Thursday, 22 January 2009

Gloveless tradition (or Story about a silly lumberjack)

I make gloves! Yes, I do! Or, to be more precise, I have recently started making them! Not that I thought I would but I did! So far I have already made a few pairs and I think it is just the beginning of a new passion. And, each time I discover a new passion and start making a garment I had never made before, I try to learn as many facts about it as possible; where does it come from?; are there any special techniques?; how do people in other countries and on other continents make it?; do they still make it?;...Finally, I like to learn everything there is to know about how my ancestors used to make it so that, hopefully, one day I could do a little «homage» to my tradition by making one, obeying to the rules set by masters from the past. It rarely happens, though, because, living in Slavic / Mediterranean cultural environment that has experienced some strong influences from the Oriental countries in the past and with my origins being Slavic– traditional knitting in my case generally means: a world of stunning stranded colour-work and amazing ornaments. And me- I'm just not that type of knitter so, I usually end up admiring other people's work and making a pattern of my own.

This time, before starting my new “traditional gloves investigation", I knew that, during my search, just like any other time, I'd pretty much come across zillions and zillions of motley pieces and breathtaking colour patterns but little did I know that I wasn't going to find a single GLOVE! The one with fingers, I mean! A real glove! No, not a single pair! Mittens? Yes! Mitts? Yes? Wrist-warmers? Yes! Gloves? NO! Why? I haven’t got the slightest idea! Apparently, my ancestors did not make gloves (I’m devastated)!

And what bothers me the most is that this culture is widely known for its knitting. In the old days, people would spend days and days trying to make a new pattern or figure out another master’s technique constantly, competing with each other; making sure their unfinished works are well hidden when another knitter comes to visit; accusing each other of stealing secret patterns; knitting these tiny and perfectly even stitches until they start feeling cramps in their fingers or until it is too dark to see… spending hours and days of their lives knitting and thinking about knitting and one has ever made a glove!
Pretty Slavic, if you ask me! Accidental above practicality! Yap, “I’d rather work barehanded in the middle of January than make gloves with fingers if my intarsia pattern can not fit into that shape!

Ever since that disturbing discovery, I've been going back to that story over and over again, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to find excuses and explanations. And each time I'd think about it, the same story would unfold in front of my eyes- about hundred years ago, a man wakes up just before dawn in his home high up in a mountain and starts getting ready to go to work. Maybe he is a lumberjack...Yes, he is a lumberjack and he'll be spending the next ten or so hours working hard in a forest.

Just before leaving his home, he must build the fire so that the house would be worm when his children wake up. And by the hearth- he finds a new pair of beautiful mittens his wife had left him. The last time he saw her knitting them, the evening before, she was still working on the first glove; she must have knitted the night away so that she could finish them before he wakes up. Do I need to mention how beautiful they are?? She is the best mitten maker in their area; widely known for her amazing patterns and secret cast-on method no one else knows how to make!

He puts his new mittens on his rough hands and leaves the house. He is heading towards the forest, walking impatiently and looking forward to meeting his “fellows”.
As soon as he notices them from the distance, he'll start waving at them, talking loudly and vigorously gesturing while pointing into a direction where he thinks "a wolf might be hiding as he speaks". But no one will look into that direction because, the moment they see him coming, they’ll know- there’s no wolf- it’s a new pair of mittens on his hands he wants them to see. And they’ll know he'll continue making jokes and loudly greeting each one of them until he is sure everyone has seen the beauty on his hands . Then he'll proudly take his new mittens off and start working. Just the thought of them inside his pockets will be enough to worm up his bare hands for the rest of the day. The others will silently watch him make his theatrical gestures while secretly admiring his lady' work. Oh, they're all wearing beautiful mittens made by their wives, their mothers and sisters,of course they are-but they well know that what his wife can make is hardly just a pair of mittens- it’s a rare pair of identical miracles no mittens can compete with.

Did you spot anything unusual in this story? Let me "rewind" this sentence: "Then he'll proudly take them off and start working. " HE WILL, ACTUALLY, TAKE THEM OFF WHEN HE MOST NEEDS HIS HANDS TO BE WORM. He can’t work with his hands “wrapped” inside the mitten- he needs his fingers to be free!!! Free(zing)!!!!

Now, I don't know how this story ends but my lumberjack will most likely go back home in the evening, thank his wife for that pair of mittens and probably peek into her knitting basket to see the beginning of a new miracle. Maybe this time it’s a pair of socks! For him!
What I don't understand about that evening hundred years ago, is this- when our lumberjack did get home from work– WHY, ON EARTH, DIDN’T HE TELL HIS WIFE: “M'am, I think we need to invent some fingers for these mittens! I could really use a few more! Maybe we could call them gloves!?» If he had only said that, he might have saved our tradition from being glove-less and make me a very proud person. But he didn't! And, I don't know why! Maybe he was worried of what other people might have said if he had shown up one day wearing these funny garments and with a separate coat for each finger on his hand!? Perhaps...or maybe there’s another explanation I just can’t seem to be able to think of! Hopefully, someone will explain this to me one day!

OK, so, now that I'm short on pictures of traditional gloves, I'll just have to show you my works! I have already mentioned the first Lollipop convertible pair of gloves for my sister and here’s what I’ve made since the beginning of December.:

Mermaid gloves for my friend Sunny. I had a real hard time deciding what kind of present to make for her since her style is very casual! She hates «girlish» colours and I can bet that she could just as easily label a stitch pattern as "girlish" , too. But, she is also a painter and a great hand-made-gift target! So, I decided to make her a pair of fingerless gloves (original enough for her taste), use a geometrical pattern (she is a very geometrical type of person) and to use dark green yarn (it goes well with her style yet it's not as boring as a pair of black gloves). I just love this Mermaid pattern!

And, having said that- I decided I’d make another pair, only now in grey and on smaller needles (2,5cm instead of 3,5cm like for the first pair). After finishing them, I had to make another pair for my sister (a promise is a promise) and, after seeing my Mermaid gloves, she decided she'd like something similar only glove-shaped. At that point I really needed a break from Pomotamus stitch pattern (not that I didn’t enjoy working on it but still...) and so I decided to use a similar “slanting shells” pattern which, I think, works better for this type of gloves.

I really liked how they turned out but my sister wanted a pink bow! A pink what??? I thought they looked just fine as they were but- "We can take special orders according to customers' request", and so - a pink bow on Pagliacci gloves it is! (It took me more time to make that bow than to knit the rest of the glove...)

And there's another pair of gloves waiting for me to finish them. But I don't think I will. They look awful! Guess who I’m making these for- me, of course. My hands are perfectly disciplined when they’re making gloves for other people’s hands but when I want to make a cool pair of gloves for them, they decide to turn my work into a disaster. They're even more stupid than that lumberjack from my story!


  1. Mnogo volim rukavice, ali ih do sada nikada nisam plela, kao ni čarape. Stavljam ih na listu. Rukavice za prijateljicu su divne, a tako si ih lepo uslikala, prosto te mami da ih nosiš!

  2. I hope you have checked out Good Basic Gloves on Ravelry -
    They are plain but extremely well fitting, with each finger coming off the hand at a different height, just like real fingers.

  3. The blog has been transfered yesterday and, because of some unknown reason, the previous comments fot this post are lost. Bah!
    Thanks to honeysuckle, cashmerecafe and misha for their comments (and for their searches for glove patterns :))) ) and, as for the patience, honeysuckle- I'm as surprised as you are; I'm not a patitent person at all! :)

  4. Aufildesjours, thanks! I'm off to check those, this moment!

    Hvala, bensedinart (oko tkalca je oko tkalca :) ).

    Da, da, uslikala sam ih fino da kasnije mogu da se šepurim kak'e sam poklone davala a ne, ono, ode mi iz ruke pa Maja nikad nikome ništa nije napravila- sad vodim foto-evidenciju! :)

    A. što s' tiče č tek treba da se hvalim što sam "isposlovala" prvi par! :)


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