|Top of a nalbinded sock date c.300-500 AD - Egyptian|
When looking at early modern period gloves the tendency is to look at the wonderful surviving leather gloves decorated with embroidery in gold, silver and silk threads, but knitted gloves were also around at the time. Knitting is a late comer to the textile crafts, with true knitting starting somewhere around the 10th or 11th centuries in the Middle East.
|Close up of 16th century knitted silk glove|
The earliest surviving knitted gloves in Europe are fragmentary, from burials, and the earliest date probably from the late 13th century.Silk knitted gloves were also worn by the gentry, the best known example is probably the Sture glove which belonged to Sten Svantesson Sture, who died aged 25 in 1565, and whose clothes were placed in Uppsala Cathedral, Sweden. The glove is beige and has patterns and lines of red, green, yellow and brown, there are three rings in gold around the bottom of the fingers and the name Frevchen Sophia knitted into the palm. It was attached to his hat band, so it was presumably being worn as a favour. The Glovers’ Collection has a two pair of ladies elbow length Italian knitted gloves from the second half of the 17th century. One is in pink with bands of florets in silver and gold around the arm, and tendrils extending up the fingers. The other is purple and has stylised animals and flowers.
(Cardon 1997) (Lyffland 2005) (Rowe 1969). Moving into the 16th
century we have survivals of silk knitted bishops’ gloves such as those
belonging to New College, Oxford, and associated with William Warham (c. 1450–1532). Bishop Nicholaus Shimer’s gloves of c.1510 also survive. The V&A
museum have two possibly Spanish gloves from this century both knitted in red
silk with patterns in yellow silk, and some silver. One has a design incorporating crosses, hearts and croziers, and is
knitted at 23 stitches and 20 rows to the inch. (Carbonell 2007) Carbonell’s article
is available online here. The other
pair in the V&A has the IHS
in a medallion on the back of the hand. There are several similar liturgical
gloves in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.
|Knitting in the round|
The evidence for working class gloves is less extensive, as the wool from which they were made does not survive as well. The Museum of London has a 16th century child’s woollen mitten, found at Finsbury, in a beige/light brown colour with a simple brown/black pattern around the wrist. From the end of the seventeenth century we have a pair of gloves found in a burial at Gunnister in the Shetland Islands. The original publication of the finds by Henshall
(1951-2) can be found here, but recently the Shetland Museum has undertaken a reconstruction of
the complete set of clothes and their leaflet on this can be found here. The gloves are worked in two ply wool at 17 stitches to the inch, and
like all the gloves discussed so far are worked in the round. The cuff has a
pattern of bands produced by using garter stitch (one round plain knit, one
round purl), stocking stitch (all plain knit) and all purl rounds. The backs of
the hands have three arrows worked in purl on the stocking stitch. Patterns
have been created by various people for reconstructing these gloves just google
-Gunnister gloves pattern - and you will find several. If you are an
experienced knitted you may be able to work it out from the description in
Henshall. The excavations at Copenhagen have also produced a selection of knitted gloves dating from the late 16th and
early 17th centuries. Lise Warburg (1989) decribes some of these
gloves in detail. The “dandy’s” gloves, found in a moat that was filled in
before 1668, is the one with five rows of fringe knitted into the border, and
is 18 inches long, elbow length. There are also women’s gloves; one dating to
the 1620s has a tight wrist section, but a wide cuff, while another slightly
later in date has a cuff covered in sewn on fringe, and Warburg has a pattern
created by Ingid Plum based on this glove.
Carbonell, Silvia. “Guantes episcopales con mensaje :Episcopal gloves with a message.” Datatextil, December 2007.Cardon, Dominique. “French liturgical gloves (unpublished paper).” Unravelling the Evidence: Joint meeting of the Early Knitting History Group, and the Medieval Dress and Textile Society , 1997.
Henshall, A. and Maxwell, S. “Clothing and other articles from a late 17th century grave at Gunnister, Shetland.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1951-2.
Lyffland, Anneke. “A study of a 13th century votic knit fragment.” 2005. http://2cinqufoils.net/anneke/13thC-knit-fragment.pdf.Rowe, Margaret. “Fragments from the tomb of an unknown bishop of Sant Denis, Paris.” Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, 1969: 27-33.
Rutt, R. A history of handknitting. London: Batsford, 1987.Turnau, Irena. History of Knitting Before Mass Production . Warsaw: Akcent, 1991.
Warburg, Lise. Knitted gloves from 17th century Copenhagen. Danish Handcraft Guild, 1989.