Thursday, July 20, 2017

My gloveing journey: A pair of armored gauntlets

 When I started loking at women's armor for inspiration, the first thing that I was really attracted to was a set of thigh guards and vambraces made from soft leather with sewn channels for metal strapping. I looked and said: "That looks like boning channels, I can do this!" So I designed these gloves with attached vambraces, based on a pair of Wisby style gauntlets I'd seen on pinterest. Essentially the pattern is like any other cuffed glove, although the cuff is longand fitted. Articulated finger backs for full gauntlets are far beyond my current skill and budget, but it should be theoretically possible to remove the vambraces, attach armor to the gloves, and then reattach the vambraces. Maybe I'll even figure out how to make the articulated fingers myself at some point (or more likely my husband will)

I decided that I'd use up my giant pile of good quality leather scraps on these gloves to save the limited funds for other armoring projects, and because I kind of liked the patchwork look of it (this is one of those "I saw a thing once upon a time and it stuck in my brains" ideas). It certainly makes my style very personalized, if not really Historically accurate. But the historical accuracy of a set of gauntlets for a viking persona is debatable at best, so I decided to go with making something fun for myself.

I started by making a cardboard pattern for the vambrace, and taping it onto my arm until I got a good shape with coverage up to the elbow but the ability to flex my arm. I really like cardboard for patterning things that will be stiff, because you can tape it on and see if it needs to be trimmed because it's bidning/jabbing/etc. Then I traced that onto a piece of butchers paper, and started laying out scraps to fit, and sewing them together. It's a bit tricky, because you don't want to cut a seam, so you can't just sew it all together into a big square then cut your patterns in the traditional way, but I managed to piece the outsides of a pair of vambraces in an evening.

I had a lot of "help" from Kitten. Who wants to be involved with everything.

I drafted a basic glove pattern, and fit it with a
felt mockup. I must finally be getting better at this, because this time around I only had to do one mockup, and only two small changes. I'm still having trouble getting the amount of ease in the fingers right: the thumb was snug and the two middle fingers were about a quarter inch loose, I slimmed down the fouchettes to correct that problem, and traced out a final pattern. I'd also forgotten to center the thumb on the palm side of the first finger again, but that was easily set right. I then proceeded to trace a clean copy, and cut it apart into bits so that I could piece it from scraps without having to either a) cut the seams or b) ending up with a continuous line of stitching across the knuckles, which I thought would be awkward looking. I taped the fouchettes to some of the fingers to give my one piece to cut out instead of two, carefully overlapping the seam allowances so that the pieces would be the right size.

When I was done putting all the pieces together I was left basically with a standard glove that had the
fouchettes put in already. Remaining was the thumb and the final finger seam. Typically I do that final finger seam on the treadle machine to expedite things, but because of the way the fingers were pieced together I decided to just bite the bullet and do it by hand.

with the hands and vambraces all together I was ready to splint the vambraces 

I used metal intended for welding sourced from the hardware store for my splints. My husband cut it and rounded the edges, and then I painted it with 3 layers of rustoleum. Why would I do that? because I'm going to sweat all over these things regularly, and they may not dry out as quickly as I'd like. Rust will ruin these from the inside out in very short order. I wish I could have found aluminum from my splints, as it would have been lighter, and rust proof, but this was what I could easily source locally, and compared to the arms I'm currently wearing, it's light as a feather.

With the metal ready, I sewed boning channels into my canvas and lining, and inserted the splints. Awesome lining fabric is leftover from a quilting project. I decided NOT to pad the lining, as I'd originally considered, but rather to pad my gambeson underneath, with the idea that separate layers will dry more quickly. The padding will protect my arm from the splints. If this seems like an aggressive amount of protection, it probably is, but I watched someone get their forearm broken a few years ago, and I'd rather wear something a little heavy than have that happen. Melee is a hot mess, and sticks fly everywhere. With my smaller frame, a misplaced or mistimed chop from a great weapon would be all it would take. Maybe eventually for tourney I will decide on something lighter.  I put the leather on top of the splints, and bound them with suede using my trusty treadle machine. Then I sewed on buckles and straps.

about this time I decided to try and incorporate hardened demi gauntlets into my design to save me from wearing a pair over the gloves. I had already made a cardboard pattern and mockup for these, and I decided to get rid of the cuff, and rivet the hand direct to the glove itself before attaching the vambrace. I felt this would streamline the dressing process and save me from the dread demi gauntlets. I'd been through 3 or 4 different loaned pairs (in varying shades of "doesn't fit") and didn't much care for any of them.

I cut the gauntlet pieces, sewed them together, and water hardened them. To shape them over my hands I put on the gloves with a pair of surgical gloves over top of them, to protect them from the water. Then I slapped the hot wet leather right onto my hand, covered it with a piece of plastic wrap, and taped it to my hand with athletic tape. I left it taped to my hand until it was thoroughly cooled, then took it off very gently, and tied it gently around so that it wouldn't fall out of shape as it dried. Once it was dry, I quick riveted it to the back of the hand. Then I sewed the cuff onto the hand with a stitching awl. This seam can be undone easily should i manage to get articulated hands for these gauntlets.

The bottom of the wrist seam is left un sewn. This allows for better mobility in the joint.  The leather strap across the palm keeps the hardened plate from flapping.

The gentle curve down over the knuckles gives me better coverage without limiting my mobility. You don't want any squishy bits sticking out of your shield boss or hilt basket, and i prefer a smaller hilt basket. so thumb and hand coverage is key. 
With the basic gauntlet done, I needed make a floating piece to cover the space between hand back and splints,  that would help protect my wrist and make sure I passed inspection. I needed to do this without limiting my mobility. which is a pretty tall order. One of the more senior fighters that I was complaining to had the excellent idea of attaching a small wrist plate with elastic to the sides of the glove. I went back to the cardboard for a trial run and found that a blobby crescent sort of shape, if given a little stretch, covered the questionable chink in my armor, and didn't bind up on my wrist. I cut it from leather, wet shaped it, and attached it with elastic tabs. 
the finished right glove. complete with wrist guard. 

elastic tabs mounted on rivets through the hand plate give the wrist guard some flex. the curved up shape keeps it away from my wrist and allows a pretty full range of wrist motion. 

from the top you can see that the floating plate gives complete coverage of the gap between the splinted vambrace and the hand plate. I wore the gloves for several weeks without the wrist plate, and got hit in the wrist a couple times without issue, but this way they will consistently pass inspection. The extra protection for the wrist is no bad thing either I need my wrists for sewing. 

For the record, this is the stupidest way to make a glove EVER, and I could have made 3 pairs of regular gloves, maybe more, in the time it took me to make these. But I love them so much I totally don't care. Sometimes, since I have to be aggressively practical in most of my mundane life, it's just nice to break out in impracticality in some way!

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