length of the foot.
For a heel flap on a sock, knit about as many rows as you had sts. Then pick up 1/2 that number of stitches on each edge, plus 1 in the corner.
Now that you know the length of the foot: Need mittens? The length of the hand = approx. the length of the foot divided by 1.3.
How big should the mittens be around? The circumference of the hand = the length of the hand.
How about fingerless gloves? The length of the hand is 1/2 body, 1/2 fingers. So knit 1/2 the length of a regular mitten.
What size should I make a thumb? The total thumb length from the wrist to the end of the nail is about = to 1/2 the hand.
How about a thumb gusset? The thumb separates from the hand at 1/4 the length of the hand. The thumb gusset is about the same length as the thumb after it separates from the hand. The circumference of the thumb is the total thumb length divided by 1.3
How do increases fit into a thumb gusset? If you increase 2 sts in the thumb gusset every 3rd row, by the time the gusset is long enough, you will have enough sts to give the right thumb circumference.
Scarves, shawls and stoles: A scarf should be as long as the person is tall at a minimum. (This is also a good length for a stole, or the top edge of a shawl.)
I hope these tips I’ve shared will mean you can put down the measuring tape you’ve been using on everyone, and get back to the fun of knitting!