to hand -
most difficult part of making gloves is not in the construction.
Nor is it in the drafting of the pattern (although there are
some surprises there). Nope... the most difficult part of
making gloves lies in choosing the proper materials and preparing
those materials. I can hear you saying to yourself, "wait
a minute... that's always been the easy part!". Well,
normally, it is. But not this time. Why, do you ask? Read
on, O Adventurous Costumer as we enter the mysterious land
of the Glover's Art. Many travelers have been lost here, so
Brief History -
Gloves are defined in the Columbia Encyclopedia as "covering(s)
for the hand with separate sections for the fingers and the
thumb, usually extending over the wrist or part of the arm".
Linen gloves were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt
and there are several instances in the archeological record
of the Bronze age that indicate that the concept of gloves
was understood and practiced. Several extant pieces have separate
sheaths for fingers but these are not well fitted.
Gloves as we know them date from approximately the 11th century.
Gloves in Europe were often richly jeweled and ornamented
and were worn as a badge of distinction by royalty and by
church dignitaries. In the 12th century gloves became a definite
part of fashionable dress for the wealthy. Scented gloves,
a custom that lasted until the 18th century, came into vogue
at about this time. The 16th and 17th century saw extravagantly
ornamented gloves; made of leather, linen, silk, or lace.
They were often jeweled, embroidered, or ornamented with lace,
bullion, and fringe. Catherine de Médicis, queen consort
of Henry II of France, made gloves for women fashionable.
Many portraits of the time show the wealthy with their gloves,
either worn or held in hand. In the Great Wardrobe of Robes
of Queen Elizabeth I, there are several entries of gifts of
gloves to the Queen.
of glove makers first made their appearance in the 12th century.
The first recorded instance of glove maker was in Perth, Scotland,
around 1165, although it is highly likely that other glove
makers existed elsewhere and probably earlier. A guild of
glove makers was incorporated in France in 1190, and one in
London around 1600.
The emphasis on gloves during the late 16th century was less
on proper fit and more on the item as an ornamental accessory.
In some ways this really surprised me but made sense. One
of my theories on clothing construction in the late sixteenth
century is that the techniques for fitting around such a dynamic
portion of the body had not been completely discovered yet.
Tailors at this time are still having problems with sleeve
heads and understanding as well as using bias. In other words,
don't be discouraged if your first set of gloves doesn't fit
all that well. Additionally, I would encourage you to buy
some yardage of polyester felt or wool felt (which ever you
can lay hand to) and make a mockup from that material first,
before cutting into your leather/silk/linen. I found it extremely
helpful to make a set of gloves from felt (it has stretch
and non-stretch properties) and I got a real sense of where
trouble spots would occur. It doesn't take all that long to
make up a glove - I can make up one in about three hours...
completely hand sewn (remember that I loath hand sewing).
Speaking of hand sewing... this demo is done entirely by hand.
There will be areas that you will probably see opportunity
to use a machine; go for it. Do whatever works for you.
Choosing The Materials -
Silk, Linen or Velvet... Oh, the agony of choice! I made my
mockup out of wool felt and it was really fun. It went together
like a dream. Felt behaves rather like leather, which was
why I choose felt with which to make the mockup. However,
when it comes to accessories, I like decadence. And nothing
says decadence like velvet... which is what I choose to make
the gloves for this demo. Nothing ravels or behaves as badly
as velvet either. While I did not ultimately make a set of
leather gloves for this demo, I will describe the process
- which is a bit different from fabric. I will also describe
the thought and work process for various types of fabric.
In the end, if you are at all trepidatious, leather is easier
to work with. If you're even close to the edge of insanity,
go for the velvet! If you're not feeling all that adventurous,
go for leather.
When choosing a leather, look for something with a smooth,
even grain that is somewhat thin. When choosing a fabric,
look for a fabric with a tight, even weave to it. If you are
like me, and absolutely must have velvet, choose instead a
velveteen that is tightly woven. The expense is really worth
it. Gloves don't take a great deal of fabric so don't be tempted
to cut corners by getting cheap fabric... you'll regret it.
Preparing The Materials -
Leather requires some working *before* you cut out your gloves.
Leather has a grain and the greatest amount of stretch in
leather is across this grain. Therefore, the grain line should
run parallel with the fingers so that the stretch is across
the knuckles, where it is most required. The next most critical
step in using leather is to determine if it needs stretching
*prior* to use. This is really important. If you have very
stretchy leather and make your gloves from it without stretching
it out beforehand, you'll end up with gloves that are baggy
after being worn for a bit. Stretch is desirable. Controlling
that stretch is the trick. The best way to do this is to take
the leather in hand and tug at it. Observe how stretchy it
is and if it bounces back after you stretch it out or not.
If it is particularly stretchy, you'll need to do some prep
work with it. Get it wet and then stretch it first with the
grain. Stretch until it will not stretch any more. Let it
dry. Wet it down again and stretch it this time across the
grain but do not stretch it completely out. It does need a
bit of stretch here. Let it dry again and proceed with cutting
out your glove pattern.
Fabric, especially even weave fabric, has very little stretch
to it - either with or across grain. There is very little
prep work required here except to pre-wash. It is really important
to pre-wash if you intend to ever wash your gloves. Gloves
fit tight. Any little bit of shrinkage and your gloves will
not fit at all.
Making The Pattern -
This is the part that I found particularly fascinating. I
have included a somewhat modified 'period' pattern and a modern
pattern. The gloves for this demo are made from a period pattern
but my mockup was made using a modern pattern. There is not
too much difference between the two but I wanted to get comfortable
with a pattern I knew would work before jumping into a pattern
that I did not know much about. In this instance, I advise
approaching this as I did - start with a modern pattern and
then, after one or two sets of gloves, tackle the period pattern.
Additionally, and I cannot stress this enough, make at least
one mockup of both!
pay special attention to the differences in the period thumb
pattern and the modern one. It's subtle but it's there. The
period thumb is somewhat lopsided and this is done on purpose!
My first thumb was symmetrical and when I inserted it, I had
an unsightly wrinkle on the top of the thumb where it meats
If you are using leather, use the size pattern that you have
determined is needed. If you are using fabric, go up one size.
The reason for this is that you'll be needing a somewhat larger
seam allowance for fabric. More on that below.
Finding a good modern pattern can be somewhat difficult. There are a number of places on the internet that can be useful but be careful when choosing a pattern. Make sure that it is a dress glove pattern, not a work glove pattern.
a good period pattern is impossible. Making your own pattern
can be fun, however...
The first thing you want to do is put your hand down on a
piece of paper as shown above. Trace around it but do not
trace tightly. Hold the pencil or pen straight up and down
as you trace so that you don't run your tracing line under
your fingers or hand. Once this is done, take a ruler or straight
edge and true up the lines. Make sure that your finger slits
are running exactly parallel with the edge of the paper.
Now make a mirror image of your pattern on another piece
of paper and tape the two together. At this point there is
no front or back. This piece is called the 'trank'. Once you
have done all of the above, take your straight edge or ruler
and run a line down the middle of the index finger of one
side. On this same side, mark where your wrist line is. Now
it is time to measure out where your thumb hole should be.
the photo to the right, place your hand back down on the pattern
and put dots to indicate where your thumb base, web and knuckle
are. Notice that the line down the center of the index finger
is used at a point of reference. Once you have those three
dots, move your and and make a corresponding fourth dot directly
across from the knuckle dot.
Draw an oval using the dots as points of reference. Draw
in the thumb gusset and make it no longer or shorter than
the center of the oval. This gusset is fairly important as
it makes it possible for the thumb to have much greater mobility.
At this point, your pattern should look similar to the one
on the left.
Making the thumb piece pattern is a bit tricky. To start,
fold a piece of paper in half and put your thumb on the fold
making sure that the fold runs parallel to the side of the
index finger and to the wrist. Draw around your thumb. Open
up the paper and draw a mirror image of your pattern on the
other side. Remember to hold the pencil straight up and down
while tracing and give yourself a little bit of room.
you've done the above, your pattern should look similar to
the photo to the right. Also, please notice that I have shaved
off just a little bit on one side of the thumb base. The reason
I have done this is that, when I made my mockup, my thumb
pattern was symmetrical. When I set it into the hole, there
was a bulge of fabric on the top of the hand where the thumb
seam joined to it. I determined that the thumb pattern should
have just a little less fabric on this edge. After looking
at a few period gloves and at the modern pattern, I found
that this was also done in both modern and period thumb pieces.
This is where it becomes crucial to make a mockup to test
the fit of this thumb piece into the trank of the glove. Mathematically,
there is a way to match these up on a paper pattern but I
am not mathematically inclined. For me it is much, much easier
to simply make a mockup and test the fit on that.
the thumb piece comes what is known as the 'forechettes' or
lengthwise pieces for between the fingers. This piece is pretty
easy to make. Fold a piece of paper again and put it between
the index finger and middle finger as shown in the photo to
the left. It is crucial to make sure that the fold of the
paper is riding directly on the webbing between the fingers.
Notice the angle that it is sitting on. This is also an important
part of making the forechette. Once you have it where it needs
to be, simply trace around the index finger and add just a
little bit at the top to make the forechette as long as the
middle finger. Take a pair of scissors and cut out the pattern
while the piece of paper is still folded.
Your forechette pattern. In looking at the modern pattern,
the angle is pretty much the same. Modern forechettes, however,
are all cut separately and sewn together on that angle before
being sewn into the trank. In looking at period gloves, there
appears to be a considerable difference in the shape of forechettes
from time period to time period and from country to country.
Now, one last little thing... but it's important!. Going
back to your trank pattern, you will notice that your palm
side slits for the fingers and the back of the hand slits
for the fingers are the same length. Take your forechette
and fold it back together. Using the folded angle, measure
and lengthen the back of the hand slits for the fingers. This
serves to accommodate the knuckle and webbing that we just
measured the forechettes to accommodate.
I am paranoid, I measured these just a little less than the
actual length of the fold. If they are too short, I can always
cut them a bit more later, while sewing. If I cut them too
long, I will find out during the sewing in of the forechettes
and that is a bit too late. Measure out and lengthen all the
slits on the back of the hand side of the trank.
Lastly, I found it interesting to compare and contrast
a modern pattern with a period one.
Cutting Out -
Here's where you'll get bogged down a bit if you chose fabric
instead of leather. In order to prep the fabric so that it
will not fray to pieces at the first wearing, you will need
to stop that fraying before it starts. In period, this was
done through the use of Gum Arabic. I've got some, have used
it, and it's good stuff. But it does wash out. So I advise
either Fray-Chec or Fray-No-More. Fray-Chec is found at most
huge fabric stores. It's a clear liquid and goes on easily.
If you can't find Fray-No-More, it's the next best thing but
it does make the edges of the fabric 'crunchy' and somewhat
unpleasant to have next to the skin. As long as your gloves
are not super tight, this should be ok. Fray-No-More can be
found at Fred Meyer's (a one-stop shopping store here in the
Northwest US). It looks more like a white glue and behaves
much more like Gum Arabic. It does not leave the edge of the
fabric as 'crunchy' as Fray-Chec.
Once you've got all your pieces cut out, you'll need to run
Fray-Chec or Fray-No-More or Gum Arabic around every single
edge and let it dry before moving on. I really hated this
part; I've got no patience. Also, as a word of caution, whether
you are using leather or fabrics - DO NOT cut between the
fingers yet. The biggest reason for this is that, as you are
sewing along, all those dangly fingers will be hard to work
around. If you are using fabric, this gives them a chance
to start fraying.
Pay special attention to the method of cutting out forechettes
from fabric. Since fabric does not have the stretch qualities
across grain that leather does, that stretch has to come from
somewhere! I chose to cut my forechettes on the bias, to accommodate
this need for stretch. Leather forechettes are cut on grain.
To cut the forechettes, the fold of the forechette is placed
on the straight of grain if the glove is being made in fabric
or leather. This means that the forechettes will be cut on
the bias of the fabric which is important for that stretch.
actually enjoyed hand sewing these gloves together. I would
advise, however, if you are thinking of embellishing your
gloves at all, to do so before you sew them together. This
is to facilitate the embellishment by allowing the glove to
lay flat and open while you are working on it. The photo to
the left shows the trank and thumb piece, already treated
with Fray-No-More and ready to be sewn together. The cuff
has been lined and the edges bound so that the back of the
embroidery won't show.
The first thing to go together is the thumb piece. In modern
gloves, the thumb is set into the hole first and then sewn
up to the tip. I found this method awkward in a period pattern
and chose to sew from the top down and then set the thumb
in to the hole. The photo directly below shows the gusset
of the trank inserted into the thumb piece.
you've got the thumb in, it's time to move on to the fingers.
At this point, you can cut out between the index finger and
the middle finger - but leave the others for later. Insert
the forechette on the palm side first - meaning that you will
sew the forechette to the palm side slit first and then to
the back side of the trank. Start from the tip of the index
finger, sew down along the palm side slit and back up to the
tip of the middle finger and then around the back side slit.
Once this is accomplished, you can move on to the next slit
and so forth, cutting each as needed until you are finished.
You may need to cut down the forechettes for the other two
sets of fingers because the forechette was made to the measure
of your two biggest fingers. What I did was to match the forechette
to the slit, starting at the bottom and if it needed clipping,
I did that before starting the sewing.
Because I used velvet and decided to have the seams to the
inside, I had to turn the fingers. In order to make things
easy at the end, I decided to turn each finger as it was completed.
With leather, if you decide to have seams on the outside,
this is not an issue. If you decide to lap the edges one over
the other as is often done with fine modern gloves, this is
also not an issue.
you decided to use a modern pattern, you will need to sew
your sets of forechettes together prior to inserting them.
With a period pattern, the forechettes are cut as one.
After all the fingers are done, you can sew down the side
and finish the glove.
The size of your stitches is pretty important. Make them
small and even and make sure to give yourself the required
amount of seam allowance so that things done ravel from stress.
If you are making these gloves up in leather, you may want
to do some practice stitching first to get the length of stitch
and evenness of the stitch down. Leather, once punctured,
does not heal! Fabric, at least, is a little more forgiving
in this regard. The photo to the left shows the stitching
on the thumb piece where it has been set into the trank.
in period were embellished in the same ways and means as other
pieces of clothing. Embroidery, lace, and fringe are all found
on period examples. Some of the best examples and close-up
pictures of them can be found in Fashion in Detail. I
took the embellishment pattern for my velvet gloves straight
from a set found in this book. The photo to the right shows
the embellishment on my cuff before I started sewing the glove
together. For even more ideas on period embellishment, I highly
recommend visiting the website of the Costume
Museum of Bath. They currently have a collection of gloves
on loan from the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.
Annotated Bibliography -
For further reading and glove making fun I suggest the following:
No. 19, Oct./Nov. 1988. "Handmaking
Leather Gloves" by Jan Faulkner-Wagoner.
(This is the best article on making modern gloves
that I've found so far)
Making Your Own Gloves,
by Gwen Emlyn-Jones. Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1974
The Art of Sewing; Novel
Materials, Time-Life Books, 1974
by Franchesca Havas
There you have it. Gloves that fit and match your wardrobe!