Tuesday, April 24, 2012

1950's Hand-Sewn Leather Gloves

As you might already know, I have been away from my home and my sewing machine for a great part in the past two months. While I used some of my spare time improving my drawing skills, I also made sure I always had a little hand-sewing project along. This was one of those:

I know, I know: We are all ready for summer, but when I started them, it was still chilly. And it seemed like too much fun to pass up...
I found the pattern in one of my 1950's magazines:

I had never made gloves, but it sure is like making any other piece of clothing, just in smaller format! I didn't think I was going to hassle with fit on my first pair ever, but then I realized it won't be worth the work if I didn't.

This is what the pattern looks like, and just by putting my hand on it it became clear that it was way off my size, as you can see in the picture below. ALTHOUGH: I put the wrong hand on the pattern. I should have put the right hand on it, so the thumb would have been at the indicated thumbhole. Because if you look closely, you will notice that the fingers are "longer" on the back of your hand, and "shorter" on the inside. Still, the fingers were way too long for me, just not as drastically as it looks in the photo:

Glove sizes are measured by the width of your palm, but also in some cases by the length from the base of your palm to the tip of your middle finger.
Just like my ribcage is fairly wide, but my legs quite short, the width of my palm is wide, and the fingers quite short... I bet that isn't a coincidence!

I definitely needed more width and less length.

I made a muslin, but didn't take pictures. I only sewed two fingers on it, too. Then I made a trial finger out of leather, because I didn't really know how deep the stitches would go, i.e. how much "allowance" needed to be calculated for them. I was worried that the fingers on the original pattern would be too tight for me. Fact is, the stitches don't really take away from the width at all!

Here you see my personalized pattern on the right:

I started with the stitches on the back of the hand, leaving them quite loose as they wrote in the instructions. Then I set in the thumb and went on with the other fingers, closing the outside seam down to the slit last. It is all blanket stitching, except for the seams between the fingers, where you sew them together. Those are basically the only seams that aren't visible, too.

The bias tape was actually supposed to be a strip of white leather. My leather wasn't actual glove leather, but scraps I had once bought fairly cheaply. Real glove leather would be much thinner, probably, also depending on what kind of glove you are intending to make.

I don't know much about leather. Now that I finally know my way around fabric types half-way, I seem to have to start from scratch again when it comes to leather. One glove is from softer leather than the other. Not thinner, just softer and with a different structure - it must be from a different body part, if not from a different animal all together. If ever I feel like I know enough to share, I will!

Anyhow, since my leather was too thick to use for a binding around the slit, I used a cute little bias tape I had at hand. Isn't it darling? And if I dare say so, my fit seems to be much, much better than the one you see in the original photo, right? :-)

They are super comfortable and I will make more of these for sure, in different colors, with different leathers... Finally gloves that fit well enough for me not to be clumsy wearing them, because the fingers are way too long! It really is the same feeling as with any other tailored garment.
My husband wants a pair with a knitted lining on the inside...

Maybe the stitches could be more even, and I could have used thicker thread (looking at the original photo, it seems they used something a bit thicker...). So it might look like I am way behind the season, but the designers are all now working for the winter collection, and I have plenty of time to whip my glove-skills in shape before the weather turns cold again. They could make great presents, too, and they actually don't take that long to make.

Have you noticed how there are almost always gloves involved in vintage fashion illustrations? No matter if it's 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's or even 60's! So I dare you go ahead and try making a pair. It's fun!

Take care of yourselves - and I apologize for not having kept up with your blogs and comments - but life is settling down again sometime soon, I hope!


  1. What a glamorous project! I wish I would be better in sewing...

  2. You are a super hero! Now all you need to do is put on your Burdastyle coat, and the cape you made earlier and the shoes you modified and these gloves and then punch King Geoffry in the head. That would be so awesome XD

  3. Oh sooooo gorgeous!

  4. These are awesome! I need new (long) gloves to wear with my 3/4-sleeve jacket, and I've been thinking making them might be easier than finding the right ones---although I'm not sure I'm quite ready to jump into leather...

    the old (now defunct) vintagesewing.info site had a book on glovemaking, you can still view it on the wayback machine here:


  5. Wow! These gloves are really great! The bias tape matches perfectly, much better than just strips of leather 

  6. That's really so great. Thanks for the step by step instructions. I will definitely be making one for myself, my husband and my kids. I want my pair to be on the shade of Jade.

  7. Wonderful! Would it be possible to obtain a photocopy or scan or the page in the magazine? Coincidentally, I also live in Vienna and am currently preparing a conference talk on gloves, sticks and switches (see here: http://texturematters.univie.ac.at/conference-mak )and would be interested in the way in which this fashion item was presented in the 1950s. Do you think this would be possible? Best wishes, jana . herwig @ univie . ac . at

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