Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Winter gloves

The theme for June's HSM challenge is Out of Your Comfort Zone.  It's a great theme, since a challenge is far more rewarding if it actually is a challenge.  Technically speaking, jumping boots and all into something with no idea what I'm doing is not out of my comfort zone, it's what I do all the time, but I was genuinely rather uneasy about this project in the beginning.  I decided to do a pair of gloves, and gloves are tricky.  They have lots of tiny pieces with very small seam allowances and I've never made gloves before.  True, these ones are only fingerless gloves, which is a bit of a cheat, but I was still worried about getting them to fit and this was definitely unfamiliar territory for me.

I'm happy to say they were a success, and because they were challenging they were a particularly rewarding success.

In fact this project relates to being "out of my comfort zone" in two ways: there's no heating in my office, and I do need some fingerless gloves if I'm going to get through the winter without losing a couple of digits to frostbite.

I'm greatly indebted to this blog post by Hallie Larkin, which gave me a lot of useful information on how to put the mitts together.  Now that I've made a pair, I also have some suggestions for anybody who fancies a pair of 18th century mitts this winter:
  • How the gloves fit is influenced by the type of fabric you make them in, and you won't really know what the fit will be like until you've made one up.  Always make a mock-up with this pattern.
  • At first glance, you immediately think putting the thumb in will be tricky.  You're right.  I find the best way to do it is to sew up the thumb, then take the thumb lining and fold the seam allowance under, and sew this to the glove around the thumb hole.  When the lining is in place, I attach the outer layer of the thumb.  Again, I fold the seam allowance under and stitch it around the thumb hole, in this case with herringbone stitch.  The raw edges of the thumb hole end up in between the thumb lining and outer fabric, along with the thumb seam allowances.  The process isn't hard as such, but does require a lot of manual dexterity.
  • Worried about tackling the tricky bits?  Have a glass of wine first and you will be fine.  In fact, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine while stitching one of these is a nice way to spend a winter evening.
  • An important secret to success with these mitts is to baste the outer fabric and lining together before you start sewing.  Baste around the thumb hole, and around the S-shaped slit that helps it fit the wrist a bit better.
You can just about see my basting stitches in this photo.  If I'd been thinking properly I would have made them in a colour that was easier to see.
When finished, the slit looks like this:

The Challenge: Out of Your Comfort Zone.

Fabric: A piece of shot silk taffeta out of my silk scraps box.

Pattern: This one, which I shamelessly stole from the Dreamstress's Pinterest page.  This pattern is obviously made for someone with small hands.  I had to enlarge it a lot to get it to fit me.  My hands are pretty average-sized, so I think most people using this pattern will have to enlarge it.  However, it is a good pattern and I highly recommend it.

Year: 18th century.

Notions: Silk embroidery thread.

How historically accurate is it?  I think it's very accurate.  The materials and construction are accurate, and the pattern is obviously based on original 18th century mitts.

Hours to complete: Hallie Larkin reckons it takes about 16 hours to make a pair of these things, and I would say that's about right.

First worn: Around the house immediately after finishing them.

Total cost: I can't remember.  That silk has been lurking around my place for years.  Maybe $10?


  1. They look great! Do you have an 18th c winter dress to wear them with? I hope so!

    1. Thanks Cathy! I'm afraid I don't have an 18th century outfit. It's one of those things that are on my to-do list, but haven't yet got done. Partly because I don't have a pair of stays that fit and don't currently have time to make stays.