How to Measure by Parts

How to measure in parts

When you are making lotions, salves or other herbal preparations, you might notice that many "recipes" are more like directions. 

For instance, let's say we want to make a fictional product that calls for two parts of oil and one part of water.

The measurement size is "parts" instead of teaspoons or ounces or cups. How do you know how much to use? How much will this recipe make? So just what is a "part"?

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What is "measuring in parts"?

It isn't as hard as it seems, really. In fact, measuring in parts is a very versatile way of making a recipe. 

Actually, every recipe uses "parts" to measure. If you're baking a cake and the instructions call for "1 cup of sugar" and "2 cups of flour," the unit of measure is a cup. 

If you wanted to halve the recipe you'd divide each of those by two, so you'd use 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour.

If you wanted to double the recipe you'd multiply each one by two, and use 2 cups of sugar and 4 cups of flour.

Your cake recipe will probably call for tablespoons and teaspoons too. These are actually a similar and comparable unit of measure as a cup. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup, and 48 teaspoons in a cup.

An example of using "parts" to measure

Let's start out with an easy example, that fictional product that called for two parts of oil and one part of water.

If we substitute the word "part" with tablespoon, we'll need two tablespoons of oil and one tablespoon of water, for a total of three tablespoons.

If we wanted to make a larger amount of this same recipe, we could use half-cups as the measure, or even cups. For a smaller total amount, we might use teaspoons. 

With a little more brainwork, we could use "two tablespoons" as the basic measurement, which means we would use four tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of water.

As long as you use the same basic measurement for each ingredient, whether it is tablespoons, teaspoons, cups, ounces or pounds, and then multiply this measurement by the number of "parts" in the recipe, you'll be fine!

One part equals one tablespoon, and two parts equals two tablespoons. Or if you're using ounces, one part is one ounce while two parts equals two ounces.

Simply use the same unit of measurement for all of the ingredients in your herbal recipe.

More very basic uses of measuring by parts

The Chief and I measure dog food by parts. We use a margarine tub, but we could also use a measuring cup or a canning jar. The dogs get one margarine tub-full of dry dog food per meal.

My grandmother measured flour with a coffee mug when she made biscuits. A coffee mug-full of flour was "one part" in her recipe.

Cooking rice

I learned to cook rice using a 1:2 ratio. Whatever container I used to measure the dry rice, I then used two container-fulls to measure the water. One cup of rice and two cups of water. One coffee mug of rice and two coffee mugs of water. One-half a cup of rice and one cup of water.

So how do you know what basic measurement you should use? 

There are several things to consider: is this something that you're making for the first time, so that you only want to make a small amount? Is it something that might spoil in a short period of time, so that you don't want to make a lot at once?  

Or perhaps it needs to fit in a certain container, so you need to make a certain amount. Or you only have a limited amount of one of the ingredients.

Let's say you want to use a 4-ounce amber glass bottle to hold the product you're making. You know you want to make no more than four ounces. If there are three ingredients, and one requires "two parts" while the other two are "one part" each, it would be easy to figure out that you could use one ounce as the basic unit of measurement.

The basic recipe of 2 parts + 1 part + 1 part = 4 parts would then be 2 ounces + 1 ounce + 1 ounce = the total amount of 4 ounces which will fit perfectly in your 4-ounce amber bottle.

How to figure out how much a container holds

If you don't know how much a container will hold, you can fill it with water and then measure the amount of water inside. 

I like using these recycled candy tins for salves. I can fill the tin with water, then spoon out the water with a teaspoon or tablespoon to figure out the volume. 

Or I can pour the water from the tin into a glass measuring cup and measure the total. This little beaker set in the photo below works well for this.  

Deciding on the unit of measure according to your ingredients

Perhaps you only have one tablespoon of a certain herb that you want to use in an herbal blend. 

If your recipe calls for one part of this particular herb, use tablespoons as your basic unit of measurement. In other words, you'll use one tablespoon of this herb - exactly how much you have on hand.

If you need two parts of this herb, you'll have to do a little math. You might use a half-tablespoon as your basic unit of measurement, or you might use teaspoons (3 teaspoons equal 2 tablespoon).

You can even use drops as your basic measurement, for instance if you are making an essential oil blend.

Ready, set, now go be creative!

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