Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The start of my glove making journey, with some resources for aspiring glovers.

This is a project from last summer when Husbeast and Ladybug started fencing, and it was just easier and less expensive to learn to make gloves for them than it was to try and find them gloves that actually fit. Children's fencing gauntlets are scarce as hens teeth, and gloves that actually fit the husbeasts shovel shaped hands are a laugh. So I looked up some resources, looked at some period gloves, and said, I can do this. I didn't have time, or even think to write it up at the time, because it was a pretty utilitarian project, but I've kept going and am now starting on fancier gloving projects, so I thought I'd write up the beginning of the whole journey here, as well as gather some of the resources I used in one place so folks don't have to do the amount of googling I did. (scroll to the bottom for the resource list)

I started by practicing on a pair of very basic single piece gauntlets for Ladybug, starting with drafting a pattern and making mockups in felt. Lots of mockups in felt. I discovered that pattern drafting for gloves is not as intuitive as some other kinds of pattern drafting. Then I stretched a piece of gilded kidskin I had hanging about (bought in a scrap bin at a sale 10+ years ago.) traced and cut the gloves. And then found out that leather, even kidskin, is very, very different to work than fabric. On the plus, Ladybug loves them because they're shiny. An important lesson on this pair was how much easier it is if you use cardboard for your final patterns (from a file folder or cereal box), it's so much easier to trace around precisely than even stiff paper. Also, metallic sharpie marker shows up nicely on dark leathers (the back side of this leather is too dark for pencil or marker to show well.)

With one pair under my belt, I looked at as many pictures of italian gloves from the second half of the 16th century as I could find, and proceeded to draft a pattern for a two piece gauntlet for the husbeast, and make mockups. Lots of mockups. Good thing felt is cheap. The italian glove lacks the extended fingertips and exagerated fouchettes (the piece between the fingers) seen on English gloves of the same period, and typically features a cuff that is folded back over the hand. Since that's illegal for fencing, I kept the shape, but borrowed the gauntlet from a slightly later glove (also seen on earlier hawking gloves, so it was known) This pair is made from medium weight deerskin, and has a lovely feel. You can see the fouchettes are slightly pointed, and come onto the back of the hand more than modern gloves, but don't extend past the knuckles like many English examples.

I lined the cuff in linen, as seen on surviving gauntlets, and stitched the leather down over it, stitching partway through the outside of the glove to keep the edge from rolling out. the split side is the period style, but the split makes the glove illegal for fencing, so I added a small gusset of the lining material inside the opening to keep the look but still comply with regulations.

Sewing these gloves taught me the absolute importance of having the right needles. I needed to get them done, so started the task with a regular sharps needle. That required the use of a jury rigged leather palm pad, a thimble, and a pair of pliers to do the stitching. It was slow, and my fingers cramped after less than an hour of stitching. I switched to a glovers needle as soon as they came in the mail, and the difference was astounding. You still need a good quality thimble (I like this one) and it's not fast work, but my fingers didn't cramp. The sharp glovers needle also enabled me to do the stitching around the edge, which I never could have done with a standard needle.

For scale, my hand, spread out as far as possible, on the Husbeast's glove. Women's large gloves are about a half an inch too short in the fingers for me. He can't stop exclaiming over how wonderful it is to have gloves that actually fit him, and has started angling for a pair of work gloves for outside chores.
 This week I made a pair for Crash, who just turned 6 and started fencing. Here's a quick photo run down of the process, for really good detailed instructions I recommend the resources listed at the end of the post!
Pattern, and felt mockp There's a pin in the pinky showing me how much to shorten it.
After tracing and cutting everything but between the fingers, the first step is putting in the thumbs using an overcast stitch (seen on extant gloves in the collection of the  worshipful order of glovers.)
With the thumbs in I switch to the treadle machine for sewing the rest in the interest of speed.
Sew in the points on the back of the hand, then finish off each point with a few overcast stitches. All threads knotted off, dotted with fraycheck, and clipped short. You can see the nice finish the overcast gives on the inside of the thumb. 
I've folded the thumb partway inside out to keep it out of the way while I sew (don't ask how I know to do this....) then folded the glove in half and sewed the remaining seam. At the end I knot the threads and run the tail back up the seam, keeping them from dangling from the cuff of the glove.
One down, one to go! I have the fouchette patterns out so I can be sure to put them with the right fingers. 
Crash is very well pleased and would wear them everywhere if he could! He wore one to nap while I was finishing the second off! 
A good fit, excepting the slight twist on the middle finger of his left hand. I think this was caused by a little easing I did of the finger into the fouchette. I will be more careful about this next time. The seams will flatten down with wear.  
At the beginning of this post I said that I was going to start some more fancy gloving project. That is completely the fault of researching on the internet, because while I was looking up gloves for the Husbeast's fencing gauntlets, I saw these:

Pair of English or Dutch gloves, ca 1620, in the collection of the MET
And the seed of an idea was born..... 

Resources for gloving: 

  • How to make gloves: This is a vintage rather than historical find, but it walks you through the techniques and terms better than any other resource I've found. Good pictures too. 
  • Gloves from pattern to hand: A good walkthrough with lots of great pictures.
  • The Glove website: How to make gloves: Light on pictures, but a series of really useful articles, particularly on patterning. Do read the article linked on the first page "how to make elizabethan gloves. 
  • A Journey Into Italian Gloves: a comprehensive list of what seems like every picture of an 16th century italian glove in a portrait there is. Close up's with high enough resolution to see the stitching. an invaluable resource
  • The Worshipful Order of Glovers: They have one of the largest most beautiful collections of historical gloves in the world I think. And it's all beautifully cataloged. 
  • The Victoria and Albert museum: they also have a large collection of gloves, many with beautiful photographs. Also the MET has several nice pairs, although you've got to do a bit of digging to find them. 

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